Saudi Arabia: Formula 1 deal despite abuses


The Formula One Group’s plans to take its flagship Grand Prix race to Saudi Arabia should be conditioned on freeing imprisoned women’s driving advocates and dropping the charges against them, Human Rights Watch said today.

Formula One has made human rights commitments, and should explain how the company’s operations will improve human rights in Saudi Arabia. Formula One leaders did not address pervasive Saudi human rights abuses in announcing their partnership on November 5, 2020.

“If Formula One is serious about upholding its own human rights policies, it needs to make a meaningful effort to assess conditions in Saudi Arabia and call for the release of women’s rights defenders who campaigned for women to be allowed to drive,” said Minky Worden, global initiatives director at Human Rights Watch. “There is no evidence that Formula One or the sport’s governing body, the FIA, has followed its own human rights policies in making its Saudi Arabia plans.”

Formula One’s announcement makes the company the latest in a growing list of sports events Saudi Arabia apparently is using to distract from the country’s serious human rights abuses, Human Rights Watch said. Two years after the brazen murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the country has engaged in “sports-washing” by hosting a heavyweight world title boxing match, a high-profile desert motor race, and now a premier road race. 

Human Rights Watch will seek to counter Saudi Arabia’s “image laundering” through an outreach campaign to inform the entertainment and sports industries, including stars, teams, and athletes who are courted to play or perform, about Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. The campaign will call on them to tell the Saudi government that they won’t take Saudi government money and participate in events whose primary purpose is image laundering and deflecting attention from human rights abuses. Moreover, they should refuse to perform in Saudi Arabia until the government releases women’s rights activists and improves human rights.

A November 2019 report by Human Rights Watch documents ongoing arbitrary and abusive practices by Saudi authorities targeting dissidents and activists and the total lack of accountability by those responsible for abuses. Despite important social reforms, such as lifting travel restrictions for women in August, activists remain in jail. They include Loujain al-HathloulSamar Badawi, Nassima al-Sadah, and Nouf Abdulaziz, who advocated for women’s right to drive and an end to the discriminatory male guardianship system. These four women are among a dozen women’s rights activists who are still on trial for their activism, even though the authorities have made some concessions on women’s rights.

Before Formula One takes the Grand Prix to Saudi Arabia, it should insist on freedom for these activists, Human Rights Watch said.

Formula One has previously partnered with other countries seeking to build soft power and whitewash abysmal human rights records. In 2016, the Grand Prix was hosted by Azerbaijan, a country notorious for its repression of critics. Formula One took its signature race to Bahrain, sparking years of protests and the jailing of the activist Najah Yusuf, who was detained, tortured, and imprisoned, partly for her social media posts opposing the event. In February 2019, Human Rights Watch and 16 other human rights groups sent a letter to Formula One urging it to uphold its commitment to human rights in Bahrain and beyond.

Formula One’s “Human Rights Statement” says it will “focus our efforts in relation to those areas which are within our own direct influence.”

“The freedom of women’s driving advocates is absolutely within the company’s direct influence,” Worden said. “Formula One CEO Chase Carey, and FIA Chairman and President Jean Todt should insist to visit unjustly detained activists and publicly urge the Saudi government to set them free and to expand press freedom and human rights as a condition of their lucrative partnership.”

Today News Africa
Today News Africa
TODAY NEWS AFRICA is registered and headquartered in Washington, District of Columbia, United States of America. Our publication is widely read, respected and influential. By providing daily answers to questions our readers have about the people, the businesses and the continent of Africa, we are reaching a diverse and wide audience from around the world. Our readers, many of them world leaders, trust us because we are independent and truthful. Our advertisers understand the difference between news, views and ads. Contact us:


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Trending Now

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden says he’s concerned about escalating violence in Ethiopia and worries about civilians

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday said he was concerned about the escalating violence in Ethiopia. In a call with the United Nations...

Biden to use walking boot for several weeks after sustaining fractures while playing with dog, doctor says

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden sustained a sprain of his right foot while playing with his dog, Major, his doctor said on Sunday. "Initial X-rays are...

Ethiopian forces set to take Tigrayan capital, as many fear mass civilian deaths

The Ethiopian military said late on Friday that government forces were set to take control of Mekelle, the regional capital of Tigray, even as...

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks with Presidents of Kenya, Argentina and Costa Rica, and UN chief

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. on Monday spoke with world leaders, including President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, the second African leader after his...

Nigerian-American Adewale Adeyemo makes history as President-elect Biden announces members of his economic team

U.S. President-elect Joe Biden on Monday announced key members of his economic team, including Janet Yellen as Secretary of the Treasury; Neera Tanden as...

President-elect Joe Biden slips while playing with dog, twists ankle

U.S. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. slipped while playing with his dog, Major, and twisted his ankle. The President-elect is being examined at Delaware Orthopaedic...

U.S. House members ask Trump admin to put on hold deportation of asylum-seekers from Cameroon and other African countries

United States House of Representatives members on Tuesday called on the Trump administration to put on hold the deportation, slated for Wednesday, of asylum-seekers...

U.S. under COVID-19 siege with an American dying every 35 seconds – opinion

The most incompetent American, President Donald John Trump, 74 years old, is missing in action, at a time when the country is under COVID-19...

Coronavirus hospitalizations top 100k in US

More than 100,000 patients are hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States, the highest number of hospitalizations since the outbreak began early this year. There...

Trump releases video message he labeled “the most important speech I’ve ever made” full of lies

U.S. President Donald J. Trump on Wednesday released a video message he labeled "the most important speech I've ever made" which was full of...

U.S. CDC shortens COVID-19 quarantine time to 7 or 10 days, down from 14

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shortened its recommended COVID-19 quarantine time from 14 days to 7 or 10 days....

17 rights groups to Macron: press Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to end abuses

French President Emmanuel Macron should strongly press Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to address human rights violations before his upcoming visit to Paris, particularly to release arbitrarily...

Over 50 people killed since presidential poll in Côte d’Ivoire, dozen opposition leaders arrested

Human Rights Watch on Wednesday called on Côte d’Ivoire’s authorities to urgently investigate the killing of more than 50 people in the political and...

69,000 new COVID-19 deaths globally in past week, 1000 in Africa

At least 69,000 new COVID-19 deaths and 4 million infections were recorded globally last week, according to the latest data by the World Health...

Paraguay accused of destroying crucial evidence in killing of Argentinian girls

Authorities in Paraguay destroyed crucial evidence in the killing of two 11-year-old Argentinian girls by state forces and violated their own investigative protocols and international human rights standards, Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday, adding that the Paraguayan government should ensure an independent, prompt, impartial, and transparent investigation into the killings.On September 2, 2020, members of the Joint Task Force, a military-led elite unit that includes police and counter-narcotics...
error: Alert: Content is protected !!