Saudi Arabia criticized for human rights violations receives Formula 1

Lewis Hamilton and his Red Bull rival, Max Verstappen, on the podium of the Brazilian GP at Interlagos, Sao Paulo, November 14, 2021. CARL DE SOUZA AFP / Archives

Text by: Farid Achache Follow

4 min

Saudi Arabia will become, Sunday, December 5, the 35th country to host an F1 Grand Prix.

An event that revives the burning issue of respect for human rights in this country of the Arabian Peninsula.

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Planetary star, Justin Bieber thought he would attract the wrath of those who challenge and point the finger at the Saudi regime?

The pop-star, 27, is due to sing, Sunday, December 5, in front of thousands of people in Jeddah on the sidelines of the first Formula 1 Grand Prix of Saudi Arabia, alongside the famous French DJ David Guetta and the American singer Jason Derulo.

A priori lucrative, the decision of the singer of the hit "Love Yourself" to participate in the concert, however, aroused the ire of human rights groups.

Why is Bieber singing for Saudi assassins?"

 "

Hatice Cengiz, the fiancee of Saudi journalist

Jamal Khashoggi

assassinated in 2018 at his country's consulate in Istanbul, has led the movement calling on Justin Bieber to cancel his visit. "

 This is a unique opportunity to send a strong message to the world indicating that your name and your talent will not be used to restore the image of a regime which kills its opponents, 

" she wrote in a column published in the

Washington Post

. On social media, the hashtag #WTFJustin was widely shared as a plane sported a " 

Why is Bieber singing for Saudi assassins?"

 Last month flew over Los Angeles at the American Music Awards.

The Canadian singer has refrained from any comment.

While Saudi Arabia seeks to soften its image as an ultra-conservative kingdom, the

arrests of opponents

, the rejection of the LGBTQ + community and the large number of executions in the country are regularly singled out by international organizations.

In addition to the sporting challenge, the first Saudi Arabian Formula 1 Grand Prix, which could crown for the first time the Dutchman Max Verstappen (Red Bull) on Sunday, is drawing attention for what it represents on the international scene.

The kingdom's entry into the F1 calendar, much criticized for its human rights violations, is part of a campaign to improve its image and diversify its economy (which is mainly based on oil) through sport, cultural events and tourism.

Critics, who point to one of the highest execution rates in the world and the repression of dissidents, speak of

sportwashing

 (attempt to whitewash the image of the country through sport). 

Change image 

For the president of the Saudi Automobile Federation, Prince Khalid ben Sultan al-Faisal, “

 it is not a singer who will (smooth) the image of the kingdom, but rather its leaders and its people. 

He believes that a "

 fight has been waged against the kingdom for years, a fight for political reasons

 ." And to add: "

 There are those who say that the kingdom is behind and against human rights ... Of course, no one is perfect, and the greatest nations that brandish freedom and human rights have more. that their share of criticism in these areas. We believe in ourselves, this war will continue, we will continue on our way and the door is open to everyone to visit us and see who we really are

 ”.

Another who will have to speak on the question of human rights is, without doubt, the British Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes). The pilot made the fight against discrimination his fight off the track. “ 

I think we are all aware that there are problems in certain countries where we go and especially in this part of the world

(the Gulf, which hosts four GPs in Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, editor's note) ”, he already declared in Doha a fortnight ago. The pilots must "

 make the sport more responsible and make sure that it really does something when it goes to these countries, and that is why I tried to raise my voice 

", he had. added, before taking the track wearinga helmet in the colors of the LGBT + community.

Saudi Arabia, which is trying to shed its image of an ultra-conservative kingdom, launched a women's football championship at the end of November comprising 16 teams. The world's leading exporter of black gold, Saudi Arabia also intends to open up more and more to leisure tourism. The Saudi Arabian Tourist Board now has 22 offices around the world. 

“ 

This openness to leisure tourism embodies Saudi Arabia's desire for transformation. Our mission is to manage to overcome the clichés and the

a priori

about the country. We need to change perceptions. We understand that certain things can be a brake 

", explains to the website L'

écho tourisme Rodolphe Bonnemie

, director general of the Saudi Arabia Tourist Board.

(with AFP)

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  • Saudi Arabia

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