Human Rights Campaigners "Upset" by David Beckham's Visit to Bahrain GP
2019-04-05 - 6:23 am
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Campaigners for democracy and human rights in Bahrain have criticised David Beckham and other British celebrities for attending Sunday's Formula One race in the Gulf state.
The 43-year-old Beckham posted a picture of himself waving the chequered flag at the Bahrain Grand Prix on Instagram and was also seen meeting Crown Prince Salman.
The director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei said: "It's upsetting to see David Beckham enjoying the Bahrain Grand Prix and shaking hands with Bahrain's tyrants.
"While he smiles to the camera waving the Grand Prix flag, he should not forget the thousands of political prisoners that are jailed because they stood against repression.
"He should remember female activist Najah Yusuf, who paid a heavy price for opposing the race in 2017, and is now languishing in prison after being subjected to sexual assault and abuse."
Speaking to PA Sport, Amnesty UK's head of policy Allan Hogarth said: "Clearly hosting F1 is seen by the authorities in Bahrain as another opportunity to launder their image and distract attention away from the country's severe restrictions on basic freedoms.
"It would be great to see some of the high-profile sports fans in attendance flying the flag for human rights, and speaking out on behalf of the brave people there like Nabeel Rajab, convicted and sentenced to five years in prison simply for tweeting about the war in Yemen and torture in prisons."
While Aya Majzoub, a Bahrain researcher for Human Rights Watch, said: "Those involved in Bahrain's Grand Prix should ask if they are helping to cheer-lead a government which tortures and imprisons peaceful critics."
Representatives for Beckham have not responded to a PA Sport request for comment.
Beckham, however, was not the only recognisable face at the Grand Prix, as Prince Andrew, his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson and their daughter Princess Beatricewere also there as royal guests, with film director Guy Ritchie, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones and television presenter Carol Vorderman also spotted.
There were calls from inside and outside the sport to quit Bahrain permanently but F1 returned in 2012 and the sport has largely ignored criticism of the country's dismal human rights record ever since.