Saudi Hires Occupation-Friendly Company for Hajj Security
By: Orouba Othman
Published Monday, October 7, 2013
This year, the mandatory Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, or hajj, will compound the Palestinians’ woes. Palestinian pilgrims will be greeted by a company that assists in their repression – and even torture – under the Israeli occupation regime. Indeed, hajj this year will be brought to you by none other than G4S.
This is not the first time that the Saudi government has hired the private security firm, which has recruited a staggering 700,000 to provide hajj-related services this year, according to exclusive information obtained by Al-Akhbar. Most of the leaked reports indicate that security for the hajj season since 2010 has been entrusted to al-Majal G4S, an affiliate of the parent company G4S.
The CEO of al-Majal G4S is a former security official in Saudi named Khaled Baghdadi. The Saudi subsidiary is fully owned by the British-Danish firm.
The parent company has not disclosed the nature of the contracts it has signed with the Saudi authorities. In its periodic reports, G4S makes limited references to its Saudi operations, such as winning a contract with Jeddah Metro to assist with security during the hajj, or stating that the company assists in the transport of more than 3 million pilgrims who visit Mecca each year. In 2011, the website Asrar Ararabiya – Arab Secrets – published an ad by the company asking people to apply to work in Mecca for seven days only, during hajj.
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign has not been sitting idly by. In a press conference on Wednesday, October 2, the campaign sent a clear message to the Saudi government, urging it to terminate the contract with the company that happens to provide equipment and security services to protect Israeli settlements, occupation checkpoints, and police facilities. The private security contractor has also been implicated in enabling the torture of administrative detainees in Palestine, including children, according to BDS activist Zaid Shuaibi.
BDS activists were not the only ones to react to the news. Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the head of the Supreme Islamic Council in Jerusalem and the imam of al-Aqsa Mosque, has proclaimed, “This company operates in security, and has activities and commitments in areas under Israeli occupation. Those who help the occupation must be held accountable and are complicit in the crime, as those who help aggressors also are aggressors.”
Shuaibi, speaking to Al-Akhbar, said that the BDS campaign contacted the Palestinian Ministry of Economy, being the competent authority in the issue of boycotting settlements, such as the ones serviced by G4S. But according to Shuaibi, “The ministry did not bother to respond or take action to stop the abuse, even as the company violates Palestinian law by continuing to provide services to the settlements.”
G4S in Israeli Prisons and Interrogation Centers
G4S’ subsidiary in Israel (Hashmira) was awarded a contract with the Israeli Prison Service in July 2007 to supply equipment and security services that enable violations of Articles 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The company provides security systems and centralized control systems to the Hasharon-Ramonim prison, which contains a section for Palestinian political prisoners.
G4S has installed a central command room in Megiddo Prison, in addition to supplying a wide array of security services to the Damon and Ketziot prisons. In Ofer, the prison where more than 1,500 Palestinians are detained – mostly administrative prisoners – G4S has also installed a central command room and provided protection through peripheral defense systems on the walls surrounding the prison. The company routinely supplies systems for command and control, IT, CCTV, and communications to Israeli prisons.
In the Jalma and Maskoubieh interrogation centers, which are also serviced by G4S, not even children are spared from torture. It is in one of those centers that Palestinian detainee Arafat Jaradat was tortured to death earlier this year. There, too, Luay al-Ashqar, a Palestinian administrative detainee, became permanently paralyzed in his left leg when he suffered a triple fracture in his spine during his detention.
Under Israeli military law, prisoners can be detained for investigation for 60 days without access to a lawyer, which means that lawyers cannot witness interrogation methods used against their clients. All these practices and more are facilitated by G4S.
Checkpoints, Settlements, and Police Stations
According to a report by Who Profits, “G4S Israel supplied luggage scanning equipment and full body scanners to several checkpoints in the West Bank, including the Qalandia checkpoint, the Bethlehem checkpoint…[and] the Erez checkpoint in Gaza.” The company also provides security equipment to Israeli police facilities in the E1 zone of the West Bank, near the settlement of Maaleh Adumim.
Meanwhile, G4S-serviced checkpoints make life extremely difficult for more than 23,000 Palestinians who work in Jerusalem and the territories of 1948 (Israel proper), who have to wait and are often delayed as they undergo humiliating inspection each morning. G4S also operates in the Israeli settlements, catering to businesses and private citizens.
BDS campaigns have been able to achieve some success in Europe while Saudi Arabia continues to ignore appeals to terminate contracts with G4S. The company lost several contracts in Europe, including with Oslo University back in July after pressure by student groups.
In the United Kingdom, the East London Teachers Association put pressure on local authorities to terminate contracts with G4S, which provides services to more than 25 schools in the British capital. Campaigns to boycott G4S have spread to Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, and the rest of Europe. In April this year, G4S failed to renew a 2008 contract to provide security services for parliament buildings in Europe.
G4S in the Arab World
The scope of G4S’ operations and profits in the Arab world is nearly six times the size of its operations and profits in the Jewish state. In truth, its market share in Saudi alone is about 10 times its share in Israel.
The company is active in 16 Arab countries, with a turnover of 501 million British pounds ($805 million) last year, or 6 percent of its total revenues. It employs nearly 44,000, who work in operations ranging from providing security for airports in Baghdad and Dubai, Arab embassies, various Arab sports events, as well as protection for private businesses.
In comparison, G4S earns about 100 million pounds ($160 million) from its Israeli operations, or 1 percent of its total yearly revenues.
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This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.