45 Human rights and foreign policy organisations call on Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton to speak out against the Saudi government’s human rights abuses

Fourty-Five organisations sent a joint letter to Formula 1 star Lewis Hamilton calling on him to speak out against the Saudi government's human rights abuses and boycott the Formula 1 race scheduled to be held in Saudi Arabia in the latter part of 2021. 


Dear Lewis Hamilton, 

Congratulations on another successful Formula 1 season. Not only have you won race after race, you’ve also led Formula 1 in issues of diversity and justice. We commend your dedication to raising awareness about issues that are important to you and we hope you will continue your advocacy into the 2021 F1 season. As organisations concerned deeply with the human rights abuses carried out by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we ask that you reconsider your participation in the upcoming race being hosted in Saudi Arabia in 2021. If this is not possible due to prior commitments, we ask that you make a statement at this race. 

After receiving a letter from the son of a Bahraini torture victim, you had expressed you wanted to reach out to the leaders of Bahrain but were unable to when you contracted the coronavirus. We appreciate your dedication to human rights, and we think that the 2021 Formula 1 season presents an opportunity to stand in solidarity with human rights defenders from Saudi Arabia.  For the first time in Formula 1’s history, Saudi Arabia will be hosting a race in 2021. We think that this race is a key place to make a statement regarding human rights. You stated in a previous interview that you did not know enough about the Saudi government’s human rights record, so to help provide context we have outlined the key issues surrounding the egregious human rights abuses of the Saudi Kingdom. 

Detention of Women’s Rights Activists: Saudi leaders have imprisoned women’s rights activists for calling for the same reforms the kingdom and MBS so publicly tout as advancements in support of women’s rights. For example, Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain AlHathloul was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia from May 2018 until February 2021 in retribution for her campaigning (successfully) for women to secure the right to drive in the Kingdom. Following her arrest, Loujain endured waterboarding, electroshock, beatings, sexual assault, and more. In 2019, she was offered release in exchange for making a video claiming that she had not been tortured. She refused and remained in prison. Her case was moved to a terrorism court after nearly three years in pre-trial detention and Loujain was sentenced on 28 December 2020 to 5 years and 8 months in prison. Her release in early 2021 was conditional, as she is still on probation and a 5-year travel ban where she will be unable to leave Saudi Arabia. The United Nations and over 40 states at the UN Human Rights Council called for her release, as well as the release of other detained Saudi women’s rights defenders, many of whom are still in prison. 

The war on Yemen: The leaders of Saudi Arabia are also waging a brutal war on Yemen that is starving almost twenty million people in the worst humanitarian crisis on the planet. In 2015, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia started bombing Yemen. Saudi Arabia then imposed a land, air, and sea blockade on the country, leaving Yemen to starve. A report released by Save the Children in 2018 estimated that about 85,o00 children died of starvation in Yemen. Because of the blockade and war, Yemen is dealing with one of the highest COVID death rates in the world. A recent UN report indicates that there are 13.5 million people facing high levels of food insecurity which will increase to 16.2 in the first half of 2021. The UN calls Yemen the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” 

The brutal murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi: In October 2018, agents ordered by the Saudi government brutally murdered Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Khashoggi was dismembered with a bone saw while he was still alive in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The murder of this dissident journalist sparked mass criticism of the Saudi government. Saudi leaders tried to cover up this murder and ultimately failed. An investigation by UN expert Agnes Callamard concluded that the murder was a “premeditated extrajudicial killing” that was "overseen, planned and endorsed by high-level state officials of Saudi Arabia.” 

Mr. Hamilton, we believe there are many ways for you to make a statement at this race. Using your platform could be as simple as tweeting Loujain AlHathloul’s story and calling on the Saudi government to #FreeLoujain unconditionally by lifting her travel ban, letting her family travel, and dropping her charges. On top of that, Loujain’s family is calling for the people who tortured Loujain to be held accountable. Given that Loujain was punished for driving, you could put a sticker of Loujain on your car during the race. Another suggestion is for you to wear a shirt on the day of the race calling on the Saudi government to #FreeLoujain and stop their war on Yemen. The organizers of this letter would be happy to provide you with any materials needed or meet with you to discuss action ideas and our concerns further. 

We hope you choose to continue your brave advocacy in Formula 1 and speak out on the human rights issues taking place in the countries where you race. Your voice could be critical in this movement to free women’s human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia and end the suffering of millions of people in Yemen.

Sincerely,

  1. #FreeLoujain Campaign
  2. Action Corps
  3. Alliance for Global Justice
  4. ALQST for Human Rights 
  5. Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain
  6. Avaaz
  7. Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America/Bautistas por la Paz
  8. CAPA DePaul
  9. Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia 
  10. Chicago Area Peace Action
  11. Chicago Committee Against War and Racism 
  12. CIVICUS: Global Alliance for Citizen Participation
  13. Clearinghouse on Women's Issues
  14. Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN) 
  15. Equality Now
  16. Fellowship of Reconciliation
  17. Feminist Majority Foundation
  18. Freedom Forward
  19. Grassroots Global Justice Alliance
  20. Green Party Peace Action
  21. Indiana Center for Middle East Peace
  22. International Service for Human Rights
  23. Just Foreign Policy
  24. London Students for Yemen
  25. Martin Ennals Foundation
  26. MENA Rights Group
  27. Muslim Peace Fellowship
  28. On Earth Peace
  29. Peace Action
  30. PEACEWORKERS
  31. Project Blueprint
  32. Rethinking Foreign Policy
  33. RootsAction.org
  34. Stop the War UK 
  35. Tunisian United Network
  36. United for Peace and Justice
  37. University Network for Human Rights
  38. Veterans For Peace
  39. WESPAC Foundation, Inc.
  40. West Suburban Peace Coalition
  41. Western New York Peace Center 
  42. Women's March Global
  43. World BEYOND War
  44. Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation 
  45. Yemeni Alliance Committee

 

 

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