20 days remain to close umra in light of the Saudi King’s promises to reopen the Saudi embassy in Yemen
To express resentment because of the Saudi embassy in Sana’a’s closing, thus preventing those who want to perform umra from entering Saudi Arabia, thousands of umra-seekers, wearing umraattire, demonstrated on Sunday and Monday in front of President Abdu Rabu Mansur Hadi’s house.
The peaceful protesters urged Hadi to increase efforts to convince Saudi authorities to provide Yemenis with visas to travel to Saudi Arabia and undertake umra.
The protesters lifted banners condemning the embassy’s closure, calling it a mass punishment for the March abduction of Saudi Vice Consul Abdullah Al-Khaledi. One of the banners read,“People want to perform umraat Ramadan.”
Protesters also condemned Al-Khaledi’s abduction, saying the act doesn’t belong to Islam or to the customs and hospitality of Yemenis.
“Closing the embassy isn’t right because it hindered many Yemeni umra-seekers, students and people who live there from coming back,” Ali Mohammed Ahmed Al-Qaderi, a Yemeni, said. “There is another way to solve the problem of abducting Al-Khaledi instead of solving it by denying visas for Yemeni umra-seekers.”
The two demonstrations are in response to the Umra and Pilgrimage departments of the Yemen Tourism Union’s calls for protests in public squares.The union condemned the kidnapping and called on Ansar Al-Sharia to release Al-Khaledi.
Video shows the abducted Al-Khaledi alive
On May 25, a video broadcast on YouTube showed Al-Khaledi begging the Saudi king to release him from the hands of Ansar Al-Sharia so that he could return to his family. The video had Ansar Al-Sharia’s slogan. This was the first appearance since his abduction on March 28.
According to the state-run Saba News Agency, Hadi called the Saudi King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz on Sunday to discuss the embassy closure.
Saba News Agency reported that Hadi asked the king to consider reopening the embassy because it is essential to provide visas. The king promised to give orders to reopen the embassy again and provide services for Yemenis.
Hajj and Umra service agencies stop working
Agencies servicing Yemenis hoping to travel to Saudi Arabia have suffered heavy losses because much of their profits are from providing services for umra and hajjseekers.
Salah Al-Deen Al-Asdi, manager of Public Relations at Al-Sabeel Agency for Hajj and Umra Services, said, “The losses of the 95 agencies in Yemen totals about SR75,000,000, or about YR4,299,680,000.”
He said people come daily to ask whether Saudi Arabia is going to reopen the embassy.
“We are waiting for Saturday to know,” Al-Asdi said.
Nasser Al-Kaheli, manager of the public relations in the Hajj and Umra departments said, “The agencies and companies sustained heavy losses because they stopped working completely due to acts of sabotage, road blockings and kidnappings.”
Al-Kaheli said 95 Yemeni agencies signed contracts with Saudi Arabia to provide visas for those who want to perform umra, but only 68 were able to finish these contracts before the Saudi consulate closed the embassy.
It is reported that each agency has the right to give visas for 1,000 to 2,000 people. It was expected that about 100,000 people with visas would perform umra this year.
Abdulkareem Abbas, vice director of the Hajj and Umra departments in the Yemen Tourism Union, said, “Protests are because the Yemeni authorities didn’t exert considerable efforts to release the Saudi counsel.”
Abass said that in 2012, before Al-Khaledi’s kidnapping, 17,000 Yemenis performed umra. He said about 80,000 people could be prevented from going to Saudi Arabia to perform umra if the embassy doesn’t reopen.