Doorstop Interview: Hakeem al-Araibi



SUBJECTS: Hakeem al-Araibi

PETER KHALIL, FEDERAL MEMBER FOR WILLS: Thank you Fozz. It really is tremendous, the work that you’ve done travelling around the world and back in a week and, for months actually, working on social justice and justice for Hakeem al-Araibi. And putting pressure on FIFA and the AFC and, also, doing so in a way that raised the profile of this case. Not just in Australia, but internationally. It’s been a tremendous effort and we thank you for it, Fozz.

My name is Peter Khalil, I’m the Federal Member for Parliament for the seat of Wills, which is in the northern suburbs of Melbourne. I’m up here for some meetings, but I had to come to this demonstration today because I missed Fed Square. Hakeem al-Araibi plays for the Pascoe Vale Football Club in my electorate and I was just down there with the boys last week. Again, spending time with them and of course they are deeply, deeply concerned. Devastating by what’s happened to their teammate. To their best mate. They’re really like a second family, as most football clubs are.

What was really interesting about the guys down there, they said to me, “we had no idea about Hakeem’s history”. He was such a low-key, modest guy. He was a great defender, right-back. But he went about his business. He didn’t talk about what happened to him. They had no idea that their teammate, their mate, this young man had actually stood up against a regime, talked on behalf of human rights for his people and people throughout the Gulf, in the region, and paid a price for that. For standing up for democracy and human rights. He was tortured. He didn’t mention it to any of his mates.

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They’re very concerned about his wellbeing and his health and the time that he’s spent there.

Now, as a Federal MP, we have all tried – the community leaders, the political leaders. The football community has been tremendous. The activist organisations, the union movement, the labour movement – standing in solidarity and really making an effort for Hakeem.

But it’s not just about Hakeem as Fozz said. It’s about a principle. In a world where international law is being diminished. In a world in which we have to actually fight for the basic precepts of human rights and for international norms, it’s encouraging to see so many of us and so many of the leadership doing this work for Hakeem, but for so many other prisoners of political conscience. For those who have been repressed. For those who have had their human rights quashed. That’s what we’re standing here for and Hakeem really symbolises that.

I wrote to Marise Payne back in November urging her to make representations on behalf of Hakeem and to her credit, as Fozz said, she made that effort, she went to Thailand. Unfortunately it hasn’t yielded results. We then called and urged and implored Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of a country that is proud of its sporting prowess, proud of its sporting history. We consider ourselves a sporting nation. And I appealed to him and I implored him to make the call to the Thai Prime Minister. Now, again, as Foz said, he did write to the Thai Prime Minister. But as a member of parliament, as a member of the federal parliament, I believe that this Government has to do more. Has to put more pressure on this situation and use the leverage that it has. Use the fact that Australia is a very important partner of Thailand to make that case for Hakeem. Because Hakeem is a refugee who is under Australian protection. He’s been granted asylum by our country. We owe him the responsibility and the duty to protect him and provide that protection.

This should never have happened and it is now incumbent upon the Prime Minister and the current Government to do everything they can to make the case for the Thai authorities to release Hakeem.

We will continue to put that pressure on. I know Fozz and the entire football community, the human rights community, the activist community, the union movement and the labour movement; we will all be working tirelessly for Hakeem. And we’ve got a lot of media out here today. But I can tell you this. If by the 8th of February there’s no result and Hakeem stays there and we appeal for months and months, we’re not going to forget about it.

The broader public might move on to the next issue, but I know Fozz is going to keep on it. I know all the people here are going to keep on it. And I’m going to work tirelessly to ensure that we get a result and make sure we get Hakeem back to his family. On behalf of his family, on behalf of the Pascoe Vale Football Club in my electorate, on behalf of the local community that is so concerned, we will keep working for his release. And I want to thank you all for coming out here today and particularly thank all the people who have worked so hard over the last several months to secure the release of Hakeem.

Thanks very much.