Families of other victims of Saudi state repression have also written to Lionel Messi, who is a tourism ambassador for Saudi Arabia, and Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays for Saudi Pro League side Al Nassr. They have been asked to use their positions and influence to speak up for the victims of human rights abuses carried out by the dictatorship which owns our club and pays Eddie Howe’s wages.
Last year Eddie Howe was asked to comment on the appalling human rights record of the 80% owners of Newcastle United. At the time he replied that he ‘did not have the knowledge’ to say anything. The regime has now owned our club for almost 18 months. Eddie Howe and his players visited Saudi Arabia in January 2022 and then returned to the country again in December. In between those visits, Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s regime executed 81 people on 12 March 2022, the day before Newcastle played Chelsea. Women and minorities have continued to suffer gross human rights abuses..
In August 2022, Salma al-Shehab, a 34-year-old PhD student at Leeds University and mother of two children, was sentenced to 34 years in prison after she returned home to Saudi Arabia for a holiday break.
Court documents revealed that she had been convicted for the alleged crime of following and retweeting the Twitter accounts of individuals who “cause public unrest and destabilise civil and national security”.
Later that month, Nourah bint Saeed al-Qahtani was sentenced to 45 years in prison after being convicted of “using the internet to tear Saudi Arabia’s social fabric”.
In November 2022, NUFCFAS held a protest outside St James’ Park to highlight the cases of 8 minors who have been sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Human rights activists fear another mass execution is imminent.
Surely Eddie Howe now has sufficient knowledge to speak up on the crimes his employers are committing in Saudi Arabia?
All eyes will be on Newcastle United for the Carabao Cup final on Feb 26th. If Eddie Howe took a lead and spoke up for human rights issues in Saudi Arabia, he could make a huge difference and even save lives.
So far, no-one connected with the club has held the owners to account. Fan groups like the Newcastle United Supporters Trust and ‘Wor Flags’ stated before the takeover that they would be a ‘critical friend’ to the owners.
In May 2020, in a BBC report headlined ‘Fans vow to raise Saudi issues despite support for deal’, an NUST board member said that "we exist to be a critical friend of the club, and hold them to account", while another board member added that "It's not impossible to be excited about Mike Ashley's departure and still feel concerned about the [human rights] issues”
In the same month, ‘Wor Flags’ members stated that "if we felt that the Saudis were abusing women’s rights, we would consider a display featuring a female fan in a black and white top".
But these fan groups have yet to make any specific statements condemning the bloody actions of the owners, nor have they taken actions in solidarity with their victims.
Fans of other clubs believe NUFC fans only care about the Saudi blood money and the success it could buy. The Cup final would be an opportunity to show that we do care about human rights. It really is time to SUPPORT THE TEAM NOT THE REGIME, but that cannot be done by remaining silent about what the owners are doing and planning. We cannot allow our club to be used as a sportswashing vehicle.
North East politicians have a role to play too. Despite pre-takeover opposition to the Saudi regime, since the takeover was completed on October 7th 2021, they have been mostly silent on the crimes committed by the 80% owners of Newcastle United Football Club..
The recent revelations about the alleged financial cheating by the Abu Dhabi owners of Manchester City show that state ownership of our football clubs should be outlawed. At the very least, North East politicians who are Newcastle fans and in some cases season ticket holders should make a clear statement condemning Saudi Human rights abuses, express solidarity with the 61 Saudis currently on death row (including 8 minors) and support calls for states to be disqualified from owning PL clubs. This must be made clear BEFORE the Cup final on February 26th. As Ahmad al-Rabea says in his letter; Eddie Howe, NUFC players and fans, can make a difference. If they do not speak up now in favour of human rights,on the eve of the Carabao Cup final, then when will they?