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Sir Lewis Hamilton is also committed to human rights in Bahrain
In 2020, when Formula 1 held a race weekend in Bahrain for the last time, Hamilton had received letters from three victims of torture. Asked about it at a press conference at the time, he evaded the topic on the grounds that he had too little information about it. At first, this was seen by many as a diversionary maneuver.
But journalists do not forget, and so on the Thursday before the season opener 2021 (practice, qualifying and race live in the ticker!), Hamilton was asked again whether he had the time to deal with the topic. Instead of reacting again with an evasive answer, which would probably have been the easier way, this time he found clear words.
The letters bothered him badly, says the 36-year-old (“The first time that I have received such letters”), which is why he has not remained inactive: “In the last few months I have tried to grapple with the subject because In all the years that we have come here, I have not been aware of all the details regarding possible human rights violations. “
“So I’ve spent time talking to human rights lawyers, I’ve talked to human rights organizations like Amnesty, I’ve met with the British Ambassador here in Bahrain and also with representatives from Bahrain itself.”
Hamilton: Conversations should remain confidential
“For now, these steps have taken place on a private level and I think that is the right way to go and I would therefore not like to say too much that might jeopardize progress on this issue. But yes, that is the position we are in right now, and I’m definitely determined to help where I can, “says Hamilton.
This was preceded by a letter from the Bahraini Institute for Law and Democracy (BIRD) to Formula 1 CEO Stefano Domenicali, FIA President Jean Todt and the ten Formula 1 teams (as well as to 61 British parliamentarians and 24 human rights organizations) on March 24th ), in which Formula 1 is asked to initiate an investigation into human rights violations in Bahrain.
Formula 1 takes such issues very seriously, writes Domenicali in his answer to BIRD director Ahmed Alwadaei, which is available to ‘Motorsport-Total.com’, but “we believe that it is not the right way to exclude countries from the sport and that it is much better to get in touch than to isolate someone “.
Domenicali points out that Formula 1 has made it clear to all of its partners (including the governments in which it drives) that human rights violations are “taken very seriously”, but without specifying what that actually means. “Our human rights policy is very clear,” assures the Italian.
But he refuses the BIRD’s request for an investigation by Formula 1: “Formula 1 is not a cross-border investigation organization. We are a sports rights holder […]. Unlike governments and other organizations, we are unable to take the actions you have requested, and so it does not seem appropriate to me to pretend that we can. “
An answer that Alwadaei does not leave uncommented: “We simply do not accept that a million dollar business like Formula 1 does not have the resources and the capacity to conduct such an investigation. Formula 1 should take its position on this Rethink the subject urgently. “
While Formula 1 has simply rejected the cause of human rights campaigners in Bahrain, Alwadaei expressly praises Hamilton’s commitment: “It is encouraging that Lewis Hamilton is committed to the fight for human rights regardless. Unlike Formula 1, Sir Lewis shows that sport can be a powerful engine for change if you only take a clear position. “
A fine line for the Formula 1 world champion
Understandably, Hamilton does not want to go on a direct confrontation course with Domenicali. It is not easy for him to find the right words, on the one hand to snub rights holders Liberty Media and the royal family in Bahrain and thus endanger diplomatic progress, but on the other hand to still show a clear edge – but he succeeds quite well.
“It is not in my power to decide where we do our races and where we don’t. But […] we have a responsibility and I don’t think human rights should be a political issue. We all deserve equal rights. Is it now the job of Formula 1 to deal with it? It is not my place to judge that. “
“I just think we come to so many places with this sport, we visit so many wonderful countries and cultures, and of course there are problems all over the world,” he says – and takes a clear position when he says: “I think not that we should go to these countries and ignore what is happening there, have a good time there and then just leave. “
Regardless of the human rights issue in Bahrain, Hamilton has also announced that it will continue to kneel on the grid against racism ahead of Sunday’s races. The Mercedes driver started this initiative in 2020 and persuaded many of his driver colleagues to join him.
“The reason for this is very simple,” he explains. “When children see us kneeling down, they will ask their parents or their teachers why the Formula 1 drivers are doing this. And that triggers uncomfortable conversations, because that means that the parents have to find out more about the subject and that Children learn in this way too. “
Hamilton, recently knighted for his social commitment and therefore officially Sir Lewis Hamilton in his British homeland, does not intend to give up on such issues: “This is a fight that is far from being won, but the one will last a very, very long time. I’m sure of that, “he says.