For Immediate Release
45 Human Rights and Foreign Policy Organizations Call on Formula 1 Star Lewis Hamilton to Speak Out Against the Saudi Government’s Human Rights Abuses
WASHINGTON - Today, 45 organizations representing millions of people around the world 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. This race marks the first time Saudi Arabia has ever hosted a Formula 1 event. The letter, signed by groups ranging from foreign policy organizations to faith-based groups, outlines specific concerns with the human rights abuses carried out by the government of Saudi Arabia. The organizations write specifically about the Saudi-led war on Yemen, the treatment of women’s rights defenders like Loujain AlHathloul, and the brutal murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
The letter thanks Hamilton for his dedication to human rights and issues of diversity in Formula 1. Hamilton was a vocal advocate for Black Lives Matter and expressed concern for Bahraini torture victims when the sport traveled to Bahrain in the 2020 season.
Danaka Katovich, the Yemen Campaign Coordinator for CODEPINK, said, “Hamilton has shown time and time again that he cares deeply for people around the world. I hope he is compelled to stand with Saudi human rights defenders like Loujain AlHathloul. The most decorated Formula 1 driver in the history of the sport demanding freedom for activists and justice for Yemen would certainly speak volumes to the world.”
“As organizations 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.” The signers of the letter call on Hamilton to make a statement at the race itself if a boycott of the race is not a possibility.
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Dr. Aisha Jumaan, the Yemeni-born founder and president of the Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation, said, “The U.N. reported that 2.3 million Yemeni children under five years of age are experiencing famine. This is due to the Saudi war and blockade on Yemen.” Dr. Jumaan added to Hamilton, “I hope that you send their agonized parents a message of solidarity by boycotting the race.”
The letter also highlights the experiences of Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain AlHathloul, who was released from prison in February 2021 after being sentenced by a terrorism court for her activism. While detained she experienced torture and threats of violence. Her release comes with conditions as she remains on probation and is not allowed to leave Saudi Arabia for five years. “It is our sincere hope as a family that Mr. Hamilton considers the gravity of supporting a country like Saudi Arabia that imprisons and tortures its own citizens like my sister Loujain. Although she has been released from prison, she is far from free. Why is she forbidden from speaking out about her experiences in prison? We all know what they want to hide. It is through Mr. Hamilton's boycott that we can apply pressure to demand the truth and continue to send a message to Saudi Arabia that they cannot sports-wash their continued human rights violations away,” said Lina AlHathloul.
The organizations are concerned with “sportswashing,” where a country hosts sporting events to distract from its poor human rights record. Sunjeev Bery, executive director of Freedom Forward, stated, “Saudi Arabia’s dictatorship is using sports and entertainment events in a desperate attempt to hide its horrifying human rights record from the world. As a voice for freedom, Lewis Hamilton should take a stand in support of the peaceful reformers and activists who are languishing in Saudi Arabia’s prisons. Hamilton should boycott the race until Saudi Arabia’s monarchy embraces reform.”
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CODEPINK is a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, stop new wars, and redirect our resources into healthcare, education, green jobs and other life-affirming activities. CODEPINK rejects foreign policies based on domination and aggression, and instead calls for policies based on diplomacy, compassion and a commitment to international law. With an emphasis on joy and humor, CODEPINK women and men seek to activate, amplify and inspire a community of peacemakers through creative campaigns and a commitment to non-violence.