Craig Foster

Week 278 (9 - 15 February 2019)

Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi, who was arrested in Bangkok airport in December and detained for over 70 days, was finally released from prison this week, following an intense global campaign.

Making the impossible seem possible was helped by Amnesty Human Rights/Refugee Ambassador Craig Foster, the former Socceroos captain and PFA Chairman.

Foster started campaigning for Al-Araibi’s release as soon as he was arrested on arrival in Thailand, where he was supposed to be enjoying his honeymoon.

Al-Araibi originally fled Bahrain in 2013, where he had endured torture and detention during a crackdown on pro-democracy athletes. His search for asylum took Al-Araibi to Iran, Malaysia and Thailand, before he was granted permanent residence in Australia in 2014, where he has lived since.

Ten days after he was arrested in Bangkok airport, Foster sent a letter to both the President and the Secretary General of FIFA, reminding them of their human rights policy.

He wrote, “I am sure that all in our global football family are delighted that FIFA has committed to the protection of basic human rights across its global football activities.”

Then Foster called on his friends, family and connections to join him in mobilising the hashtag of #SaveHakeem.

The following month, Foster travelled to Switzerland to discuss Al-Araibi’s case with FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura, who then sent a representative to Al-Araibi’s court hearing last week.

By Foster’s commitment and dedication to raising awareness for Al-Araibi, he has earned international recognition from the football family worldwide and the likes of Australia’s Prime Minister, Scott Morrison.

Talking to the press on Tuesday, Foster said, “There was a huge coalition of people right around the world ... It was a really amazing effort.”

After Al-Araibi’s return, Foster was there along with his wife and football team to welcome him at Melbourne International Airport.

In a letter published on Foster’s Twitter, he said, “This was a fight for the soul of sport and, whilst a blow has been struck, a great battle lies ahead.

“First step was to save Hakeem’s life, the next is to hold the game accountable to its response or lack thereof, and to ensure all those in positions of governance that were willing to sacrifice the life of one player while occupying positions of influence and prestige, whether in football, the Olympic Movement, or any other sport, are expunged.”

For Craig Foster’s passion and dedication to support people in need, he is JTA Communicator of the Week.

Image: Wikimedia Commons