MAKKAH: People of Makkah are complaining about illegal expatriates who have taken refuge in some of the old cemeteries in the Okaisha area of the holy city, violating the sanctity of the dead.
Some of them have turned the graveyards, which are no longer used for burials, into dumping grounds, Al-Madina newspaper reported.
Awad Al-Shirhy has said the walls around the cemeteries are either frail or have collapsed, and no maintenance work has carried out for a long time.
There are five cemeteries close to each other in the Okaishah area. They are abandoned now. The last time one of these cemeteries was used for burial was some four decades ago. Today most of the burials in Makkah take place in Al-Mualla and Al-Adl cemeteries.
"The cemeteries in Okaishah have become home for stray dogs and illegal expatriates,” said Al-Shihry.
He asked the municipality to interfere and take care of the cemeteries and arrest illegal expatriates who build shelters in them or use them as dumping grounds.
Saleh Ajlan has said the cemeteries have remained neglected for several decades.
“The authorities need to interfere quickly as these cemeteries reflect an ugly image of the city,” said Ajlan.
Khamis Al-Jahdali said there must be severe punishment for people who vandalize cemeteries.
Mohammad Fawtawi, a former director of environmental health at Makkah Municipality, confirmed that no burial had taken place at these cemeteries in the last four decades.
The residents were unanimous in their view that a lack of follow-up and control by the local authorities was responsible for the present sorry state of the cemeteries.
They agreed that the graveyards had been neglected for a long time while their walls had collapsed but not rebuilt.
The municipality's media and public relations director Osama Zaitouni said the municipality took action to clean up and maintain the cemeteries responding to the requests by the people of the neighborhood.
A team of officials from the municipality conducted a field trip to the area, which revealed that the cemeteries were exposed to the effects of nature as the fences around them were swept away by floodwaters.