The Hajj for a bribe

On 25 August the pilgrims who had performed Hajj to Mecca and Medina as part of the government quota returned to Turkmenistan.

Correspondents of Chronicles of Turkmenistan found out that those making the pilgrimage have their expenses covered. Moreover, a significant part of the money allocated by the government is left after the trip.

First, the pilgrims pay travel costs and accommodation expenses out of their own pocket in local currency. On an annual basis the President charges the executives of Turkmenistan Airlines with the task of organizing a flight out of the airline's own funds, but a ticket needs to be purchased anyway. Prior to departure the pilgrims have these expenses reimbursed in dollars at the official rate and are given cash for additional expenses, such as meals and transportation. Each person receives $2000 in total.

According to those who went on pilgrimage to Mecca last year or before, a bribe of 10 thousand manats (equivalent to about $556 at the black market rate) needs to be paid to those who make the list of pilgrims in order to secure a place on the list for those travelling at government expense. Taking into account the payment of $2000, these expenses will be recovered. However, not everyone agrees to give a bribe to make hajj as it is considered to be a sin. There are those who try to get onto the lists without paying a bribe but they have to wait their turn for years. At the same time there are those who have repeatedly made hajj.

Residents can perform hajj through private companies which organize trips to Mecca throughout the year. However, their services are especially used during the month of Eid al-Adha. The trip arranged through an agency costs $5000 on average. The companies also need to pay the amount of 2000 manats which is not recorded in the documents.

Upon return from the Hajj, hundreds of pilgrims organize charity lunches called sadaka in restaurants, cafes and in their homes.

Let us recall that this year the President of Turkmenistan traditionally permitted 160 pilgrims to perform hajj to Saudi Arabia from 5 to 25 August.

Source: Chronicles of Turkmenistan