The organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced this Sunday the fact that the Formula 1 plan to organize a Grand Prix in Saudi Arabia and asked that, in exchange for bringing the pageant to the nation, request the government to release activists in the country who defend the right of women to drive.
“If Formula 1 is serious about maintaining its own human rights policy, it has to make a significant effort to analyze conditions in Saudi Arabia and call for the release of women’s rights defenders who have campaigned for women to drive, “HRW Global Initiatives Director Minky Worden said in a statement.
“There is no proof that Formula 1 or its board of directors, the FIA (International Automobile Federation), have followed its own human rights policy to fulfill its plans in Saudi Arabia“he added.
The announcement of the Formula One race in Saudi Arabia is the latest in a series of sporting events that the country is apparently “using to distract from its serious human rights abuses,” according to the organization.
The statement recalls that, two years after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the country has been the scene of a heavyweight boxing match in which a world title was disputed, an important motor race in the desert (Dakar), and now this Grand Prix .
Therefore, HRW affirms that it will seek to counteract this “image washing” of Saudi Arabia through a campaign to inform the entertainment and sports sector about the country’s human rights record, and will ask them to communicate to the Saudi government that they will reject their money and participate in sporting events that have the main objective of taking away attention to human rights abuses.
“They should refuse to participate in any competition”
In fact, the organization stresses, they should refuse to participate in any competition in Saudi Arabia until women’s rights activists are released and the nation’s human rights situation improves.
A November 2019 HRW report reveals abusive and arbitrary practices by the Saudi authorities against dissidents and activists, and notes that, despite important social reforms such as the lifting of travel restrictions for women, activists remain behind bars.
Among them, Loujain al-Hathloul, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sadah and Nouf Abdulaziz, who fought for the right of women to drive and for the end of the discriminatory male custody system.
The text also recalls that this is not the first time that Formula 1 has joined forces with countries that want to carry out a facelift, and points out that in 2016, a Grand Prix was held in Azerbaijan, where there are repression against his critics, and another in Bahrain, where protests raged for years that led to the imprisonment of activist Najah Yusuf.