Slice of Cheese

#SaveHakeem

You’ve probably seen posts on social media over the past week using the hashtag #SaveHakeem, for those of you wondering how and why you should join in the campaign, here is a breakdown of why the Football community is coming together for this cause. Background on Hakeem al-Araibi During the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests in Bahrain in 2012, the Bahrain government cracked down on dissidents with a program of imprisonments and torture, violating the human rights of its citizens. It targeted prominent figures such as sportspeople who it deemed had been connected to the movement. Hakeem al-Araibi was a teenaged professional footballer who played for the Bahrain national team. Hakeem was imprisoned, blindfolded and beaten. Hakeem believes he was targeted due to the involvement in the protests by his brother, who is in prison in Bahrain. Hakeem fled to Australia in 2014 to seek political asylum. He was granted refugee status in 2016 and is a permanent resident. Now 25 years old, he lives in Melbourne with his wife and plays football for Pascoe Vale FC. On November 27 2018, he left Australia for the first time for a belated honeymoon with his wife in Thailand. Upon arrival, he was detained by Thai authorities and is currently in detention facing imminent extradition to Bahrain. Why do Bahrain want him extradited? Bahrain authorities sentenced Hakeem to 10 years in prison in absentia in 2014 for allegedly participating in the vandalism of a police station in 2012. At the time of the alleged crime, Hakeem was playing in a televised football match elsewhere. Hakeem believes his sentencing is a result of a false confession forced by torture from his brother. If Hakeem is returned to Bahrain, he fears he will be tortured or worse. The Interpol Red Notice Thailand picked up Hakeem because Bahrain had issued an international request for his arrest and extradition, which takes the form of an Interpol Red Notice. But Interpol’s own rules state that legitimate refugees should be exempt from Red Notices, so the Australian authorities mistakenly notified Thai authorities of Hakeem’s pending trip. The Red Notice has since been withdrawn and foreign minister Marise Payne has requested that Thailand return Hakeem to Australia but Thailand has so far sided with Bahrain. Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa Sheikh Salman is a member of the Bahrain royal family and was president of the Bahrain Football Association from 2002-2013. Sheikh Salman has since become president of the Asian Football Confederation and senior vice president at FIFA. Sheikh Salman’s alleged involvement in the crackdown was brought to international attention, including by Hakeem, when he ran for the FIFA presidency, which he narrowly lost to Gianni Infantino in February 2016. Hakeem has blown the whistle on the lack of support from Salman and the BFA for footballers being persecuted. Human rights groups have accused Salman of identifying players in photos of protests to assist the systematic persecution of dissidents. Under Salman’s stewardship, the AFC is the only major football body which has failed to call for Hakeem’s return to Australia. Who can save Hakeem? Australia’s football community can build a groundswell of support behind Hakeem, through the organic social media campaign, #SaveHakeem. Members of the Australian football community are encouraged to take photos with their team and teammates and share them with the PFA to be edited with the #SaveHakeem hashtag to be posted to social media. Images can be sent to media@pfa.net.au or media@footballfedtas.com.au In addition, on the following page there are a list of contacts, including the AFC, FIFA and the Australian and Thai Governments, that members of the football community can contact to express their concern and request the release of Hakeem. There is also a petition and a Go Fund Me Page. HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT THE CAUSE FOR HAKEEM Social Amplification Join the online campaign by posting on social media with posts in support of the player with the hashtag #SaveHakeem Donate To The Go Fund Me Page – click here  Sign the Save Hakeem Petition – click here Write to the Thai Government: Those individuals and organisations wishing to send letters in support of Hakeem to Thailand can do so by writing as follows: Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha Office of the Permanent Secretary, Prime Minister Office Government House, 1 Pissanulok Road Dusit, Bangkok 10300, Thailand Email: thaican@mfa.go.thinfo@thaiconsulatemelbourne.com CC: robertp@hrw.org  Writing to Australian Government: Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade RG Casey Building John McEwen Crescent BARTON ACT 0221 Ph: 1300 555 135 SMS Line: +61 421 269 080 Senator the Hon. Marise Payne Minister for Foreign Affairs 2-12 Macquarie Street PARRAMATTA NSW 2150 Ph: 02 9687-8755 Email: Senator.Payne@aph.gov.au Writing to FIFA Fatima Samoura General Secretary FIFA Email: fatma.samoura@fifa.org Writing to the Asian Football Confederation: Dato’ Windsor John General Secretary Asian Football Confederation Email: pritibah.rabinder@the-afc.com If you have the time to do any of the above, please do, lets show the power of football to make a positive change in the world, and save this young Australian citizens life. Hakeem’s club side, Pascoe Vale are due to play in Tasmania in late January, and he should be playing in that game, not sitting in a jail cell.