Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR) chose the most important day of Asian football’s four-yearly calendar to maximise exposure to the plight of Al-Araibi, a former Bahraini footballer who fled his country in 2014 after the Arab spring and was granted asylum in Australia in 2017.
GIDHR chairman Yahya al-Hadid has urged people from all over the world to hold gatherings at iconic venues in their cities, with Melbourne, Sydney, London and Berlin responding to the calls to protest Al-Araibi’s detention in Thai jail and possible extradition to Bahrain.
A city in Canada is also set to join the protests while organisers are waiting for word from Beirut, Dublin and Paris.
“We are calling for the rallies to demand freedom for Hakeem Al-Araibi and other prisoners of conscience, as well as to shed the light on the human rights violations,” Al-Hadid told the South China Morning Post. “The case is more complicated after Bahrain submitted the extradition papers, it seems that they won’t give up on the case easily, they are fighting hard to get Hakeem extradited.
“The Bahraini authorities do not deal smoothly with the critical voices, especially if those voices targeted the royal family members or exposed the human rights abuses committed in the country. That’s why they want Hakeem in the first place.
“Fifa’s recent involvement and the letter of the Australian PM to the Thai PM, along with all the great efforts of the human rights and sports groups give Hakeem more chances for freedom. However, we remain cautious because we know Bahrain won’t give up easily.”