Bahraini Sheikh and FIFA Presidential Hopeful Continues to Dodge Allegations over Targeting Athletes
FIFA Presidential hopeful Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa of the Bahrain ruling family has failed to adequately answer questions about his part in the violent crackdown against pro-democracy protests in 2011. In a BBC interview last night, he dismissed the reports as “nasty lies” that he was involved in identifying footballers and other athletes who were targeted – and some jailed – during 2011.
Associated Press estimated that more than 150 athletes, coaches, and referees were targeted, and some jailed for their perceived part in the protests. There are several major issues he has failed to answer in connection to what happened four years ago:
First, it’s not clear if he is denying involvement in what happened or if he’s disputing that the targeting and jailing of athletes happened at all by the Bahraini government, which is headed by his family. There are numerous press reports that athletes were jailed, and their targeting was reported in the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry, a body set up by the Bahrain government itself to investigate what happened in early 2011. Is Sheikh Al Khalifa denying these things happened, or that he had no part in them?
Second, his response to his role in identifying those to be targeted is rhetorical and inadequate “[did] I need to get involved in this?” There has so far been no satisfying response to The Guardian’s discovery a few days ago revealing that he was named in an official April 2011 media statement by Bahrain’s state news agency as the lead investigator on an official committee investigating the athletes who had joined the protests. Is Sheikh Al Khalifa denying he was part of this committee?
Third, Sheikh Al Khalifa says he should be judged by those in football who know him. “Ask anyone in football about myself,” he suggests. Will Sheikh Al Khalifa allow foreign journalists into Bahrain to ask footballers and other targeted athletes what they think of him and what role, if any, they believe he played in their identification?
Sheikh Al Khalifa says he offers FIFA “fresh blood.” It’s an unfortunate phrase given the context, and he needs to explain far better than he has what role he played in the targeting of footballers and other athletes in 2011.