Posts Tagged ‘motor racing’


F1 race to go ahead despite widespread human rights infringements in Bahrain

All you need to know about Halo ahead of the 2018 F1 seasonSport is being used more and more to present a sanitised view of a country and to hide or obscure human rights abuses.  Russia with the Olympics and Qatar with the World Cup are both examples of dubious regimes using sport to enhance their image.  In the case of FIFA there is the issue of massive corruption within the organisation itself.

The latest example is Formula 1 and the race to take place in Bahrain.  The country has scant regard for human rights.  Arrests, unfair trials, the use of torture are all commonplace.  In 2017 the last newspaper was closed down.  In a previous blog, we highlighted a local firm in Porton (a village near Salisbury, UK) which supplies spyware to this regime.

As the US State Dept. said in a report on the country in 2017:

The most significant human rights issues [in Bahrain] included reports of arbitrary or unlawful killings by security forces; allegations of torture of detainees and prisoners; harsh and potentially life-threatening conditions of detention; arbitrary arrest and detention; political prisoners; unlawful interference with privacy; restrictions on freedom of expression, including by the press and via the internet; restriction of academic and cultural events; restrictions on the rights of association and assembly; allegations of restrictions on freedom of movement, including arbitrary citizenship revocation; and limits on Shia political participation.

Further examples of abuse of human rights can be found in a Human Rights Watch report.  Amnesty international has also produced a report saying similar things.

The F1 site itself claims to respect human rights issues in its policy;

  1.  The Formula 1 companies are committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally.

The problem is they do not.  Before races there is a severe clampdown in the area and protestors can be shot.  The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy is one of 15 human rights organisations to have written to F1 president Jean Todt calling on them to act in the case of Najah Yusuf who was imprisoned last year for criticising the regime on Facebook.  The response yesterday is not encouraging:

It’s quite easy,” he said. “We are here for a sport event, not for a political event. That means – first of all, I was surprised that there are still some political turmoil which I don’t think is the reality.

I think that the reality is just that a few people want to create troubles and Formula One is here to make sport, to entertain the people.  We should not be involved in any political questions.  This, people should do, who are here, who are living here. The government, whoever, that’s their job, not our job.  [Statement 30 March 2019, Our italics]

Which rather conflicts with its policy statement above.  It seems as though nothing a country does can stop the likes of F1 or other sporting regimes from carrying on their activities in a country with dubious or dire human rights.  As long as the money’s right …

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F1 to take place in Azerbaijan this weekend where human rights are seriously restricted

It’s called ‘sportswash’ and it is the present day attempt by tyrannical regimes to get themselves some positive publicity by hosting a sporting event, in this case, motor racing.  And they do not seem to have any difficulty in persuading sponsors, drivers and others involved to come to their country and lend support to the host however poorly they behave.

Bernie Ecclestone, when questioned about the dismal human rights record in Azerbaijan said:

The moment someone tells me that human rights are, then we can have a look at it, and see when and where it applies.  (Source – Daily Mail)

One could mention the UN Declaration or the European Convention on Human Rights as a starting point but one gets the impression there wouldn’t be much interest.

But Kerry Moscogiuri, director of campaigns at Amnesty International UK, said:

The arrival of Formula One in Baku must not steer attention away from the Azerbaijani authorities’ human rights crackdown.

Behind the glitz the authorities are locking up their critics, have shut down NGOs and arrested or harassed their leaders.  The recent release of some of those jailed on trumped-up charges should not fool anyone into thinking that the wind in Baku is blowing in a different direction.

Azerbaijan has courted big international sports events to improve its image abroad and the Grand Prix is no different.  While the world’s fastest drivers take to the streets of Baku in this spectacle of speed, there are many who will not be able to enjoy the show.

F1 is in pole position to influence positive change in Azerbaijan.  We would like to see them publicly urge President Aliyev to end this crackdown and free all prisoners of conscience.

Rebecca Vincent of Sport for Rights commented:

Bernie Ecclestone’s attitude to human rights is an embarrassment for Formula One.  The Sport For Rights coalition has repeatedly raised the cases of political prisoners in Azerbaijan with those in the F1 world, without anything resembling a sufficient response. The sport and its sponsors should be ashamed to allow themselves to be used as a propaganda tool for repressive governments such as President Aliyev’s.

They also claim that media outlets critical of Aliyev’s government have been harassed and intimidated and subsequently forced to close, while four journalists have also died in custody since 2005, according to Sport for Rights.

It all seems a long way from the Greek idea which informed their philosophy behind the idea of athletics and sporting prowess.  This philosophy was that the success of a democratic government depended on the moral character of the citizenry and sport was part of that philosophy.  This was a large part of the motivation for the combined athletic/moral training.  Now that sport is a business it only seems to matter who can pay the most.  Sport is now part of the apparatus of repression rather that something which uplifts the soul.  Thus any regime which oppresses its citizens and ignores human rights can host a football tournament, motor racing event or some other sporting attraction at will.  The people who take part in these events seem unconcerned at the misery which surrounds them and they are guaranteed uncritical coverage of their exploits in the media.