RIYADH (Middle East Eye) – Dozens of human rights organizations have called on Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton to boycott a Grand Prix set to be held in Saudi Arabia later this year and speak out against the kingdom’s human rights abuses.
In a letter sent on Monday, a copy of which was shared with MEE, 45 groups urged the British driver to "reconsider” his participation in the race in Saudi Arabia, citing the kingdom’s ongoing war in Yemen, detention of women’s rights activists and the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
"For the first time in Formula One’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,” the letter said.
Signatories to the letter included Code Pink, Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation, Freedom Forward and International Service for Human Rights.
Hamilton, who holds the joint record for World Drivers’ Championship titles, has been politically outspoken in the past.
Last year, he wore a helmet featuring a raised fist and a tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The world champion is the only black driver in the sport’s history.
Later in 2020, after receiving letters from victims of oppression in Bahrain, including from the son of a man on death row, Hamilton denounced human rights abuses in the kingdom ahead of a Grand Prix there.
He said as a sport that tours the world, Formula One needed to "do more” to advance human rights globally.
On Monday, the rights groups said that Hamilton should extend his activism to Saudi Arabia.
Bringing global events and entertainment to the kingdom has been part of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s stated plan to transform Saudi society and move it away from suppressive norms.