1st of March 2023 – In an open letter, the European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) has addressed Formula 1 drivers on the eve of the Bahrain Grand Prix, asking for their help in raising awareness on the story of prominent human rights defender Abdulhadi al-Khawaja’s case.
The initiative was taken by the ECDHR as part of the ‘We Race for Freedom’ Campaign launched on the 22nd of February 2023 which seeks to advocate for the release of Bahraini-Danish, award-winning human rights defender, who has been imprisoned in Bahrain since 2011.
The letter underlines how the Bahraini government has been using ‘sportswashing’ to cover up its poor human rights record and maintain its international prestige, and raises grave concerns over the fact that it will exploit the approaching Grand Prix in the same manner.
With this letter, many questions have been raised regarding FIA’s most recent amendments to the International Sporting Code for 2023, supposedly motivated by the organization’s duty to uphold the principle of neutrality enshrined in the International Olympic Committee’s Code of Ethics. FIA’s actions have been described as anything but neutral, and in total contrast with the political stance taken with the occasion of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. F1 drivers were encouraged not to comply with the organization’s political agenda masked by the disillusion of neutral disinvolvement, and use the opportunity of the mega-sporting event when the country is under the spotlight, speaking up against the abuses perpetrated by the Bahraini authorities and publicly raise Abdulhadi al-Khawaja’s case.