Posts Tagged ‘Formula One’

Andrew Anderson: “The Dangerous Game of Sportswashing”

May 22, 2019

On 26 April 2019 Andrew Anderson of Front Line Defenders did – rightly – not mince his words in a piece drawing attention to the growing phenomenon of sports washing. In February 2019 I drew already attention to this in a post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/01/sports-and-human-rights-focus-on-sports-washing-big-names-play-for-big-money/.

Anderson’s “Gloss, Not Glory: The Dangerous Game of Sportswashing” says it more eloquently:

Brutal and corrupt dictatorships trying to use sport to improve their image is nothing new, as The Guardian noted in February when it compared club ownership and the Champions League to Mussolini and the 1934 World Cup. However, the absurd news that the Dakar Rally will take place in Saudi Arabia in 2020 – compounded by reports that an offer is under consideration to bring the Spanish Super Cup to the same country in a €30 million per year, 6-year deal- brings blood drenched sportswashing to new depths.


Protest graffitti against the Formula One race in Bahrain.

As the International Federation for Human Rights reported the Dakar Rally announcement comes not only in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Kashoggi and amidst Saudi war crimes in Yemen, but as women human rights defenders are being tortured in detention for campaigning, amongst other things, for the right of women to drive. The same Saudi rulers who order the killings and torture are seeking to buy positive coverage through sport. “The same Saudi rulers who order the killings and torture are seeking to buy positive coverage through sport.”

As someone who was at Wembley in 1992 to see Barcelona lift their first European Cup, it is particularly galling to contemplate the Cruyff-inspired masters of the beautiful game being dragged into the sportswashing of Mohammad bin Salman. The Barcelona slogan is “More Than a Club” and is explicitly linked to both values and social change. It is difficult to reconcile these noble aspirations with a PR exercise for a misogynist regime, itself the antithesis of those values.

We are, of course, already far down the slippery slope. The rulers of the UAE have also long-used sport as part of their self-promotion. The owners of Manchester City and the sponsors of Real Madrid are similarly involved in war crimes in Yemen, and routinely detain and torture those who dare to speak out for human rights. Ahmed Mansoor, winner of the Martin Ennals Prize in 2015 for his peaceful work for human rights, is currently on hunger strike in protest against prison conditions and his sentencing to 10 years in prison after an unfair trial. Front Line Defenders is gravely concerned for his health and is calling for his release.

Sunday, 28th April, Formula One will hold the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in Baku. The Azeri dictator, Ilham Aliyev, who routinely detains human rights defenders and journalists, is also President of the country’s Olympic committee. He has embraced sportswashing enthusiastically. Azerbaijan hosted the European Games in 2015 under the auspices of the European Olympic Committees. The 2019 European Games are to be in Belarus. The Formula One calendar also includes Bahrain, Abu Dhabi (UAE) and China, all countries where Front Line Defenders is campaigning for the release of unjustly detained human rights defenders.


Protest against first European Games in Baku in 2015.

Many sports fans will shrug their shoulders and say that money is awash in international sport, and what can you do? The International Olympic Committee and football’s world governing body FIFA have been mired in corruption scandals and the use of international sporting events and national Olympic committees have long been seen by dictators, authoritarians and fascists as tools for advancing propaganda. But it is surely time to draw a line in the sand, and where better to do it than Saudi Arabia? The Dakar Rally should not take place there while women human rights defenders like Lujain Al-Hathloul are detained and tortured. And the Spanish Football authorities must reject the proposed Saudi deal in spite of the vast sums of money on the table.

Sportswashing is more than a game, it is a corrupt exercise of cover-up and repression. And sport must reject the tyrants.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/blog/post/gloss-not-glory-dangerous-game-sportswashing

Human Rights Defenders pay high price for Bahrain Grand Prix

March 28, 2019

The Bahraini authorities appear to be using the glamour of motor sport to obscure the country’s human rights record

Bahrain: Grand Prix should not ‘sportswash’ country’s human rights record” says Amnesty International.

[see my earlier post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/02/01/sports-and-human-rights-focus-on-sports-washing-big-names-play-for-big-money/]

Ahead of the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, Amnesty International has highlighted the grim human rights record of the country. Samah Hadid, Amnesty International’s Middle East Director of Campaigns, said: “Beneath the glamour of the F1, there is a far more sinister side to Bahrain, revealing the country as a deeply repressive state where anyone critical of the government can be jailed merely for posting a tweet. “Prominent human rights defenders are under relentless attack in the country. 

Nabeel Rajab was shamefully convicted and sentenced to five years in prison for tweeting about the conflict in Yemen and torture allegations in Jaw Prison. “Instead of just ‘sportswashing’ its image and glossing over its dismal human rights record through high-speed sport, the Bahraini government should immediately repeal laws that criminalise freedom of expression and fast track the release of all prisoners of conscience.

Since mid-2016, the Bahraini authorities have embarked on a systematic campaign to eliminate organised political opposition in the country. The main targets of this far-reaching repression have been human rights defenders, journalists, political activists, Shi’a clerics and phttps://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/bahrain-verdict-against-sheikh-salman-another-nail-coffin-free-speecheaceful protesters…Earlier this month, Ebrahim Sharif was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for three years, for a tweet criticising Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. …. Bahrain has used draconian legislation such as Law No. 58 of 2006 on the Protection of Society from Terrorist Acts, the Law on Political Associations, and repressive provisions of the Penal Code including Articles 134, 160, 165, 168, 214, 215, 216 and 310, to target protesters and other critics of the government. Since 2011, more than 800 people have been stripped of their nationalities. Of those, 115 lost their citizenship following a ludicrous mass trial that relied on confessions extracted under torture.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/02/happy-new-year-but-not-for-ahmed-mansoor-and-nabeel-rajab-in-the-gulf-monarchies/

For more information on the human rights situation, see the following blog – Bahrain: What lies behind the scenes of the Formula One Grand Prix.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/bahrain-grand-prix-should-not-sportswash-countrys-human-rights-record

 

Bahrain practices hospitality for Formula One: stuck in airport

April 5, 2018

Human rights defender Brian Dooley and Danish MP Rasmussen were not only refused entry into Bahrain but kept in the airport without a passport, reports the Irish Independent on 4 April 2018.

Brian Dooley has been held alongside Danish MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen for more than 12 hours in Bahrain International Airport after they travelled there to visit jailed Bahraini-Danish human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a prominent pro-democracy campaigner in Bahrain, who founded the Gulf Centre for Human Rights and worked  for the Dublin-based group Front Line Defenders. He received a life sentence in April 2011 for charges of terrorism and attempting to overthrow the government.

Brian Dooley is in Bahrain alongside Danish MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen (L)
Brian Dooley in Bahrain alongside Danish MP Lars Aslan Rasmussen (L)

Mr Dooley, who is from Dingle in Co Kerry and is now based in the UK, told Independent.ie: “Formula One fans planning to arrive this week should know what they’re getting into. Bahrain has become an out and out police state.” See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/11/30/closing-civil-society-space-a-euphemism-for-killing-human-rights-defenders/

https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/irish-human-rights-campaigner-refused-entry-to-bahrain-36774371.html

 

Azerbaijan: a Formula for combining sports and repression

April 21, 2015

Lewis Hamilton has just won the Bahrain Grand Prix [which was canceled in 2011 amid violent clashes after an uprising demanding political reforms]. It was the occasion for F1 chief Bernie Eccle­stone to says that the Azerbaijan “Baku European Grand Prix” will make its début in 2016, despite concerns over the country’s human rights record. Earlier this week, the sport’s official website carried a notice stating that “The Formula One Group is committed to respecting internationally recognized human rights in its operations globally.” Asked if the human rights situation in Azerbaijan had been checked out with a view to hosting next year’s race, Ecclestone said “We have” before adding “I think everybody seems to be happy. There doesn’t seem to be any big problem there.”

One wonders where he got this idea as the Human Rights Watch report (and that of other NGOs, such as FIDH/OMCT, see link below) on Azerbaijan for 2015 was damning:

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