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Nigerian women turned back from Mecca

Sept. 28, 2012 at 4:42 PM

ABUJA, Nigeria, Sept. 28 (UPI) -- Nigeria suspended all hajj flights to Saudi Arabia after 170 women were deported for arriving for the pilgrimage without a male escort, authorities said.

About 1,000 Muslim women intending to make the pilgrimage were delayed in Nigeria and a government delegation is traveling to Saudi Arabia to register a complaint, the BBC reported Friday.

There has been an understanding between the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria and Saudi authorities that visas would be issued to Nigerian women if they traveled with male hajj commission officials but it wasn't clear if the action was taken to prevent people from illegally entering Saudi Arabia to work, the BBC said.

A problem in Jeddah and Medina, Saudi Arabian cities where the women were detained, is that the women's' names don't correspond with those of the husband or male guardian on visa documentation because Nigerian Muslim women don't traditionally take their husband's name upon marriage, said Bilkisu Nasidi, one of the detainees.

"Honestly, both governments are to blame, ours and theirs. They're telling us our government has been aware of what the requirements are for the visa application and grating our visa," she said.

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