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The New Arab Staff

Amnesty urges F1 against 'sportswashing' Saudi human rights abuses

Saudi Arabia will host its first Formula 1 event in 2021 [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 October, 2020

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Amnesty has urged F1 drivers to speak out in solidarity with Saudi human rights defenders.
Amnesty International has urged the commercial rights holder for the 2021 Saudi Formula 1 Grand Prix against "sportswashing" the kingdom's human rights record.

The rights watchdog's statement followed the release of a 2021 provisional calendar on Monday in which F1 organisers had earmarked a race in Jeddah.

"Formula 1 should realise that a Saudi Grand Prix in 2021 would be part of ongoing efforts to sportswash the country’s abysmal human rights record," said Felix Jakens, Amnesty International UK’s head of campaigns.

"The failed attempt to buy Newcastle United obviously hasn't deterred the Saudi authorities, who apparently still see elite-level sport as a means of rebranding their severely tarnished reputation," he added.

Amnesty also highlighted Saudi Arabia's continued detention of rights activists, even those who campaigned for changes to the law - such as women being able to drive - which have since been changed.

This includes women's rights activist Loujain Al-Hathloul who her family say has been subject to torture, sexual abuse, and solitary confinement during her secretive two-year detention.

"Despite the fanfare over Saudi women finally being allowed to drive a car without being arrested, the authorities have recently locked up and tortured several leading women’s rights activists - including Loujain al-Hathloul and Nassima al-Sada," Jakens said.

"If a Saudi Grand Prix goes ahead, at the very least F1 should insist that all contracts contain stringent labour standards across all supply chains, and that all race events are open to everyone without discrimination."

Since taking the helm in Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has attempted to revamp the kingdom's image, touting it as a destination for arts, entertainment and tourism.

This ambitious drive, however, has been accompanied by increasing authoritarianism and a crackdown on activists and perceived opponents of the crown prince.

Rights groups say the kingdom's hosting of sports and entertainment events are geared to mask reports about continuing human rights abuses

Amnesty has urged F1 drivers to speak out about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, "including by expressing solidarity with jailed human rights defenders".


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