Rohingya footballers plead for release of fellow refugee Hakeem al-Araibi – and lament the ‘hypocrisy’ of their plight
A group of football-loving Rohingya refugees have called on relevant authorities to free Hakeem al-Araibi – a Bahraini refugee who plays football – while at the same time slamming the “hypocrisy” that sees their people displaced and stateless.
Highlighting the case of Saudi Arabian Rahaf al-Qunun, who was granted asylum in Canada after she fled to Bangkok in fear of her life, Arakan Times Rohingya Football Club official Mohammed Faruk said he hoped the world can unite to win Araibi’s release and end the Rohingya suffering.
“As refugees ourselves, we know the kind of sacrifices Hakeem had to go through. We don’t want to go back to a place where our lives are in danger and Hakeem should not have to go through that anxiety. We hope he is released and can go back to Australia,” Kuala Lumpur-based Faruk told the South China Morning Post.
Araibi has spent more than 50 days in a Thai jail after being arrested in early November after arriving in Bangkok for his honeymoon on what turned out to be an invalid Interpol red notice that seeks his extradition to Bahrain, where he fears for his life.
The 25-year-old former Bahrain international is wanted by his country after being convicted for vandalism, a charge he denies. He fled the country in 2014 and was granted asylum in Australia, where he plays for Pascoe Vale in Melbourne.
In 2016, he criticised Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa – a Bahrain royal family member who could give the order to release him – accusing him of involvement in the detention and torture of athletes during the Arab spring.
Since his arrest, Australia’s football community has banded with human rights activists at home and abroad and the Australian government to seek Araibi’s release. World governing body Fifa has already called for him to be freed, while the AFC has only said it was “working with Fifa” and the Thai football body on the issue.
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Faruk, meanwhile, praised the work of activists who helped Qunun, who escaped her family while in Kuwait and was detained in Bangkok on her way to seeking asylum in Australia.
Although Australia recognised her as a refugee, it was Canada that stepped in and granted her asylum.
Said Faruk: “Is Rahaf al-Qanun’s case hypocrisy and bureaucracy at its best? She truly deserves her freedom and protection. She was recognised as a refugee and resettled within days.
“However, there are millions of people uprooted from their homes who remain unprotected and unrecognised around the world, who have been waiting for generations to put an end to their limbo.
“Over a million Rohingya who survived genocide in Myanmar take shelter in Bangladesh refugee camps for years without recognition as refugees.”
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Faruk is among more than 100,000 Rohingya who have refugee status in Malaysia. However, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya are stranded in Bangladesh after escaping ethnic strife in Myanmar’s Rakhine province.