Tortured Bahraini footballer freed in Thailand


This 11 February 2019 video says about itself:

Thai court orders release of Hakeem al Araibi

Thailand will free by the end of Monday a refugee Bahraini footballer with residency status in Australia who was arrested more than two months ago, a prosecutor in the case said.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Teammate Van’ t Schip’s ‘intense happiness’ about the freeing of Araibi

By Marijke van der Groef

“For three months you’re in stress, as teammates you do not really know how you can help, you worry, so now the relief is very big.”

The words are by Davey van ‘t Schip, teammate of Hakeem al-Araibi, the footballer who has been detained for months in Thailand. That country wanted to extradite him to his native Bahrain. But on Monday morning the news came suddenly that Araibi, who plays at the Australian Pascoe Vale club, would be released without charge.

Davey van 't Schip

“I was eating out with my friends, one of the boys was on Facebook and he saw it, I really got goose bumps, you are intensely happy that your teammate will get his life back”, says Van ‘t Schip.

Although the son of former [Dutch] Ajax player John van ‘t Schip is still not 100% sure yet: “It seems that when he was arrested there already was a ticket booked for him, so I really only will believe it when I will see him here at the airport tomorrow. ”

Refugee player

That airport will be the airport of Melbourne. The place where the now 25-year-old Araibi started a new life after he fled his homeland Bahrain. He had been indicted there in connection with protests against the government during the Arab Spring in 2011 and also has been tortured. The Bahraini international team player fled to Australia and received a residence permit there more than four years ago.

The footballer is indeed under contract with Pascoe Vale FC, but until he was arrested in Thailand, most teammates knew little about his background. Van ‘t Schip too.

“I knew he was an asylum seeker, but we did not really know much he had been tortured or what his background was, I can imagine that he was terrified that he would be sent back to a country that tortured him for political reasons.”

A week became three months

Araibi left for his honeymoon to Thailand in November. He was opposed to stay away for a week, which was almost three months. His name turned out to be on an international search warrant after which he was detained. The football community in Australia came into action and human rights organizations also spoke out.

Last Friday all captains from the highest division clubs in Australia asked for attention for the situation of Araibi. Before the start of the Australian Supercup, they showed football shirts with number 5, Hakeem al Araibi’s number.

Australian team captains' pro-Araibi demonstration

Van ‘t Schip is convinced that all attention has helped. “Without the club, and the people within the club who started an entire campaign and have exerted pressure on Thailand and Bahrain, it would have been different, without the club he would have been in Bahrain.”

For a long time, it looked like the military dictatorship in Thailand might send Araibi to Bahrain, to be tortured by the Bahraini royal dictatorship. While the Australian right-wing government did not really care about this footballer with an Australian residence permit as a recognized refugee. Like Donald Trump, they don’t mind if dictatorships are dictatorships and torturers, as long as they are allies.

Now, however, it turns out pro-human rights activism, even against dictatorships, can work.

Back to football

Araibi will be released on Monday evening according to a Thai spokesman and he will be able to return to Australia. The Australian football competition will start on Thursday. Van ‘t Schip will be happy to see his teammate again.

“I think Thursday is a bit too early for him, but it’s nice that he can build up his whole life again and football is a big part of that.” I assume he will start training again next week.”

Before that, Araibi will get a warm welcome on Australian soil. “The president of the club will send us his flight details so I think there will be some guys at the airport tomorrow”, Van’t Schip concludes, relieved.

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1 thought on “Tortured Bahraini footballer freed in Thailand

  1. Pingback: Tortured Bahraini footballer returns to Australia | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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