Women say they were sexually harassed during pilgrimage in Mecca

Muslim women claim to be sexually harassed when thousands circle the Kaaba inside Al-Masjid Al-Haram in Mecca

Muslim women from all over the globe are sharing stories about suffering sexual harassment and assaults while in the holy city of Mecca on pilgrimage.

After one Pakistani woman bravely detailed her account about how she had been harassed while in the Saudi Arabian city, others have felt inspired to follow in her footsteps.

A majority describe being touched inappropriately or harassed while performing ‘tawaf’, the key pilgrimage ritual of circling the Kaaba, the most sacred site in Islam, inside the Al-Masjid Al-Ḥarām mosque.

In a widely shared Facebook post, first highlighted by Stepfeed, Sabica Khan reveals that she was performing tawaf when she ‘felt a hand’ on her waist.

She writes that three circulations later, she ‘suddenly felt something aggressively poking my butt, I froze, unsure of whether it was intentional. I ignored and just kept moving slowly because the crowd was huge.

‘I even tried to turn around but woefully couldn’t. When I reached the Yemeni corner, someone tried to grab and pinch my butt.’

She describes being petrified and trying to turn around and spot her attacker but the person had disappeared into the busy, moving crowds.

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‘It’s sad to say that you are not even safe at holy places. I’ve been harassed, not once, not twice , but thrice. My entire experience at the holy city is overshadowed by this horrible incident.’

The Facebook post has had more than 840 comments, with many women sharing their own experiences of sexual harassment at the Kaaba.

One woman from Malaysia writes: This has happened to me and many many others. When I wrote about this a few months back in a group, I was accused of lying and fantasising. It was during the tawaf where I felt something “hard on” on my back. I gave a back kick. Many of my friends had the same experience.’

Another, from India, added: It happened with me too, when I had gone for hajj as a 14 year old. Had no words, still have no words to describe this. ‘

Other women have taken to Twitter to share, with one woman from Nigeria writing: ‘Women always get sexually harassed during hajj. Someone I know said a man tried to rub up against her backside while she was performing tawaf around the Kaaba. She thought it was because of the pushing cuz there were many people but when she looked back, mans was smiling at her.’

Muslim women lament sexual harassment in Saudi Arabia during pilgrimage

She also spoke of being harassed by two different taxi drivers while leaving the Al-Masjid Al-Ḥarām mosque when she was just 16, and ended up walking back to her hotel.

Egyptian doctor and YouTuber Alyaa Gad, now living in Switzerland revealed on her Twitter page that her own mother had been sexually harassed while on a pilgrimage.

‘My mother (a woman in her sixties!) came back from hajj–several times– with what she described as the worst sexual harassment experiences she’d ever witnessed.’

Travelling to Mecca, the Hajj, is is an annual pilgrimage which all Muslims who are physically capable must do at least once in their lifetime.

This involves a joint prayer of thousands at the Kabaa, and afterwards the crowds perform tawaf and walk in unison around the black square building.