For the fifth straight day, around 1,000 Nigerian women taking the Muslim Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca are stuck in Saudi Arabia airports because of a rule that says they must be accompanied by men. Speaking on condition of anonymity, an airport official told the AFP that the women were detained because "they are not accompanied by a mahram (the statutory male companion)." Nigeria's ambassador to Saudi Arabia told the BBC, "They are stopping women particularly between the ages of 25 and 35 without a male relative. Those over 45 are not a concern to the Saudi authorities." One woman told the BBC that the situation at Jeddah airport has become pretty uncomfortable as hundreds of women are reportedly sleeping on the floor, have been denied their belongings, and are sharing only four toilets.
As ABC News reports, there is a rule in Saudi Arabia which requires the women on the Hajj to travel with a husband or male relative. And in the past Nigeria and Saudi Arabia have allowed the pilgrims' welfare boards to act as mahrams and have visas granted on that basis, reports the AFP. For now, Nigerian diplomats are working with negotiations with the Saudi government who haven't yet released a formal statement on the detention of all these women.