Saudi Arabia: The Dakar Rally does not cancel human rights abuses

dakar rally

“Dream. Dare. Live it.”, says the Dakar Rally manifest. The race, started on January 5th, is hosted by Saudi Arabia, a country that violates the rights of its people, defines Saudi women as second class citizens, kills journalists, tortures activists in prison, conducts war crimes in Yemen, and uses the death penalty.

The Dakar Rally moved to Saudi Arabia for its 2020 edition. This is another case of “sportswashing” – hosting major events seeking to gloss over serious human rights violations, with Saudi Arabia spending money in a 5-year partnership to host the rally in order to promote itself. The Rally opens up the kingdom to international tourism, offering the opportunity to showcase historical Saudi sites, new urban projects and the Saudi desert for the fans watching.

Not new to using sporting events as public relations opportunities, Saudi Arabia this time had pushback from Human Rights Watch (HRW), ALQST, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), MENA Rights Group, Front Line Defenders, and ADHRB among others. These NGOs call on anyone associated with the race to urge the Saudi authorities to release all imprisoned human rights activists and to wear a #StandWithSaudiHeroes pink armband to show solidarity and raise awareness on human rights violations in the Kingdom.

European Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (ECDHR) condemns the use of sporting events as a tool obscure human rights violations. Saudi Arabia remains a country that needs to improve respect, protection, and fulfilment of human rights. We also encourage sporting organisations to promote human rights in their activities in accordance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.