Australian footballers and Human Rights Groups have demanded intervention from the global football community and the Australian Government to ensure the safe return to Australia of footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi.

Representatives from the Gulf Institute for Democracy & Human Rights (GIDHR), Amnesty International Australia and Hakeem’s legal team have requested immediate intervention from the Australian Government, including calling upon Foreign Minister Marise Payne to head to Thailand to instigate bilateral talks with her counterparts for Hakeem’s release.

Speaking on behalf of Professional Footballers Australia, former Socceroo captain Craig Foster and A-League Champion Rodrigo Vargas, said the global football community had a duty to ensure it did everything in its power to ensure the safe return of Hakeem to Australia.

At a press conference on Saturday in Melbourne, the stakeholders implored FIFA (the governing body of football across the globe), the Asian Football Confederation (the governing body for football throughout Asia) and the Australian Government to take urgent action to prevent Hakeem’s extradition to Bahrain, where they fear he will face imprisonment and further persecution.

“This coalition is committed to saving the life of a young footballer who has his entire life ahead of him,” PFA Chief Executive, John Didulica said.

“As a football community, we stand as one behind Hakeem and we proudly join human rights organisations on this crusade to save his life.”

 Quotes Attributable to Speakers:

Former Socceroo Captain Craig Foster:

“Australia’s footballers implore FIFA and the AFC to comply with their own rules of governance to demand the return of Hakeem to Australia.

“FIFA and the AFC have a constitutional obligation to not only observe the human rights of their participants but proactively promote such rights.

“We now implore FIFA 2.0 and the AFC to live this obligation. We implore both institutions to proactively protect the human rights of Hakeem by publicly supporting his immediate return to Australia through the removal of the extradition order and to leverage their status as leading global institutions to ensure the protection of a member of the football family.

Former Socceroo Rodrigo Vargas and former team-mate of Hakeem:

“Football is about building communities and building teams that protect the members that need help.

“Right now, Hakeem needs the voice of the Australian football community to be heard by FIFA and the AFC and to make them aware they have the power to protect not only Hakeem, but everybody who is a part of his team.

“Hakeem is an incredible young man and I have seen his bravery first hand as a former team-mate. The entire football community, from top to bottom, must come together to support him. It is what a real community does.

Fatima Yazbek, Gulf Institute of Democracy & Human Rights

“Australia granted Hakeem refugee status because they are aware of the grim future waiting for him in Bahrain.

“The Australian Government should keep their ethical, moral, and humanitarian duties for the people they accepted to protect.

“We urge Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne to keep the pressure and the highest level diplomatic representations with her Thai counterpart to ensure his safe return.”

Diana Sayed, Amnesty International Australia

“Hakeem is a permanent resident of Australia. Whilst his fellow Australians will be enjoying the festive season, he will be languishing in a Thai prison, uncertain of his future and separated from his family.

“Marise Payne and the Australian government must continue to pressure the Thai authorities to return Hakeem back to his home in Australia.”

Pascoe Vale FC Head Coach, Vitale Ferrante:

“This a humble, respectful and unassuming young man. But on the field, he is brave and courageous and is a never say die defender.

“The football community must continue to come together and voice our support for him to ensure there is pressure on FIFA and the AFC to do the right thing and influence return home to his wife.”

Football Victoria CEO, Peter Filopoulos

“There’s over 340 football clubs across the state with over 350,000 active participants and we urge all of them to support the campaign of a fellow Victorian footballer through this tragic situation.

“You can support by contacting your government representatives and amplifying messages of support as widely as possible.

“We must come together as one at a time like this.”


Hakeem Al-Araibi, a Bahraini political refugee, fled Bahrain for Australia in 2014 to seek political asylum and was granted refugee status in 2016 and is a permanent resident of Australia.

Hakeem, 25, lives in Melbourne with his wife and plays football for Victorian National Premier League club Pascoe Vale FC.

When entering Bangkok for his honeymoon three weeks ago, Hakeem was detained by Thai authorities on the basis of an incorrectly issued Interpol Red Notice. The Red Notice has subsequently been withdrawn due to Hakeem’s status as an accepted political refugee.

Hakeem was, in absentia, sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2014 for his alleged participation in the vandalism of a police station in 2012. At the time of the alleged crime, Hakeem was playing in a football match elsewhere (which was televised live).

Hakeem remains in detention and faces imminent extradition to Bahrain. If Hakeem is returned to Bahrain, he will be imprisoned and fears he will be tortured.

To Help:

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

Writing to Australian Government:
Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade
RG Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
Ph: 1300 555 135
SMS Line: +61 421 269 080

Senator the Hon. Marise Payne
Minister for Foreign Affairs
2-12 Macquarie Street
Ph: 02 9687-8755

Writing to FIFA
Fatima Samoura
General Secretary

Writing to the Asian Football Confederation:
Dato’ Windsor John
General Secretary
Asian Football Confederation

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