European rights body questions curbs on Qatari Haj pilgrims

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12 Aug 2017 – 1:48

European rights body questions curbs on Qatari Haj pilgrims

The vast tented city in Mina built for pilgrims during Eid al-Adha (AFP)

By Mohammed Osman / The Peninsula

International human rights organisations are expressing their concerns over the restrictions imposed on Qatar’s nationals and expatriates willing to perform the annual Haj pilgrimage.

Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor (Euro-Med Monitor) yesterday urged the International Association for Religious Freedom (IARF) to raise the issue of restrictions being faced by Qatari pilgrims intend to perform Haj in Saudi Arabia.

Euro-Med Monitor in its letter said that it would like to draw IARF attention to the recent measures taken by Saudi Arabia against Qatari pilgrims wishing to perform Haj, Islam’s fifth pillar.

The organisation notes that due to current “political crisis in the Gulf and the blockade imposed on Qatar by its three Gulf neighbours and Egypt, Qatari pilgrims are facing restrictions which might affect their ability to perform this religious duty”.

Moreover, Euro-Med Monitor for Human Rights appealed IARF “to make sure that Saudi Arabia is not using Islam to achieve political gains, at the expense of the religious freedom of the people of Qatar”.

The Haj days are nearing which is going to take place by the end of this month while many Qatari nationals and expatriates will not be able perform the rituals.

The Saudi authority  has not officially banned Qataris from performing the Haj but prevented companies from making the necessary arrangements for Qatari pilgrims by not allowing companies to secure accommodation and transportation within Saudi Arabia.

Other restrictions related to the air, land and sea blockade have prevented local companies from taking care of the necessary needs of Qatari Pilgrims in the holy lands during the Haj period making it a major logistic obstacle to perform the rites.

According to Euro-Med Monitor, Saudi authorities have allowed Qatari pilgrims to only enter Saudi through two airports, and further, they must travel via Doha. “This will prove to be extremely challenging for those who do not live in Doha, like those who work or study abroad.”  Further, Saudi Arabia identified individuals that they will deny access regardless of the manner in which they travel, the human rights watchdog says.

In response to such concerns raised by Qatar and other international organisations, Adel Al Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister, accused Qatar recently “of politicising the issue and demanding the “internationalisation of the Haj”. His claim was strongly rejected by Qatari officials including Qatari Foreign Minister, H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani in an interview with Al Jazeera that “Qatar never politicised the issue of Haj.”

He added that “it was Saudi Arabia which is trying to politicise the Haj pilgrimage amid the Gulf crisis” and there is no suggestion made by any Qatari official to internationalising the Haj issue. Normally most of the pilgrims heading to Makkah to perform Haj sign a contract with Haj operators (companies) in their country; which in turn arrange with Saudi companies to takes care of accommodation, food and transport during Haj.

It has been reported that many Haj operating companies in Qatar became victims of the restriction measures of Saudi.


Source  :  The Peninsula

New tourist visa policies buoy hotel industry

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12 Aug 2017 – 1:58

New tourist visa policies buoy hotel industry

By Raynald C Rivera / The Peninsula

Recent steps taken by Qatar to facilitate tourist visas including the granting of visa-free entry to Qatar to some 80 nationalities is seen as a boon to the country’s booming hotel industry.
Advancements in tourist visa policies coupled with hotels’ venture into fresh previously unexplored markets are expected to give the hospitality sector its much needed shot in the arm.
Hotels across the country welcomed last Wednesday’s announcement with delight as it came just a month after the move to expand e-visa services which enables registered hotels and tourism establishments to make applications fully online for passengers of all airlines.
Currently there are 242 nationalities who are eligible to apply for tourist visa online. Hospitality establishments and tourism offices holding a valid licence with Qatar Tourism Authority (QTA) are able to fully complete their guests’ tourist visa applications online via a newly activated feature on
“The introduction of e-visa services will enable us to become open to new markets. These new markets are supported through the vast network of Qatar Airways, Discover Qatar and Visit Qatar, as well as the extensive network of Global Sales Offices of hotel brands such as Minor Hotels Group,” Thomas Fehlbier, General Manager at Banana Island Resort Doha by Anantara, told The Peninsula.
Saeid Heidari, General Manager at Sheraton Grand Doha Resort & Convention Hotel, said QTA’s policy to expand e-visa services is an effective way to maximise tourism by attracting more visitors to the country.
He said the new policies like visa on arrival for around 72 nationalities and visa-free entry will encourage more people to visit Qatar.  “This will give a huge push to our business and to the Qatari economy in general. This is a clear example of how QTA has enhanced Qatar’s tourism opportunities, and contributed to the wider national economy,” said Heidari, adding since the decision to expand e-visa services, there had been a noticeable increase in demand which they expect to continue to grow in the coming months. Sharad Rattan, Executive Assistant Manager at Sharq Village & Spa a Ritz Carlton Hotel, expressed the same view, saying, “The recent initiative by Qatar Tourism Authority reduces the procedures for hotel and tourism establishments, strengthening the overall hospitality industry, encouraging local and foreign investment in the tourism sector and ensures consistency in the prominent level of quality and standards throughout the country.”
“The digitisation of the visa application process makes it faster by eliminating the time needed for personal visits to immigration offices. On the other hand, the fact that the hotel staff can do this for one or ten guests at a time makes it much more efficient. This not only further streamlines the process of welcoming tourist guests but can also contribute to a better customer experience during their earliest encounter with the hotel,” stressed Nawaf Ali Al Obaidly, General Manager at Sealine Beach Resort.
Al Obaidly added: “In a broader sense, the move further facilitates visitors’ access to the country – which is critical for achieving growth in the tourism industry, as it brings more convenience to individual tourists since the e-visa platform is linked to all airline booking platforms and, finally, it also indirectly helps our national economy grow.”
In September last year, and in partnership with Qatar Airways, QTA signed an agreement with VFS Global to create an online platform for processing visa applications. The platform was formally launched in June and last month, e-visa services was expanded to accept applications from travellers to Qatar aboard all airlines, as well as tourism and hospitality establishments in Qatar.
This week’s announcement to allow citizens of 80 countries visa-free entry was a landmark move, making Qatar the most open country in the region. Citizens of those 80 countries wishing to visit Qatar will no longer need to apply or pay for a visa; instead, a multi-entry waiver will be issued.


Source  :  The Peninsula

Qatari players train in England

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12 Aug 2017 – 0:38

Qatari players train in England

The Peninsula

Qatari football players in action during their training camp at St. George’s Park in Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, United Kingdom yesterday. Al Annabi scored an impressive 2-0 win over English Championship side Leeds United in the first of three friendlies on Wednesday and will play against Nottingham Forest tomorrow. The last warm-up game against Andorra will be played on August 16.


Source  :  The Peninsula

Seven Civil Defense members assassinated near Idlib

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Seven Civil Defense members assassinated near Idlib

Idlib (Syria News) Seven members of the Civil Defense were assassinated, at dawn today, in the city of Sarmin, east of Idlib Province.

Local sources told Qasioun News that unknown gunmen shot dead seven members of the Civil Defense in the head in the city of Sarmin, east of Idlib, and robbed the contents of the Civil Defense Center completely.

No entity claimed responsibility for the operation until now, the sources explained.

The sources further added that the crime took place at late time yesterday, while also pointed out that two of the victims are from the city of Homs.

It is noteworthy that it is the first of its kind crime taking place in Idlib. The Civil Defense teams are coordinating with all military parties in the area, in order to facilitate their movements and operation in the area, after any attacks.


Source  :  Syria News media

Syrian army secures Islamic State-held town in Homs province: state media

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Syrian army secures Islamic State-held town in Homs province: state media

(Reuters) Syrian government forces seized full control of the last major town in Homs province held by Islamic State, Syrian state media reported on Saturday, as the army and its allies press a multi-pronged advance into eastern areas held by the jihadist group.

Syrian state media cited a military source saying Islamic State militants had been killed and their weapons destroyed at the town of al-Sukhna, some 50 km (30 miles) northeast of the ancient city of Palmyra.

The town is also located some 50 km (30 miles) from the provincial boundary of Deir al-Zor province, Islamic State’s last major foothold in Syria and a major target for the Syrian government.

The jihadists have lost swathes of Syrian territory to separate campaigns being waged by government forces backed by Russia and Iran, and by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic (SDF) Forces, which is dominated by the Kurdish YPG militia. The SDF is currently focused on capturing Raqqa city from Islamic State.

Syrian government forces advancing from the west have recently crossed into Deir al-Zor province from southern areas of Raqqa province.

Islamic State controls nearly all of Deir al-Zor province, which is bordered to the east by Iraq. The Syrian government still controls a pocket of territory in Deir al-Zor city, and a nearby military base.


Source  :  Syria News