Football Today: FIFA urged to push AFC and AFC President more to help #SaveHakeem

January 26,2019

Attention has once again turned to Thailand and their capacity to break the impasse concerning the fate of Hakeem Al-Araibi.

Yesterday, FIFA's chief executive, Fatma Samoura, urged the Thailand government “to immediately release” Al-Araibi in a letter to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

“Mr Al-Araibi is currently being detained in prison in Thailand awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings to Bahrain,” Samoura wrote in the letter. “This situation should not have arisen, in particular, since Al-Arabi now lives, works and plays as a professional footballer in Australia, where he has been accorded refugee status.

“When according refugee status to Mr Al-Araibi, the Australian authorities concluded that he is at serious risk of mistreatment in his home country,” she adds. “FIFA is therefore respectively urging Thailand to take the necessary steps to ensure Mr Al-Araibi is allowed to return safely to Australia at the earliest possible moment.”

FIFA has also for a meeting with the Thai government the players’ union FIFPro so the case can be resolved “in a humane manor”.

The spokesperson for the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR), Fatima Yazbek, believes that FIFA should also call on Bahrain to withdraw their action seeking Al-Araibi's return to his homeland. 

“FIFA should call on Bahrain not to insist on demanding Hakeem’s deportation, and to impose strict penalties if Bahrain did not fulfil the request.”

Ms Yazbek said she was encouraged that FIFA had urged Thailand not to agree to the Bahraini request, but it needs more. 

“The members of the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) should follow up with the AFC president and demand to fulfil his obligations and protect their players’ human rights.

“They should call on the AFC to save a youth player’s life instead of watching how Hakeem is losing his hope, faith in football, and life,” she said.

Ms Yazbek's call was supported by Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, the director of advocacy at the human rights watchdog Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD).

“While FIFA has reached out to the Thai authorities, they have yet to question their own senior vice-president Sheikh Salman. Why has he remained silent?” he said.

Mr Alwadaei said he would also like to see consequences imposed by FIFA on both the Bahrain and Thailand national teams for failing to take action and comply with the FIFA human rights policy.

“FIFA must do everything in their power to save Hakeem’s life. Every second he spends in detention should be counted as a failure of FIFA to put its full weight behind this player.”