Human Rights First Urges FIFA, U.S. World Cup Team to Condemn Bahrain’s Attack on Athletes
Washington, D.C.— In anticipation of Wednesday’s World Cup semifinals game, when the U.S. Women’s soccer team will take on France, Human Rights First calls on the members of the U.S. women’s world cup team and the international sports community at large to condemn Bahrain’s attack against its own athletes. Several Bahraini soccer players, including stars from the national team, were among those arrested for their participation in pro-reform protests in March. Many are now reporting that they were humiliated and tortured while in prison. These reports of torture and intimidation against soccer players are emerging as the Bahraini government is holding a widely-criticized national dialogue with civil society to promote reconciliation and reform. “At a time when unity as a country is being emphasized by the Bahraini government as part of national dialogue, the attack against athletes undermines any notion of national unity,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley, who left Bahrain today after a one week visit. Among those arrested and reportedly beaten are stars from the national team including A’ala Hubail, his brother Mohammed, and Ali Saeed. A military court sentenced Mohammed Hubail to two years imprisonment last month, while criminal charges are pending against the other two athletes. All three players are presently out on bail. Bahraini human rights defenders have reported to Human Rights First that the targeting of athletes has been particularly demoralizing amid the larger crackdown against peaceful protests. “It is widely believed that members of the national team were arrested because of their popularity among the Shi’a community, and the reports of torture by the Suni-led government could deepen a sectarian divide in Bahrain,” added Dooley. The Bahraini Football Association has formally assured FIFA that its players have not been suspended or sanctioned for any political action. “Given the testimonies from those close to the soccer players and reports of continued harassment and intimidation, FIFA should launch an official investigation and possibly suspend Bahrain from the association,” concluded Dooley.