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Amnesty slams Saudi Arabia's 'sportswashing' drive as Riyadh announces it will host women's golf tournament Open in fullscreen

The New Arab Staff

Amnesty slams Saudi Arabia's 'sportswashing' drive as Riyadh announces it will host women's golf tournament

The tournament will take place at the Royal Greens golf course [Getty/ Archive]

Date of publication: 30 September, 2020

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Amnesty has urged golfers invited to the tournament to 'take a proper look at the human rights situation in the country.'

Amnesty International has raised questions over the Ladies European Tour's decision to stage two events in Saudi Arabia in November.

The governing body of women's professional golf in Europe announced the events on Monday, hailing the move as a "landmark moment for women’s sport in the kingdom."

The events, which will be the kingdom's first professional tournaments for women, will see a combined total of $15 million in prize money up for grabs.

Human rights groups, however, have raised concerns about the kingdom's human rights record and its cynical use of sports and entertainment events.

"With leading Saudi women's rights activists currently languishing behind bars, there's an unmistakable irony to the spectacle of Saudi Arabia throwing open its heavily-watered greens to the world's leading women golfers like this," Amnesty International UK director Kate Allen told The Guardian.

"Under the Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia has embarked on a major sportswashing drive – attempting to use the glamour and prestige of big-money sporting events as a PR tool to distract from its abysmal human rights record."

Riyadh has reportedly splurged huge amounts of money on attracting top world golfers to the event, including Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, and Brooks Koepka to a men's tournament that will also be taking place.

Last year, superstars Tiger Woods and Rory Mcllroy refused to play in the 2020 edition of the European Tour which took place in Saudi Arabia earlier this year.

The upcoming November tournaments will take place just weeks after the anniversary of the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by Saudi operatives in the kingdom's Istanbul consulate in 2018.

"It's almost exactly two years since the grisly murder of Jamal Khashoggi," Allen added. "It's clear the Saudi authorities would prefer that golf handicaps are discussed this week, not their whitewash over Khashoggi’s killing."

Read also: How Saudi Arabia's tainted brand is slowing the kingdom's Newcastle United takeover bid

Allen also urged golfers invited to the tournament to "take a proper look at the human rights situation in the country and be prepared to speak out", particularly for jailed activists and human rights defenders.

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 opponents of the crown prince.


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