1‎ > ‎1‎ > ‎


Supported by

Middle East

Rights Groups Deplore Bahrain Royal’s Entry in Race to Lead FIFA

Open Source


OCT. 26, 2015

    Photo Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa, president of the Asian Football Confederation, at a meeting in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, in April. Credit Mohammed Al-Shaikh/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


    Continue reading the main story

    Open Source


    Continue reading the main story Share This Page Continue reading the main story Continue reading the main story

    Human rights activists expressed outrage on Monday at the possibility that the next president of world soccer’s governing body, FIFA, could be a member of Bahrain’s royal family, citing concerns about the monarchy’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protests in 2011.

    Even before Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim al-Khalifa’s entry into the race to succeed Sepp Blatter was confirmed on Monday, rights groups had called on FIFA to investigate accusations that Sheikh Salman, the president of the Asian Football Confederation, had failed to protect soccer players who were jailed for taking part in peaceful demonstrations against his family’s stranglehold on power in the Persian Gulf monarchy.

    “The election of a member of Bahrain’s royal family to the FIFA presidency will only further tarnish the organization’s image,” Nicholas McGeehan of Human Rights Watch said Monday. “Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa family has presided over a bloody crackdown, and its security forces have committed terrible abuses against anyone who criticizes their rule.”

    “FIFA members,” Mr. McGeehan added, “should look long and hard at the al-Khalifas’ use of torture and allegations that Sheikh Salman failed to protect footballers from abuses, and ask themselves if this is a family they want to represent them at the highest level.”

    As Jeremy Schaap reported for ESPN in 2011, after the security forces used lethal force to clear a sit-in and gunned down protesters marching with their hands in the air, chanting, “Peaceful! Peaceful!” that February, members of Bahrain’s national soccer team were denounced as traitors on state television and jailed for having taken part in demonstrations. They included the team captain, Alaa Hubail.

    Continue reading the main story
    An ESPN investigation into athletes in Bahrain who were jailed as political prisoners in 2011. Evolve IMG, via YouTube

    According to a letter the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy sent in 2014 to Michael J. Garcia, then FIFA’s ethics investigator, at least three of the players detained in 2011, and subsequently exiled from the national team, were tortured while in custody. The rights group also asserted that the players, along with more than 150 other athletes detained in the crackdown, were identified from images of the protests studied by a committee led by Sheikh Salman.

    Asked about those allegations by the BBC in 2012, Sheikh Salman insisted that there was no proof he was involved in the arrests and that he had no responsibility for defending players who “did something wrong” off the field.

    Faced with that denial, opposition activists pointed out that Bahrain’s state news agency reported on April 11, 2011, that Sheikh Salman had been appointed to lead a special committee investigating athlete protesters. Alaa Hubail and his brother Mohammed had been detained by masked police officers at the team’s training ground on April 5, six days before the special committee was announced.

    Unconvinced by Sheikh Salman’s denials of responsibility, Husain Abdulla, executive director of Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain, urged FIFA to reject his bid to lead the organization, and investigate accusations that his role in the crackdown made him unfit for any office.

    “FIFA, an organization that should be a symbol of unity and fair competition,” Mr. Abdulla said in a statement, “cannot risk the leadership of someone so deeply implicated in corruption and crimes against humanity.”

    Monday was the deadline to enter the race for a new president; there are eight declared candidates. The election will take place on Feb. 26.

    Mr. Blatter announced in June, after 17 years in office, that he would step down when a successor was elected. Swiss investigators announced in September that they had opened criminal proceedings against him.


    Subpages (1): u