Thu 18 Apr 2024, 11:59 · Liam Brusby

Anti-sportswashing group calls for Newcastle street to be renamed after Jamal Khashoggi

Anti-sportswashing group calls for Newcastle street to be renamed after Jamal Khashoggi
Image: Getty
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An anti-sportswashing group has called on Tyneside councillors and MPs to support them by renaming a Newcastle street in honour of assassinated journalist Jamal Khashoggi and human rights.

Newcastle United Fans Against Sportswashing (NUFCFAS) sent a letter to all Tyneside MPs and Newcastle City Councillors asking them to support four points which included taking up cases of alleged human rights abuses with Newcastle United Chairman, Yasir Al-Rumayyan, and renaming a street near St James’ Park in honour of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and human rights.

The group asked for support during the matchday protest on April 27th ahead of Newcastle vs Sheffield United, in solidarity with Salma al-Shebab, a student serving 27 years in prison for tweeting her support for free speech.

It follows previous protests aimed at the club’s ownership in September and November 2023.

NUFCFAS have also called on Newcastle and Sheffield United fans to hold up posters of Salma in the 27th minute of the game.

When the takeover was completed, the Premier League said that it had "legally binding assurances" that Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund was separate from the Saudi state.

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Image: Stu Foster, Getty
A van protesting against the Saudi Arabian owners of Newcastle United drives past the stadium ahead of Newcastle's first match under their new ownership at St. James' Park
“On 3rd November 2021, Newcastle city council announced the decision to end links with its twin city in China over the country’s “horrific” human rights abuses. Council leaders severed the relationship with the city of Taiyuan, which has been twinned with Newcastle since the 1980s. A spokesperson from NUFCFAS told NUFCNews.

“Many people are asking; why have the council and MPs not held the Saudi state to the same standards as China regarding human rights abuses?

“A new Amnesty report dismantles the Saudi regime’s image-laundering of the last few years of which ownership of Newcastle United has been an integral part. Despite Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) presenting himself as a reformer, the human rights situation in the country has markedly deteriorated since the takeover."

NUFCFAS were formed following the takeover of Newcastle led by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund in October 2021. The PIF owns an 80 per cent stake in the club.

“Surely now is the time for North East MPs and Newcastle City Council to take the same pro human rights stance they have taken regarding China with the Saudi state which also owns Newcastle United? the spokesperson added.
“Some MPs and Newcastle City Council publicly advocated for the Saudi-led takeover to be approved in 2021, with the then Chief Executive claiming that the deal could be “transformational” for the city.

“Although the council and some MPs were able to join the campaign for Saudi ownership of Newcastle United, they have had almost nothing to say on the related human rights issues which continue to cause enormous reputational damage to the city and the region.

“We are urging Newcastle City Council and Tyneside political representatives to clearly condemn the gross human rights abuses of the Saudi regime”.

In August 2023, Newcastle Central MP Chi Onwurah said that she “will continue to support Newcastle United, and raise the human rights abuses of the Saudi regimes by all means open to me."