Saudi religious police level ancient graves
Move has sparked anger from residents accusing the religious police of sabotaging the historical graves
Residents in Saudi Arabia’s southern city of al-Baha were angered by the Saudi religious police’s decision to level an ancient graveyard to the ground and remove most of the tomb stones over the graves, reported al-Hayat newspaper on Monday.
The Commission of the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice razed what some residents believed was part of their heritage in line with Islamic tradition that does not encourage the use of tomb stones.
A committee consisting of the commission, the city’s municipality among others has been appointed to sort out the “Zinat” graveyard, the commission’s spokesman, Nasser Saeed, told al-Hayat.
The residents accused the religious police of sabotaging the historical graves which date from as far back as 3,000 years. Some residents expressed the opinion that the graves should have been maintained as they represent the heritage of the city.
Historian Saad al-Kamookh said some historical accounts indicate that the people inside these graves used to worship the sun.
“The graves are very old and some of them face al-Quds (Jerusalem). Some graves had children inside,” Kamookh said.
The area surrounding the graves had stones with ancient Arabic inscriptions, a fact that shows the people who lived there knew how to write, he noted.
Archeologist Ahmad Qashash said most of the graves point to the east. “The way the graves were built with stones on top is beautiful and strange at the same time.
“It’s wrong to remove the stones from the graves because they represent part of the history of the Arabian peninsula. The Haia (religious police) shouldn’t have vandalized them under the pretext that some would engage in religious rituals near the graves,” he said.
Qashash said more than 1,500 companions of the Prophet Mohammad lived in al-Baha and saw these graves and they did not touch them.