A consortium of Saudi Arabia’s national wealth foundation has purchased Newcastle United. Many of the British popular team’s supporters have hailed the purchase, believing the wealthy investor will improve the team’s on-field prospects. Opponents, however, refer to the multiple abusive conducts by the Riyadh ruling system.
Sports events and complexes have the commitment to act free from political tendencies. Human rights issues, nevertheless, are far more than mere political disputes and encompassed large group of issues.
As such, the kingdom’s conduct inside and outside has been the subject of dispute in Newcastle following the big deal. From human rights abuses to violation of women’s rights and open criminal case, Saudi Arabia ownership of a British soccer club is still a critical matter to many groups in the British and non-British fans of Newcastle United.
Riyadh officials detained 13 activists working on the rights of female citizens in Saudi Arabia three years ago. These activists launched a campaign to abolish a prohibition on women to get a driver’s license. Reports confirmed that the four activists have been subject to torture and sexual abuse.
Two years later, Loujain al-Hathloul, a renowned campaigner, received a guilt conviction for treason against the kingdom. She refuted the allegations and international organizations branded them “spurious.” While half of her five-year sentence was deferred, allowing her to be released early this year, she is still subject to a travel restriction. Considering that more than half of Newcastle fans are females, the deal must have received such a response.
Saudi authorities have faced tense backlash for their military offensive against Yemen. As the UN described it, the Yemen war resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Saudi Arabia led the attack six years ago following a popular uprising against the administration. One hundred thousand of Yemenis lost their lives during the war.
Yemen war is in many ways different from other apparently similar ones. The war started following a local issue and the civilians were the main victims. Besides, no drastic change occurred after six years of futile violence and blood.
Football fans are unaware of the dimensions of Yemen war, but rights activists disputed the Newcastle deal for this reason.
Suppression of Activists
Saudi rulers prohibit political parties, Labour movements, and autonomous human right organizations to work freely. Scores of rights activists, artists, professors, priests, and social critics faced detention since the Yemen war kicked off.
Several activists have undergone extremely unjust prosecutions on ambiguous terrorism and digital accusations, according to Amnesty International. They have received draconian punishments, such as the death penalty.
A judge confirmed a 20-year term in prison for a Saudi-American relief contractor for tweeting sarcastic tweets criticizing the officials less than a week before the Newcastle seizure. The man’s sister claimed he was subject to brutal torture before his imprisonment. She further noticed that the seizure of Newcastle United was a ploy to downplay Saudi misdeeds.
The assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist residing in the United States in October 2018 significantly tarnished Saudi Arabia’s international reputation three years ago. Khashoggi, a vocal critic of the Saudi regime, was brutally killed and slain at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Crown Prince and actin ruler, was behind the plot according to the result of investigations. Despite the MBS denials, his international image went through severe denigration.
Bin Salman chairs the Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. The Consortium, in turn, owns an 80% share of Newcastle United. This and many other justifications are behind the public dissatisfaction about Newcastle United takeover by a de-facto Saudi regime holding.