- Title: SAUDI ARABIA: HUNDREDS OF AFGHAN PILGRIMS HAVE TRAVELLED TO MECCA
- Date: 18th February 2002
- Summary: (U3) MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA (FEBRUARY 18-19, 2002) (REUTERS - ACCESS ALL) 1. SLV BUSES FULL OF AFGHAN PILGRIMS ARRIVING AT MECCA 0.06 2. SV PILGRIMS LEAVING BUSES 0.18 3. SLV AFGHAN PILGRIMS WHO ARRIVED EARLIER, WAITING UNDER SIGN SAYING, "CENTRE FOR AFGHANI HAJ DELEGATION" 0.23 4. LAS AFGHAN PILGRIM WOMAN GETTING OUT OF BUS 0.31 5. SLV PILGRIMS ENTERING CENTRE 0.39 6. SV AFGHAN PILGRIM KISSING NEW COMERS 0.48 7. SLV PILGRIMS WALKING IN CORRIDOR 0.56 8. MCU (English) AFGHAN DOCTOR GHULLAM DASTAGIR KELAK, SAYING: "Being a Muslim and my family being Muslim - so this is my ... entrance to take part in the pilgrimage to obtain the holy God's mercy"/CU OF HANDS (3 SHOTS) 1.15 9. PAN AFGHAN PILGRIMS SITTING IN A ROOM 1.27 10. SLV PILGRIMS TALKING TO EACH OTHER 1.33 11. MCU (Dari) AFGHAN INTERIOR MINISTRY OFFICIAL ABDULSALAM BAKHSHI, SAYING: "Haj is a religious ritual. There is no place for anything else." 1.41 12. CU/SLV OLD PILGRIM READING FROM THE MUSLIM HOLY QURAN (2 SHOTS) 1.51 13. MCU (Dari) AFGHAN PILGRIM MOHAMMAD GHUL, SAYING: "This country (Saudi Arabia) is for all Muslims, all Muslims respect this kingdom." 2.00 14. SLV GROUP OF PILGRIMS ENTERS ROOM 2.13 Initials Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
- Embargoed: 5th March 2002 12:00
- Location: MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA
- Country: Saudi Arabia
- Reuters ID: LVA5JJEZOTDGVHSCGILKGZ93P8GW
- Story Text: Hundreds of Afghan pilgrims have travelled to Mecca,
birthplace of Prophet Mohammad.
Ghullam Dastagir Kelak was in Mecca late on Sunday
(February 18) after spending a lot on money to realise the
dream of every devout Muslim: a pilgrimage to the birthplace
of Prophet Mohammad.
The Afghan doctor paid the equivalent of 4,500 US dollars
to make the journey from war-ravaged Kabul to oil-rich Saudi
Arabia with his family to perform the haj pilgrimage, a key
duty for every physically able Muslim who has the financial
Kelak, 60, dismissed the payment involved, saying money
was not an issue when it is spent to fulfil a religious duty.
"Being a Muslim and my family being Muslim - so this is
my ... entrance to take part in the pilgrimage to obtain the
holy God's mercy," he said.
The Kelaks are among hundreds of Afghan pilgrims who have
made it to Mecca
Heeding Saudi calls to keep politics out of haj, the
Afghan pilgrims refrained from discussing their country's
political woes or ties with Saudi Arabia.
Speaking through an interpreter, senior Afghan interior
ministry official Abdulsalam Bakhshi said: "Haj is a religious
ritual. There is no place for anything else."
Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef warned on Saturday
(February 16) that the kingdom would deal firmly with any
attempts to politicise the pilgrimage in the wake of the
September 11 attacks on U.S. cities and Washington's
subsequent war on terrorism.
Saudi Arabia was one of only three countries that had
recognised the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. But it withdrew
its recognition shortly after September 11 and the Taliban's
refusal to hand over main suspect Osama bin Laden, a
The pilgrims were all from central or northern
Afghanistan, mostly Tajiks and Uzbeks, the main ethnic
component in the U.S.-backed alliance that drove the mainly
Pashtun Taliban from power late last year.
"This country (Saudi Arabia) is for all Muslims," pilgrim
Mohammad Ghul said through an interpreter. "All Muslims
respect this kingdom."
Ghul said he was a member of the Afghan Mujahideen who
battled Soviet occupation in the 1980s. But he has since hung
up his weapon and became a merchant.
Saudi Arabia extended a Sunday (February 17) deadline for
pilgrims to arrive in the kingdom to airlift thousands more
Afghan pilgrims on Monday (February 18).
The first flights of Afghan pilgrims were marred by the
killing of an Afghan minister at Kabul airport last week.
Around 1.5 million pilgrims from around the world have
arrived in Saudi Arabia for the five-day pilgrimage that
starts on Wednesday (February 20).
Most Afghan pilgrims in Mecca, many of whom never
travelled outside their districts let alone Afghanistan,
appeared to be overawed by their luxurious dwellings in the
The Afghans are housed at a newly built building in a
Mecca suburb some six km (four miles) from the Grand Mosque,
Islam's holiest site.
The building that houses up to 2,500 people has shining
marble floors and bathrooms, air conditioning in every room
and several modern elevators.
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