Great Britain players take the knee before the match against Chile on Wednesday as preliminary events begin in Tokyo | AFP HUBBALLI THURSDAY JULY 22, 2021 `7.00 PAGES 12 CITY EDITION WOMEN’S SKEET WORLD NO 1 COVID POSITIVE, OUT OF OLY ‘Devastated’ GB athlete, Amber Hill withdraws days before Games, three others, too, sidelined after contracting virus 6 POLES SENT BACK HOME; SWEDEN STUN U.S. Six Polish swimmers had to be sent back home after a clerical error that left the contingent stunned. An administrative error by the Polish Swimming Federation saw them send 23 athletes instead of 17. Meanwhile, Sweden handed the US women’s team, the defending Olympic and world champion, a 3-0 defeat on the first day of the preliminary rounds ■ 2032 TEAMS KNEEL IN FIGHT FOR EQUALITY ■ Multiple teams interlocked arms or took the knee as they continue their fight for equality. The IOC, which had a blanket ban on protests, has allowed athletes to ‘protest’ with ‘restrictions’ One more Czech athlete, Pavel Sirucek, tested positive in the Games Village. He’s the third member of the delegation | P11 BRISBANE WILL BE THE HOST OF THE 2032 SUMMER GAMES CHENNAI ■ MADURAI ■ VIJAYAWADA ■ BENGALURU ■ KOCHI ■ HYDERABAD ■ VISAKHAPATNAM ■ COIMBATORE ■ KOZHIKODE ■ THIRUVANANTHAPURAM ■ BELAGAVI ■ BHUBANESWAR ■ SHIVAMOGGA ■ MANGALURU ■ TIRUPATI ■ TIRUCHY ■ TIRUNELVELI ■ SAMBALPUR ■ HUBBALLI ■ DHARMAPURI ■ KOTTAYAM ■ KANNUR ■ VILLUPURAM ■ KOLLAM ■ WARANGAL ■ TADEPALLIGUDEM ■ NAGAPATTINAM ■ THRISSUR ■ KALABURAGI Modi, Shah have immense special concern for me: BSY Inter-ministerial Israeli panel to probe Pegasus Chief Minister appeals to his supporters not to indulge in protest A N U S H A R A V I @ Bengaluru “PRIME Minister Narendra Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP national president JP Nadda have an immense special concern for me. Nobody has been given the opportunity to work as Chief Minister after the age of 75, but I have been extended that courtesy Chief Minister BS Yediy,” urappa was quoted as saying by Siddalinga Swamy head seer of , the all-important Siddaganga Mutt. The seer was talking to the media after his meeting with Yediyurappa on Wednesday the , second consecutive day of pontiffs showing solidarity with Yediyurappa, calling on him at his official residence amid the buzz of leadership change. While the chief minister chose to remain mum on seers meeting him back to back, Siddalinga Swamy said the delegation of various religious chiefs insisted that Yediyurappa should continue as chief minister for the rest of his term. “He did not say anything about his resignation, but we insisted that he continue in the post. He has earned the love of people cutting across communities. He told us that he will work tirelessly for the party until his last breath,” the seer said. On Tuesday, some 20 seers I propose Sharadji (Sharad Pawar) and Chidambaramji (P Chidambaram) to call a meeting of Opposition leaders. I will act as a worker and follow the instructions given by the leaders of the alliance Mamata Banerjee MAMATA ENTERS NATIONAL RING EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ Kolkata/New Delhi GIVING a call to uproot the BJP in the 2024 general elections, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday urged the Opposition to keep aside all other interests and unite against the Modi government, which she alleged wants to ‘turn India into a surveillance state’. Representatives of nine Opposition parties attended the live screening of her speech at Constitution Club in Delhi. They included Sharad Pawar and Supriya Sule (both NCP), P Chidambaram and Digvijaya Singh (both Cong), Ram Gopal Yadav and Jaya Bachchan (both SP), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Dr Keshava Rao (TRS), Sanjay Singh (AAP), Manoj Jha (RJD), Priyanka Chaturvedi (Shiv Sena) and Sardar Balwinder Singh Bhunder (Shiromani Akali Dal). Taking her Khela Hobe pitch to the national stage, she said Khela (game) will happen in all other states in the 2024 elections until the BJP-led government is derailed from the Centre. She requested all non-BJP parties to start planning from now as only two-and-a-halfyears is left. The call for Opposition unity comes ahead of her scheduled four-day visit to Delhi starting July 25. Buoyed by the massive Bengal victory the Trinamool for , the first time organised the screening of Mamata’s virtual address in Delhi, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and other states, showcasing her as an anti-BJP leadership face. Underlining the national emphasis of her speech, Mamata spoke for 45 minutes in Bengali, Hindi, and English. Referring to her party’s stupendous victory in the 2021 Assembly elections, Mamata said: “The game is not over yet. The game will continue until the BJP is uprooted from the Centre.’’ Aiming to unite all oppositions under one umbrella, Mamata said, “We have no time to waste... Forget your allother interests. Now we should focus on one interest, which is saving the country If we form . an alliance shortly before polls, it may not work. I will be in Delhi shortly. I propose Sharadji and Chidambaramji to call a meeting of Opposition leaders. I will act as a worker and follow the instructions given by the leaders of the alliance.’’ Interestingly, she did not urge the Gandhi family to initiate Opposition unity Her call . is her first move to venture into national politics ahead of the 2024 elections. MORE ON: P7 from various mutts met Yediyurappa and on Wednesday the , number was over 50. Prominent chiefs of religious institutions, like Murugha Mutt’s Sri Shivamurthy Sharanaru, Madara Channayya Mutt seer Sri Basavamurthy Madara Channayya Swamy, Rambhapuri Peetha seer Sri Prasanna Renuka Veerasomeshwar Shivacharya Swami and Siddalinga Swamy , have come out in support of Yediyurappa. Others like Kolada Mutt seer Shanthaveera Swami and Lingayat Panchamasali Peetha Jayamruthyunjaya Swamy have asked for someone from within the community to P4 replace Yediyurappa. WHEN one thought the effects of global warming and climate change would be apparent decades later, there has been increasing evidence of environment-related catastrophes occurring across the globe in our lifetime. In recent days, Germany has faced flash foods, stunning scientists, Central China is in the midst of unprecedented rain and flooding, killing 25 and affecting over a million people, and on Tuesday , New Yorkers woke up to a haze as forest fires have been raging in western parts of the US. Muslims offer prayers on the occasion of Bakrid at Quba Masjid in Kalasipalya, in Bengaluru on Wednesday | SHRIRAM BN The situation in different parts of India is no different. But DB Kuppe and Machur -villages along the Karnataka- CM’s ANNIVERSARY LUNCH CANCELLED THOSE WHO QUIT CONG, JDS WARY Amidst the buzz surrounding CM Yediyurappa being asked to step down, a lunch-meeting organised with legislators at a Bengaluru hotel, to mark his two years in office, has been cancelled. However, when asked, BJP state president Nalin Kumar Kateel said he was unaware of the reason behind the cancellation. P4 At a time when there is confusion in the state over leadership change, political circles are abuzz with speculation about the fate of former Congress and JDS legislators who joined the BJP to help it form the government in 2019. A senior BJP leader, however, said their interests will be protected. P4 Crucial sero-survey data in cold storage, experts divided over analysis Since NSO claims it sells only to vetted governments, the needle of suspicion for WITH the global Pegasus the snoopgate started pointsnooping scandal snowball- ing towards the ruling dising, Israel is learnt to have pensations. While Pegasus is set up a senior inter-ministe- meant to help thwart threats rial team to examine allega- to national security, its postions of its abuse, since the sible use against political opspyware belongs to an Israeli ponents to destabilise govfirm, the NSO Group. ernments or win elections Parallelly, India’s Parlia- indicated its abuse. mentary Standing CommitBack home, the Tharoortee on Information and Tech- led parliamentary panel has nolog y led by summoned senCongress leader ior officials from Shashi Tharoor the Ministry of is expected to Electronics, Inquestion top govfor mation and ernment officials Technology and on who ordered the Ministry of 1.16L kids orphaned the snooping, Home in India amid Covid Affairs to Spyware that uSeS your own phone to when it meets its meeting on Spy on you next Wednesday, July 28. The agensaid sources. da is citizens’ Israel’s Nationdata security and al Security Counprivacy, accordPAGE 12 cil (NSC) has ing to a notificabeen tasked to tion from the Lok head the Pegasus probe team. Sabha Secretariat. On Wednesday, the global Interestingly, it is the NSC that oversees NSO exports. media consortium that is doData shows disproportionate impact on Blacks of US’ spyware For its part, the NSO Group ing the50-yr war on drugs expose, addsaid it will thoroughly inves- ed the names of officials of farm giant Monsanto and tigate any credible proof of misuse of its technologies other anti-CAA activists as and “will shut down the women stand guard potential targets of Pegasus. In a first, sysin Mecca during haj Six mobile numbers of Montem where necessary”. The Israeli action appears santo were added to the list in to be part of its attempts to 2018 when it came under the avert diplomatic flare-ups af- radar for allegedly selling geter suspected abuse of netically modified seeds. Pegasus was found in France, Also, Samujjal BhattacharMexico, India, Morocco and jee, AASU member who was Iraq. Prominent among the at the forefront of the antispyware’s targets were 10 CAA protests in Assam, was prime ministers, three presi- on the list along with ULFA’s dents and a king. Anup Chetia. EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE @ New Delhi A study published last week by US scientists at the Desert Research Institute found that coronavirus infection rates increased disproportionately during the country’s wildfire season in 2020. 16 tor, who is part of the expert committee set up by the government to manage Covid-19, said. Karnataka’s sero-survey data actually goes against the ICMR theory that states are showing good seroprevalence. This could be one of the reasons the results of the survey have not yet been announced, the senior doctor said. However, another expert, who requested anonymity said , the report submitted to the State Government has added the findings of the two seroprevalence surveys to show an increase in presence of antibodies among a good section of the population in Karnataka. C H E TA N A B E L A G E R E @ Bengaluru WHILE Karnataka grapples with the fear of an anticipated third wave of Covid-19, the State Government’s most important report on serosurveillance data — which helps the state predict the impact of the third wave — is lying in cold storage. The reasons, according to sources, is that the seroprevalence in Karnataka is as low as 14 per cent, which is way lower than the first serosurveillance, which showed the seroprevalence at 27 per cent. “The survey, which started towards January-end, was completed by March and analysed by April. They realised that seroprevalence in the state was A health worker collects swab samples of a passenger at Majestic bus stand in Bengaluru on Wednesday | SHRIRAM BN less than what it was in the earlier survey. A sub-survey in May has also been analysed and the findings submitted to the government,” a senior doc- CONTINUED ON: P3 Afghan man with fake ID caught working at shipyard E X P R E S S N E W S S E R V I C E @ Kochi IN a major security lapse, an Afghan national managed to work in the Cochin Shipyard (CSL) for more than a year using a fake identification document that showed him an Indian. Idgul, alias Abbas Khan, 24, had been working in the shipyard under a sub-contractor since 2020. He had gone absconding after he suspected his real identity was exposed. A special team of Kerala police nabbed him from Kolkata and produced before court, which remanded in judicial custody on Tuesday . Ernakulam South Police Inspector M S Faisal said the accused claimed to be from Assam but was in possession of an Afghan passport. “He had been absconding for the past few days. We traced his mobile location and nabbed him from Kolkata,” the officer said, adding his father Barath Khan was suspected to be an Afghan citizen, Kerala border -- had a pleasant respite, in the midst of the various climatic catastrophes seen around the world. After a gap of three years, the villagers, predominantly Muslim, could celebrate Bakrid because this year there was no flooding. Flash floods and heavy rain had prevented them from celebrating Eid the past three years. On Wednesday, the villages were decked up and mosques wore a festive look, as the devotees offered prayers of gratitude for saving them from ano t h e r fl o o d a n d n at u r a l P5 calamity . while his mother Dalero Begum hailed from Assam. According to preliminary probe, Khan came to India in 2018 on a medical visa. Later, he forged his identity documents to reach Kochi and secure a job under a sub-contractor in Cochin Shipyard. Khan came to Kochi because a few of his relatives from Assam were already working in the shipyard under the subcontractor. There are also rumours that he had some issues with his cousins and it was one of them who leaked his real identity to the shipyard security . A CSL spokesperson said one of the workmen of a sub-contractor was known by a different name than that was submitted in his documents. During a re-verification of the documents by the shipyard security it was found , that he had absconded. The matter was immediately reported to the police, the spokesperson added. EXPRESS READ Over 8 lakh students scheduled to write SSLC exam on June 22 BENGALURU: More than 8.1 lakh students are scheduled to write their SSLC board examination on July 22. The examination for the three language papers will be held together in a three-hour session, with 40 marks dedicated to each paper | P5 NATIONWIDE JULY 20 JULY 21 Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths 30,093 45,254 374 42,015 36,977 3,998 KARNATAKA JULY 20 JULY 21 Fresh cases Recoveries Deaths 1,464 2,706 29 1,639 2,214 36 JAB-O-METER TAKE YOUR SHOT July 20 31,79,469 doses July 21 20,83,892 doses TOTAL DOSES 41,76,56,752 Thursday vellore newindianexpress com 22 07 2021 l l Pegasus spyware can be covertly installed on your phone by exploiting vulnerabilities in apps and tools, thus using your own phone to spy on you. It has turned into a global focal point as a tool that undermines democratic rights of individuals. Here is an explainer on what the spyware is all about WHAT IS PEGASUS SPYWARE? Pegasus is a spyware that can be installed on mobile phones without the user even getting to know about it It can target Apple iOS and Android devices, and is even able to infect the latest iOS versions, including the iOS 14.6 The spyware can use your phone camera, and even copy/send messages WHAT CAN THE SPYWARE DO? It can monitor all communications from your phone, including emails, text messages, and even the web searches you have done It can help track the user through location identification and can track your calls too Your phone will be used to spy on you, because the phone’s camera and microphone are used for surveillance Eid comes to border villages after 3 yrs K S H I V A K U M A R @ Mysuru Siddalinga Swamy of Siddaganga Mutt at the meeting with Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa along with other seers in Bengaluru on Wednesday | EXPRESS HOW DOES THE SPYWARE INFECT iPHONES? It impersonates applications downloaded on an iPhone Then it is transmitted through push notifications using the Apple servers The spyware can infect your phone by exploiting the photo app, the Apple Music app, or a zero-click iMessage iMessage is an Apple Inc-developed instant messaging service launched in 2011 to work on Apple platforms like iPadOS, macOS, iOS and watchOS WHO DEVELOPED PEGASUS? Israeli firm NSO group The company is also known as Q Cyber Technologies. The use of Pegasus had been justified by the developers for targetting terrorist organisations and criminals, but it has also found favour among authoritarian leaders to spy on oppo- FACT OF THE MATTER Virus cases up 12% last week China official mixes 3 doses Pernicious Pegasus nents as well as journalists Human rights group Amnesty International helped reveal this month that the spyware was being exploited for misuse to target political opponents, critiques and journalists in violation of democratic principles HOW CAN YOU KNOW YOUR PHONE HAS MALWARE? It runs slower than usual Noticeable performance drop You notice apps crashing while using them WHAT CAN DETECT PEGASUS? A tool called Mobile Verification Toolkit (MVT) can detect Pegasus. It can help you know if Pegasus has installed itself on your phone The advantage is that this tool can work on iOS and Android devices, but due to more pronounced forensic traces it is easier to do so on the former than the latter WHO DEVELOPED IT? Israel's NSO Group developed it in 2016. It first came out into the open in 2018 when a phone of a human rights activist in Israel was the target of an infection attempt Its popularity grew due to data on its capabilities in maintaining surveillance in a cov- ert manner targeting individuals and organisations In August 2020, NSO Group reportedly sold the spyware to United Arab Emirates to help it maintain surveillance on anti-regime elements and not-so-friendly nations The powerful spyware can sneak into your phone in at least two easy ways. Unlike in the past — when a non-techsavvy generation could be nudged to click on malicious links — Pegasus infections can now be achieved through “zeroclick” attacks, requiring no user interaction whatsoever. These zero-click security breaches can occur via mail apps, p2p device protocols, WhatsApp, or even the graphics library — a simple unanswered WhatsApp call can place the Pegasus code on your device. These attacks often rely on another deeper vulnerability known as “zeroday”, which are the loopholes in an mobile OS that a phone manufacturer doesn’t know about Data WASHINGTON: More than 1.5 million children in 21 countries, including 1,19,000 from India, lost their primary and secondary caregivers to COVID-19 during the first 14 months of the pandemic, according to a study in The Lancet. The modelling study funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), stated that 25,500 children in India lost their mother to Covid-19 while 90,751 lost their father and 12 lost both their parents. The study estimates that 1,134,000 children lost a parent or custodial grandparent due to Covid-19. Of these, 10,42,000 children lost their mother, father or both. Most lost one, not both parents. Overall, 1,562,000 children are estimated to have experienced the death of at least one parent or a custodial or other co-residing grandparent (or other older relative), the NIH said in a media release. The countries with the highest number of children who lost primary caregivers (parents or custodial grandparents) include South Africa, Peru, United States, India, Brazil, and Mexico, it said. The countries with rates of Covid-associated deaths among primary caregivers (>1/1000 children) include Peru, South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Iran, United States, Argentina, and Russia, it added. “Though the trauma a child experiences after the loss of a parent or caregiver can be devastating, there are evidencebased interventions that can prevent further adverse consequences, such as substance use, and we must ensure that children have access to these interventions,” said NIDA Director Nora D Volkow. According to the report, 2,898 Indian children lost either of their custodial grandparents while nine lost both of their custodial grandparents. However, the 0.5 rate of loss of primary and custodial parents per 1,000 children in India is much less than other countries like South Africa (6.4), Peru (14.1), Brazil (3.5), Colombia (3.4), Mexico (5.1), Russia (2.0), and the US (1.8). “We found that, with the exception of South Africa, deaths were greater in men than women in every country, particularly in middle-aged and older parents,” the report on The Lancet journal’s website said. Liverpool no longer a heritage site S Africa firm to produce Pfizer shots HealtH Data MeDicine T W he WHO says there were more than 3.4 million new global cases of the coronavirus last week, a 12% increase from the previous week. The UN health agency says the number of deaths is continuing to decline, with about 57,000 in the last week. “At this rate, it is expected that the cumulative number of cases reported globally could exceed 200 million in the next three weeks,” WHO says. It notes the highest increases in were in the Western Pacific and European regions. In the past week, WHO says the highest coronavirus infections were in Indonesia, Britain, Brazil, India and the US. WHO has urged countries to commit to vaccinating at least 40% of their populations. hile scientists across the globe are debating on the need for a third booster jab against Covid-19 and whether the shots can be mixed, China’s top disease control official said he has taken three different shots against the infectious disease, the media reported. “I was among the first to have a domestically developed Covid-19 vaccine when I got the shot in May last year,” the South China Morning Post quoted Gao Fu, head of the Chinese CDC, as saying to the Global People magazine. “I have now had three shots that used different technology and were from different manufacturers and I haven’t felt any discomfort,” Fu added. Big drop in US life expectancy HealtH U S life expectancy fell by a year and a half in 2020, the largest one-year decline since World War II, public health officials said Wednesday. The decrease for both Blacks and Hispanics was even worse: three years. The drop spelled out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is due mainly to the Covid-19 pandemic, which health officials said is responsible for close to 74% of the overall life expectancy decline. Over 3.3 million Americans died last year, far more than any other year in US history , with Covid-19 accounting for about 11% of those deaths. The abrupt fall is “basically catastrophic,” said Mark Hayward, a University of Texas sociology professor. History FRANKFURT: Covid-19 vaccine makers BioNTech and Pfizer on Wednesday said that they had found a South African partner to produce their jab locally, the first such deal on the African continent. The move comes amid growing criticism of vaccine inequality that has seen poor countries fall behind richer ones in protecting people from the virus. Under the agreement, Cape Town-based Biovac will complete the last step in the manufacturing process of the vaccine, the companies said in a statement. The project will take time to get off the ground however, with the first Africanfinished vaccines not expected before 2022. Once up and running, Biovac is set to churn out more than 100 million doses annually that will be distributed to the 55 countries in the African Union. “This is a critical step forward in strengthening sustainable access to a vaccine in the fight against this tragic, worldwide pandemic,” said Biovac chief executive officer Morena Makhoana. Studies have shown that th vaccine is highly effective against Covid-19, including the newer variants. The “technical transfer, on-site development and equipment installation activities will begin immediately the statement added. ,” The Covax scheme, backed by the WHO and heavily relied on by the African countries, has delivered far fewer doses than expected so far. LONDON: The UN’s cultural agency UNESCO on Wednesday voted narrowly to remove Liverpool’s waterfront from its list of world heritage sites, citing concerns about overdevelopment including plans for a new football stadium. At committee talks chaired by China, 13 delegates voted in favour of the proposal and five against -just one more than the twothirds majority required to delete a site from the global list. “It means that the site of Liverpool Maritime Mercantile City is deleted from the World Heritage List,” Tian Xuejun, chairman of UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee, declared. It is only the third such removal, after previous decisions affecting Oman and Germany, and followed two days of committee discussions that exposed tensions about how cities can preserve their past. The UK government said it was “extremely disappointed” in the decision and the gover nment spokeswoman added that “Liverpool still deserves its world heritage status given the significant role the historic docks and the wider city have played throughout history .” But UNESCO delegates heard that the redevelopment plans, including highrise buildings, would “irreve r s i b l y d a m a g e ” t h e heritage of the port in northwest England. The government had approved a new new stadium for Everton football club. safe anD snug A Common Loon chick hitches a ride on its mother’s back while her mate looks for food on Maranacook Lake in Maine, US | aP HealtH FIFTY years ago, then US president Richard Nixon declared a war on drugs. Today, with the US mired in a opioid epidemic that did not abate during the coronavirus pandemic’s worst days, it is questionable whether anyone won the war. Yet the loser is clear: Black and Latino Americans, their families and their communities. A key weapon was the imposition of mandatory minimums in prison sentencing. Decades later those harsh federal and state penalties led to an increase in the prison industrial complex that saw millions of people, primarily of colour, locked up. An Associated Press review of federal and state incarcera- tion data shows that, between 1975 and 2019, the US prison population jumped from 240,593 to 1.43 million Americans. Among them, about 1 in 5 people were incarcerated with a drug offense listed as their most serious crime. The racial disparities reveal the war’s uneven toll. Following the passage of stiffer penalties for crack cocaine and other drugs, the Black incarceration rate in America exploded from about 600 per 100,000 people in 1970 to 1,808 in 2000. In the same timespan, the rate for the Latino population grew from 208 per 100,000 people to 615, while the white incarceration rate grew from 103 per 100,000 people to 242. Provisional data from the CDC shows overdose deaths from illicit drug use continued to rise amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The availability of drugs such as fentanyl, heroin and cocaine remained high or plateaued last year. Many elected officials and activists say that in order to begin to unwind or undo the war on drugs, all narcotics must be decriminalised or legalised, with science-based regulation. Growing up in st. louis, the War on drugs disappeared Black people, not drug use. over the course of two years, I lost 40 to 50 friends to incarceration or death because of the War on drugs. We became so accustomed to loss and trauma that it was our norma Cori Bush, Congresswoman from St. Louis, told the Associated Press Ice-lovIng organIsms Virology Dozens of women soldiers are guarding worshippers in the annual haj pilgrimmage in Mecca and Medina, the birth places of Islam, in a first for Saudi Arabia. Mona, one of the soldiers, told Reuters that she was inspired by her late father’s career. “I am following the steps of my late father to complete his journey, standing here at the Grand mosque in Mecca, the holiest place. To serve the worshippers is a very noble and honourable task,” she told the news agency, while declining to give a last name. The soldiers, dressed in military khakis and black berets, patrol the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Scaled back pilgrimage Once drawing some 2.5 million Muslims from across the globe to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, the pilgrimage has been dramatically scaled back due to the virus. This year’s hajj has been limited to 60,000 vaccinated Saudi citizens or residents of Saudi Arabia. On Tuesday, pilgrims wearing masks and maintaining social distancing performed the symbolic stoning of the devil in the valley area of Mina — using sterilized pebbles they received ahead of time. Another image-altering move by Saudi Arabia’s de-facto leader, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was allow women of all ages to make the pilgrimage without a male relative, known as a “mehrem”, on the condition that they go in a group. Since his rise to power, women have been allowed to drive and to travel abroad without a male guardian -- even against a backdrop of a relentless crackdown against critics of his rule, inc l u d i n g wo m e n ’s r i g h t s activists. “It’s like a dream come true. My childhood dream was to make the hajj,” Shah told AFP , before setting off from her home in Jeddah, the major port city in western Saudi Arabia. The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam, is a must for able-bodied Muslims with the means to do so at least once in their lifetime. Separately, Saudi authorities have rolled out electronic “hajj cards” allowing contactless access to religious sites, accommodation and transport. The plastic cards are available in green, red, yellow and blue. The colours correspond to markings on the ground guiding pilgrims through the differ- Samar, recently deployed as security for pilgrims, stands alert in front of the Kaaba | aP
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