Lewis Hamilton: Boycott the F1 Race in Saudi Arabia!
CODEPINK is calling on Lewis Hamilton, the most successful Formula 1 driver, to boycott a race set to happen in Saudi Arabia this year. We hope Lewis Hamilton will stand with imprisoned Saudi human rights defenders and the people of Yemen.
Dear Lewis Hamilton,
We, the undersigned, are asking that you refuse to attend or make a statement at the Formula 1 race in Saudi Arabia this year. You said in a victory speech that as a sport, Formula 1 cannot “ignore the human rights issues” in the countries races take place. We agree, and believe that this is an opportunity to stand in solidarity with the people harmed by Saudi Arabia’s leadership.
You have exhibited immense bravery in standing up for Black Lives Matter and other issues in a sport where it has not been common to do so. We commend your efforts to raise awareness for injustices around the world. Thank you for using your platform in a way that calls for accountability within the sport.
Saudi Arabia’s leaders have a horrible human rights record. You said that you were not completely aware of Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses. We know that understanding the issues is critical to speaking out, so we have outlined some top concerns:
Women’s Rights: Saudi leaders arrest and imprison women’s rights activists. For example, Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al Hathloul was imprisoned in Saudi Arabia beginning May 2018 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 threats, 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 until early 2021, where she was released but remains under a five-year travel ban where she cannot leave Saudi Arabia. Other women’s rights activists like Samar Badawi remain in prison for advocating for women’s rights in the Kingdom.
The War on Yemen: The leaders of Saudi Arabia are also waging a brutal war on the people of 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. Because of the blockade and war, Yemen is dealing with one of the highest COVID death rates in the world. The UN calls this the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” For a period of over three months in the early part of 2021, Saudi Arabia did not allow fuel ships to dock at the critical Yemeni port of Hodeidah. This caused fuel shortages that affected every aspect of life in Yemen, including the loss of power to hospitals that are overflowing with cases of child malnourishment due to lack of food.
The murder of the journalist Jamal Kashoggi: In October 2018, agents ordered by the Saudi government brutally murdered a Washington Post journalist. Kashoggi 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 criticisms of the Saudi government. Saudi leaders tried to cover up this murder and ultimately failed. The murder was linked to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS).
The top Formula 1 driver refusing to compete in Saudi Arabia or speaking out could go a long way toward convincing Saudi Arabia to finally adhere to human rights. This would send the message that the world is not blind to MbS trying to “sportswash” his war crimes and human rights violations.
We hope you will consider these issues and decide to not race in Saudi Arabia in 2021. If you do race, we ask that you wear a shirt calling for Loujain to be truly freed and for the war and blockade on Yemen to be ended. You could also release a statement regarding Saudi Arabia’s human rights record. Your bravery for speaking out on social issues is recognized, and if you choose to speak out against Saudi leaders’ crimes, you will be doing so in solidarity with all the human rights defenders in Saudi prisons and millions of people suffering at the hands of MbS in Yemen.