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Over 40 Human Rights and Foreign Policy Organizations Call on Formula 1 Star Lewis Hamilton to Raise Human Rights Concerns at the Saudi Grand Prix

Wednesday, Dec 01 912

41 organizations representing millions of people around the world sent a joint letter to Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton calling on him to use his invitation to speak with Saudi leaders at the Saudi Grand Prix to highlight human rights concerns. This race marks the first time Saudi Arabia has ever hosted a Formula 1 event. The organizations ask Hamilton to make demands in five specific issue areas: women’s rights, labor rights, prisoners of conscience, the war in Yemen, and democracy.

The letter thanks Hamilton for his recent call for scrutiny over Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses. Hamilton has been a vocal advocate for Black Lives Matter and has expressed concern for Bahraini torture victims when the sport traveled to Bahrain in the 2020 season. 

Danaka Katovich, a national organizer with CODEPINK said “Lewis Hamilton has a unique opportunity. Miles away from the race, the Saudi military is carrying out a suffocating blockade on Yemen that is starving a child every 75 seconds. This event is intended to be a distraction from the Saudi government’s war crimes, but if the star of the sport is calling direct attention to it, people won’t be able to look away.” 

“Yours, and other Formula 1 driver’s comfortable stay in Saudi Arabia will not be possible without the countless foreign laborers who are exploited in the Kingdom” the letter highlights  the concerns about labor rights in Saudi Arabia. “Under the current system, many migrant workers, including domestic workers who are primarily women, are trapped with abusive employers, and can face arrest, deportation and bans if they leave their employers without their consent.”

The organizations who have signed on are concerned about “sportwashing”. "Saudi Arabia's dictatorship is trying to hide its brutal crimes behind a wave of sports-washing," said Sunjeev Bery, Executive Director of Freedom Forward, an organization that campaigns for human rights and democracy. "Lewis Hamilton and other courageous advocates for freedom have an opportunity to cut through the dictator's propaganda and stand together with the brave Saudi and Yemeni voices who are demanding freedom and peace."

The letter also highlights the experiences of Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain AlHathloul, who was released from prison in February 2021 after being sentenced by a terrorism court for her activism. While detained she experienced torture and threats of violence. Her release comes with conditions as she remains on probation and is not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia for five years. “It is our sincere hope as a family that Mr. Hamilton considers the gravity of supporting a country like Saudi Arabia that imprisons and tortures its own citizens like my sister Loujain. Although she has been released from prison, she is far from free. Why is she forbidden from speaking out about her experiences in prison? We all know what they want to hide. It is through Mr. Hamilton's advocacy that we can apply pressure to demand the truth and continue to send a message to Saudi Arabia that they cannot sports-wash their continued human rights violations away,” said Lina AlHathloul.

Read the full letter here. 

Signatories: 

#FreeLoujain

Action Corps

ADDICTED To WAR

Alliance for Global Justice 

ALQST for Human Rights 

Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the UK

Arise: A Festival of Left Ideas 

Avaaz

Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy 

Campaign Against Arms Trade

Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia , CDHR

Chicago Area Peace Action 

Chicago Committee Against War & Racism

CIVICUS 

CODEPINK

DAWN

European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR)

FairSquare

Freedom First

Freedom Forward

Green Party Peace Action Committee

Gulf Centre for Human Rights

Hands Off Yemen

Indiana Center for Middle East Peace 

Interfaith Peace Network of WNY

International Service for Human Rights

Just Foreign Policy

Labour Outlook

London Students for Yemen

MENA Rights Group

On Earth Peace

Peaceworkers

Project Break the Cycle

RootsAction.org

Stop the War Coalition

Veterans For Peace

West Suburban Peace Coalition

Women's March Global

World BEYOND War

Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation

Yemeni Liberation Movement

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Adam Sinclair

Adam has been a race fan since the first time he went through the tunnel under the Daytona International Speedway more than 30 years ago. He has had the privilege of traveling to races all across the state of Florida (as well as one race in Ohio), watching nearly everything with a motor compete for fame and glory, as well as participating in various racing schools to get the feel of what racecar drivers go through every week.  

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