F1 ‘duty’ to raise awareness of human rights
Seven-times world champion Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday that Formula One’s “duty” is to raise awareness of human rights issues as it wraps up its season in the Middle East.
F1 concludes its season with its opening races in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, followed by the season finale in Abu Dhabi, where the series has raced since 2009. F1 has raced in Bahrain since 2004 and now has four Middle East stops on its calendar.
Hamilton has spoken on human rights issues before and played a role in the release of a political prisoner earlier this year.
“There are issues in these places we’re going to, like all over the world, but of course (the Middle East) is considered the worst in this part of the world,” Hamilton said before Sunday’s race. , the first in a 10-year deal between F1 and Qatar.
“I think as these sports move to these places, they have a duty to raise awareness of these issues and (that) these places need scrutiny, and the media needs to speak up.”
Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been accused of “sports laundering” of their human rights records by using high-profile sporting events to project a positive image of the two countries. Qatar will host the World Cup next year.
“Equal rights is a serious issue,” said Hamilton. “They’re trying to take steps. It can’t change overnight. I’ve heard there are things like a new overhaul of the ‘kafala’ system that was (still) in effect two years ago.”
“There is a long way to go. I just feel that if we come to these places we need to raise the bar. I think we can still shine a light on it and create that screening and that pressure that we hope will make a difference.”
Hamilton last year received personally addressed letters from three alleged Bahraini torture survivors as well as a hand-drawn picture of his Mercedes from the young son of a Bahraini man on death row. The drawing was shown exclusively to The Associated Press.
Hamilton said at last year’s race in Bahrain that human rights were a “big problem” in some country visits in Formula One and “as a sport we need to do more”.
Yousef, one of three inmates who wrote to Hamilton, succeeded in September and was reunited with her 18-year-old son, Kamil Jumaa, after his release from prison in Bahrain. He had been imprisoned and allegedly tortured since December 2019 in what Amnesty International called “in revenge against his mother”.
His mother spent more than two years in prison for criticizing the Bahrain Formula 1 race on social media.
The Associated Press asked Hamilton about Yousef and other torture victims who wrote to him last season, and AP reports played a role in Yusuf’s son’s release, according to Syed Ahmed Alwadaei of the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.
The institute noted that concerns about human rights remain a priority. In an email to the AP on Thursday, the institute raised the plight of Abduljalil Al-Singace, the former head of mechanical engineering at the University of Bahrain who went on a 134th hunger strike to protest the “prison authorities” confiscation of his apolitical streak. Manuscript on Bahraini dialects.
Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas on Thursday were the only two of the 20 drivers on the F1 grid to directly address human rights issues in the region.
“I agree that there is a lot of work to be done to raise awareness of situations around the world. I definitely support that,” Bottas said. “I think we are trying to show as a sport that we are really equal and that it is possible.”
Human rights issues other than Formula 1 have been paid attention to, and football fans from German giants Bayern Munich have recently tried to do so by urging the club to sever ties with Qatar’s national airline.
Amnesty International released a report in August accusing Qatari officials of doing little to investigate the deaths of thousands of young migrant workers in the country over the past decade, including in preparations for the World Cup.
Human rights activists denounced the appearance of FIFA President Gianni Infantino in a promotional video for the Saudi government, in which he said the kingdom had made important changes. English Premier League football club Newcastle has also faced intense scrutiny recently due to its ownership of Saudi Arabia.
Hamilton admitted on Thursday that he has not always been educated on these issues. Briton and the only black driver on the F1 grid, he has taken very public stances on social justice issues, including racism and support for the LGBTQ community.
He said, “I’ve been to a lot of these countries and I was clueless, I wasn’t (aware of) some of the problems. It comes down to whether you decide to educate yourself and load up on the sport more. It takes time to get out and learn more about an area that is alien to us. We are not one of these. regions, it’s incredibly complex on the ground in these places, with religion.There are so many intricacies that it’s hard to even comprehend all of them.
“Only one person can make a certain amount of difference, but collectively we can make a bigger impact,” Hamilton added. “Do I wish more athletes would talk about these issues? Yes.”
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