Formula One has a “binding obligation” to raise awareness of human rights issues as the series concludes its season in the Middle East, seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton said on Thursday.
F1 ended its season with first races in Qatar and Saudi Arabia, followed by the season finale in Abu Dhabi, where the racing series began in 2009. F1 has raced in Bahrain since 2004. and currently has four Middle East stops on its schedule.
Hamilton have spoken out on human rights issues in the past and played a role in the release of a political prisoner earlier this year.
“There are problems in these places that we are going, as well as around the world, but of course (the Middle East) seems to be considered the worst in this part of the world,” Hamilton said. ,” Hamilton said before Sunday’s race. , the first of a 10-year agreement between F1 and Qatar.
“I think when these sports come to these places, they have a duty to raise awareness of these issues and (that) these places need to be monitored closely, need the media to speak up. .”
Qatar and Saudi Arabia have been accused of “cleansing” their human rights records by using popular sporting events to build images in favor of the countries. Qatar will host the World Cup next year.
“Equal rights is a serious issue,” Hamilton said, “They are trying to take steps. It cannot be changed overnight. I heard there are things like new reform with the “kafala” system that was (still) a few years ago.
“There is still a long way to go. I just feel that if we go to these places, we need to raise the bar. I think we can still generate attention and create that scrutiny and pressure, which can hopefully create change. “
Governments in the region did not immediately respond Related press regarding Hamilton’s comments.
Last year, Hamilton received private letters from three alleged Bahraini torture survivors as well as a hand-drawn photo of his Mercedes from a Bahraini man’s young son death penalty. Drawings have been shown exclusively to AP.
Hamilton said at last year’s race in Bahrain that human rights were “a big issue” in some of the countries participating in F1 and “is a sport we need to do more of.”
Najah Yusuf, one of three inmates who wrote to Hamilton, was reunited in September with her 18-year-old son Kameel Juma after he was released from prison in Bahrain. He has been detained and accused of torture since December 2019 in what Amnesty International considers “revenge against his mother”.
His mother spent more than two years in prison for criticizing the Bahrain F1 race on social media.
AP asked Hamilton about Yusuf and other torture victims who wrote to him last season and APAccording to Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei from the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, the report played an important role in the release of his son Yusuf.
The institute notes that human rights concerns remain a priority. In an email to AP On Thursday, the institute raised the plight of Abdulajlil AlSingace, the former head of the mechanical engineering department at the University of Bahrain, who went on a 134th hunger strike to protest “the seizure of a politically unwritten manuscript by prison authorities.” his Bahraini dialect.”
Hamilton and Mercedes Teammate Valtteri Bottas on Thursday was the only two of the 20 drivers on the F1 circuit to directly address human rights issues in the region.
“I agree that there is a lot of work to be done to raise awareness of situations around the world. I definitely support that,” Bottas said. “I think we’re trying to show as a sport that we’re really equal and that’s possible.”
Attention has been devoted to human rights issues beyond F1, and on Thursday The Danish Football Association told BBC Sport that Denmark will put more “pressure” on FIFA over human rights concerns ahead of the Qatar World Cup.
Denmark’s sponsors will withdraw their logos from their training uniforms, BBC Sport reports, to make room for messages critical of Qatar. Trade partners will also not go to the World Cup.
Football fans from German giants Bayern Munich appeal to the club cut ties with Qatar’s national airline. Amnesty International also released a report in August accusing Qatari officials of doing little to me investigating the deaths of thousands of young migrant workers in the country over the past decade, including in preparation for the World Cup.
Human rights activists denouncing the appearance of FIFA President Gianni Infantino in a promotional video to the government of Saudi Arabia, which he said the kingdom had made significant changes to. Premier League football club Newcastle also has Has recently faced close scrutiny for Saudi ownership.
Hamilton admitted on Thursday he hasn’t always been educated on these issues. As British and the only black driver on the F1 circuit, he has taken very public views on issues of social justice, including racism and support for LGBTQ community.
“I’ve been to a lot of these countries and know nothing, (don’t know) about some issues,” he said. It takes time to go out and learn more about an area unfamiliar to us. We’re not from these areas, it’s incredibly complicated on the ground in these places, with religion. A lot of things are so complicated that it’s hard to understand them all.
Hamilton added: “One person can only make a small amount of difference, but collectively we can make a bigger impact. “Do I wish that more athletes and women spoke out on these issues?”