From Shinpads to Shackles: The Sad and Shocking Case of Hakeem Al Araibi


If you are a foreign football fan living in Thailand, and with reasonable access to local and international news media, it is hard to imagine that you have not heard of Hakeem Al Araibi, a Bahraini International footballer and currently a ‘guest’ of the Thai authorities. If not, this excellent, serious cartoon summary by David Squires from the Guardian UK newspaper will be an ideal introduction.

Today, Hakeem was pictured being taken, in shackles, into the Criminal Court to hear the charges against him and begin the almost certainly long process of fighting the extradition request. Hakeem’s is an incredibly sad and sorry story and every football fan with any sense of justice should be praying for him now. It was good to see the ‘Free Hakeem’ banner hoisted by the Chiang Rai fans at the weekend after the club itself had already issued a message of support. It is not known whether any other Thai clubs have done the same.

The case displays a bewilderingly shameful litany of administrative incompetence and/or craven duplicity. After Hakeem had made the fateful decision to spend his honeymoon in Thailand he is reported to have visited the Thai Embassy in Sydney to seek assurance of his safety, which was duly given. This is when it got murky; somebody must have tipped off Bahrain about his travel plans, who then applied to Interpol for a red arrest notice, which was issued in defiance of its own rules on refugees. The Australian Federal Police shamefully informed the Thais about Hakeem’s imminent arrival and the reception committee lay in wait at Suvarnabhumi. Shortly after his arrest, the red notice was withdrawn but there was to be no release. Both Interpol and the Australian Police have been questioned about their part in this but are refusing to talk.

Somebody should have warned Hakeem about Thailand’s track record on refugee issues, which has lacked compassion, to say the least, and any kind of moral compass. The country is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, and despite promises to reform, has a poor record of protecting refugees’ human rights. In the most recent case, around the same time as Hakeem’s arrest, the 18 year old Saudi girl, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, would no doubt have been handed back into the hands of her murderous family were it not for her ingenuity and courageous appeals to the world on social media. She is now safely (we hope) ensconced in Canada, a country at the other end of the spectrum on rights issues.

While the Australian and Thai governments, FIFA, the AFC, the IOC and anybody with a stake and a moral duty in this sordid tale have twiddled their thumbs, seemingly afraid to upset the Bahrainis, some individuals have worked tirelessly on Hakeem’s behalf and I will leave the last word to one of them, Craig Foster, former Socceroo.

If you are at all moved by this, please sign the Amnesty International petition in support of Hakeem and read some other of the Guardian’s numerous, excellent reports on this issue. Just Google Hakeem’s name on its website.

We can only wait and hope.

Peter Hockley

Peter Hockley

Peter 'Hockers' Hockley is currently the School Librarian at St Andrews International School, Sathorn and has lived in Thailand since 1992. He has followed Port home and away since 2010, with unbridled devotion and his famous woolly hat. He is a co-founder member of the Sivakorn (is a football genius) Appreciation Society (SAS). At present, the Society boasts a membership of, well, two. Peter has written travel articles for The Nation and Sawaddi magazine, and once had a letter published in Charles Buchan's Football Monthly which won him 5 guineas.

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