On 27 November I landed in Bangkok with my beloved husband, a Bahrain-born professional football player. We were overjoyed to be spending our honeymoon together in the breathtaking country of Thailand. Not only were we celebrating our honeymoon, but it was also my husband’s first time traveling outside of Australia in the five years since he fled there in 2014 from Bahrain and was granted refugee status.
We chose Bangkok for our honeymoon because of all the beauty it had to offer and had planned our visit in detail together. We planned a serene boat ride together to one of the famous floating markets to buy tropical fruits and locally made crafts, and to visit Bangkok’s unique aquarium for its one-of-a-kind ocean experience that we had read about. Hakeem and I were looking forward to spending precious time alongside the sunny beaches and crystal blue waters on a day trip to Phi Phi Island, and could not wait to finally see in person the world famous Buddhist temples.
Instead we only saw the walls of a prison cell, as my husband was confined to a detention center immediately upon our arrival.
Our long-awaited honeymoon together turned into the biggest nightmare I could have ever envisioned. And we are yet to wake up after almost eight weeks of incredible emotional pain and intense sorrow.
I spent the first day of my honeymoon – and the two weeks that followed – in a shared cell with my husband after voluntarily deciding to stay by his side after his initial detention. He is wanted by the Bahraini government, who sent an extradition request to the Thai authorities in relation to fabricated charges against him. I know my husband, and he did nothing wrong. He is being punished for speaking out against abuses in Bahrain and I am devastated at what will happen if he is not freed to return to Australia. I can’t sleep, can’t breathe, knowing what awaits him.
Despite all of the efforts from Australia and its foreign ministry, Thailand has ordered an extended 60 days of detention for my husband so authorities can process Bahrain’s request. Please understand that my husband is a torture survivor. Few can know the anguish this brings. I am deeply concerned for him if he has to endure such torment again. After more than 50 days in detention I know his emotional condition is getting worse every day, and my heart is breaking for him.
My last day with my husband was on 11 December, before he was transferred to a new prison where I was no longer allowed to accompany him. I visited him the day he was transferred and will forever have the image of him sitting in a prison uniform, his head and beard shaved, seared into my mind, and my heart.
This beautiful man, a champion athlete and the bravest person I know for speaking out against the oppression of his people, embarrassed for me, his wife, to see him in that shape. I cannot stop crying at the thought.
For safety reasons I was forced to return to Melbourne. I haven’t been able to so speak to him or hear his voice. I have only been able to get messages from sympathetic visitors and journalists who have met with him while imprisoned. I thank them so, so much. They tell me how much he misses me and worries every day about my wellbeing since I am alone. Hakeem was my only family in Australia.
We know the power of what we are facing, and the consequences of extradition. So many Bahrainis know it too well. The one thing keeping us going and giving me and my husband hope is the vast amount of international support his case has received.
I am forever grateful to all of the media, human rights organisations, football groups, and high-level officials who have spoken out publicly to help my husband. The foreign minister, Marise Payne, has been vocal in calling for my husband’s release and the support Hakeem and I have received from the greater Australian community has been incredible. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Hakeem has applied for his Australian citizenship but the process is slow and his condition worsens every day. No human should have to suffer this way. I hope the Australian Government can work quickly and deliberately with other governments to secure the safe return of my husband to Australia.
Please help me save my husband.
Hakeem al-Araibi’s wife did not want her name used and requested only to be referred to as his wife.