Formula 1 Racing Driver Expected to Denounce Saudi Rights Violations
Racist discrimination, gender-biasness, preferential treatment to the wealthy and rampant human rights abuses are some serious global issues, yet not many sportspersons wish to get involved in these. However, Formula 1 racing driver Lewis Hamilton is not one of them! Consequently, fans are eyeing his comments on Saudi rights violations as the motor racing championship is expected to take place there this year.
Formerly, Hamilton’s voice has magnified his fans’ support towards the Black Lives Matter movement thereby reflecting his concern about human rights violations in various countries. In 2020, he called out on Formula 1 for lack of diversity after active protests made news about the murder of innocent African Americans — George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. As the only black racing driver in F1, he even volunteered to trade his seventh world championship for more diversity in the game.
Since the Formula 1 race is going to enter Saudi Arabia this year, famous human rights activists and F1 fans are keen on citing Hamilton’s support towards Saudi rights violations. Together with several peace activists, F1 fans have started a petition to cancel the F1 race in Saudi. With over 5,200 signatures, the petition reads: “You said in a victory speech that as a sport, Formula 1 cannot “ignore the human rights issues” in the countries races take place. We agree, and believe that this is an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the people harmed by Saudi Arabia’s leadership.”
It further elaborates that contribution from Lewis would convince the Arab nation to adhere to human rights. It also states that Hamilton’s concern would send a message that the world is conscious about MBS’ rigorous attempts to ‘sportswash’ Saudi rights violations.
Since the UN has cited Saudi-led war in Yemen as the primary cause for widespread malnutrition in Yemen, Hamilton must raise his voice on Saudi’s rights violations in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Some petitioners are expecting Hamilton to show his support by wearing a shirt that states his perspective on rights issue.
One shouldn’t ignore that Saudi is aiming to host a motor racing event even though it has imposed a five-year long travel ban on women rights activist — Loujain Al-Hathloul. Hathloul was arrested in 2014 for her attempt to drive into Saudi Arabia. After generous requests and protests by many rights activists, Saudi authorities recently freed her from months of torturous threatening by conservative authorities. However, neither she nor her family members are allowed to leave Saudi Arabia.
With reference to Saudi rights violations of women and homosexuals, one must consider if the country is responsible enough to hold major racing events like the 2021 Formula 1 World Championship. If sportspersons like Hamilton address global human rights issues when travelling to some country, the world would become a better place to be in!