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FutureStarrFormula One Duty-Bound to Raise Human Rights Concerns
Formula One has a duty to address human rights concerns when visiting countries, according to seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton. His statement comes after 20 British politicians wrote to F1 asking for an independent inquiry into its activities in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Critics claim these countries use global sporting events to bolster their human rights records, an act known as "sportswashing". But F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali recently claimed sport can be a positive force in those countries.
Lewis Hamilton insists Formula One has a duty to address human rights concerns in countries where it holds races, as the series gears up for its inaugural race in Qatar this weekend. The British driver has been vocal about the suffering of people in both Qatar and Saudi Arabia where authorities are accused of using sports to enhance their reputations - an act commonly referred to as "sportswashing".
As F1 enters its final Middle Eastern rounds before its world championship title fights begin in Abu Dhabi on March 17, human rights activists are increasing pressure on the sport to account for any violations of human rights in countries it visits. This is particularly pertinent to Qatar, which will host its inaugural Formula 1 race this weekend and has faced accusations of worker exploitation while preparing for next summer's football World Cup.
Hamilton has also spoken out against LGBTQ+ intolerance in Qatar, where homosexual sex is strictly forbidden. At last month's grand prix, Hamilton donned a Progress Pride helmet as an effort to draw attention to this issue.
Hamilton also expressed his appreciation for teammate Max Verstappen's advocacy on behalf of women's rights, though he noted there was still work to be done.
Two-time world champion Hamilton has been in contact with the family of Loujain al-Hathloul, who was jailed for advocating for women's driving rights. Her sister Lina expressed hope that Hamilton can use his platform to bring attention to both her case and other prisoners in Saudi Arabia.
But there is also growing concern that Saudi Arabia will attempt to use its debut on the global stage as an opportunity to gloss over its dismal human rights record, which has seen dozens of political dissidents and other activists arbitrarily detained, tortured or subjected to broad collective punishment. Amnesty International has declared Saudi Arabia's record "extremely troubling."
Last week, Hamilton told AP he may cancel this weekend's event in Jeddah if it is postponed until December 5. Canadian pop star Justin Beiber is scheduled to perform at the Grand Prix that day.
Formula One is gearing up for its inaugural race in Saudi Arabia, and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton insists the series should "duty-bound" to address human rights concerns. As it wraps up its first year in the Middle East - where it has been racing since 2009 - Formula One plans to visit Qatar, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi this season.
Hamilton has previously spoken out in support of human rights and was instrumental in the release of a political prisoner last year. Additionally, Hamilton introduced prominent rainbow helmet livery at the Qatar race as an expression of his support for LGBTQ+ people that will continue in Jeddah and next week's final round in Abu Dhabi.
Human rights groups urge Hamilton to use his platform for advocacy in the Kingdom. A coalition letter signed by 45 organizations, including CODEPINK, urges him to utilize his meeting with Prince Khalid Bin Sultan Al-Faisal to address pressing matters such as women's rights, migrant workers' rights, prisoners of conscience issues, the war in Yemen and democracy within Saudi Arabia.
Middle East Eye's letter, shared by Middle East Eye, urges Hamilton to use his meeting with Al-Faisal "to increase public awareness about the critical human rights and justice issues facing Saudi Arabians". Signatories include ALQST; Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy; Code Pink; DAWN; Freedom First; Gulf Centre for Human Rights; as well as #FreeLoujain campaign group.
On April 16th, Saudi Arabia executed 81 men on one day. Human rights advocates have asked Hamilton to use his time there as an opportunity to draw attention to Abdullah al-Howaiti, who is on death row in Saudi Arabia for an alleged theft from three years prior.
Other activists have called on Hamilton to either boycott the race in Saudi Arabia or use his time there to advocate for women's rights, migrant workers' rights and other human rights issues. A petition circulated by CODEPINK has garnered almost 6,000 signatures calling on Hamilton either to abstain from competing or use his presence there to raise awareness regarding human rights.
Seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton says Formula 1 has a duty to address human rights concerns as it concludes its season in the Middle East with races in Qatar, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia. Although he hasn't always been informed about these issues in these countries, Hamilton plans on speaking out when he arrives in Bahrain later this week.
Hamilton applauded British politician Lord Scriven for encouraging the sport to draw attention to human rights violations when visiting states that have been heavily criticised for their record on these issues. He stated he's spoken with numerous individuals regarding this topic, such as Bahraini authorities and those who have suffered abuses there. Additionally, Hamilton is aware of Yusuf Al-Qahtani's case which was sentenced to death in 2011 but released last year following AP coverage due to international pressure.
He noted he's not alone in feeling this way, as many of the world's top athletes have expressed similar thoughts. Last month, Britain's Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn called on athletes to use their platforms for good in the world.
In the UK, 20 cross-party members of parliament sent a letter to F1 and the FIA accusing both organizations of engaging in "sportswashing", by sanitizing images of Saudi and Bahrain while allowing their governments to exploit their platforms on the global stage while thousands of political prisoners remain imprisoned.
The group stated that if F1 were serious about upholding its commitment to respect human rights, it would not take part in sportswashing and must create an independent inquiry into the effects of its events. Furthermore, it demanded that F1 adopt a human rights policy consistent with UN principles.
Bahraini activists expressed hope that Hamilton would address the case of Loujain al-Hathloul, a women's rights activist jailed in 2013 for her work. She was released this past February but remains under a travel ban.
On Thursday, F1 chief Stefano Domenicali declared that the sport was committed to working with the governments of repressive regimes to improve their sociological situation and wouldn't cancel races. However, he warned that if any country fails to uphold its human rights obligations, then its race may be removed from the calendar.
Lewis Hamilton, seven-time world driver champion and seven-time world driver champion, believes Formula One must raise awareness about human rights concerns when visiting Gulf states that have recently been awarded F1 races. He's calling on other sporting figures to join him and demand greater scrutiny of newly awarded races in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi that will take place between now and 2021.
The sport of Formula One has been criticized for its lack of concern over human rights violations in these countries, with academics and civil society organizations labelling it as complicit in "sportswashing". A number of countries on the F1 circuit have been linked to serious abuses such as Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.
Formula One has a stated commitment to respecting human rights in the countries it races, yet the FIA and CEO Stefano Domenicali have been criticized by several Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) for their inaction. Recently, several CSOs have demanded that FIA and F1 cease ignoring local civil society organisations working in these countries and adopt meaningful policies which prevent and monitor human rights violations.
At its inception in 2004, the Bahrain Grand Prix caused alarm among civil society organizations (CSOs), who expressed their displeasure with the country's restrictive human rights laws. As it spread to other Gulf nations such as Abu Dhabi in 2007, Russia in 2014 and Azerbaijan in 2017, concerns about these nations' human rights records only intensified.
Human Rights Watch reports that many governments in these states lack the capacity to uphold human rights or effectively investigate alleged crimes. Furthermore, an increasing number of abuses such as torture and arbitrary detention take place within these countries.
As Formula One season kicks off in Bahrain this weekend, CSOs are raising their voices and demanding an independent investigation into the sport's activities in these countries. Furthermore, they sent letters to both FIA president Gianni Infantino and Domenicali, asking them to stop ignoring local CSOs in Bahrain and commit to monitoring its actions to guarantee human rights are being upheld.