Ali Al-Hajee Sends Letter to F1 Champion Lewis Hamilton from Jail
2022-03-15 - 9:25 م
Bahrain Mirror: On Monday, Ali Al-Hajee, a prisoner in Bahrain, wrote to Lewis Hamilton explaining how the seven-times champion had made a difference.
Al-Hajee explained that the political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in Bahrain's Jaw prison had previously boycotted watching F1 because of its role in sportswashing the regime. Hamilton's outspoken stance on human rights and his support last year for some political prisoners who wrote to him from Bahrain has changed their attitude.
"Your genuine concern about these cases has changed the way prisoners think of this sport," he wrote in a letter shared with the Guardian by the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (Bird). "To us, you are our champ, not only the best in driving but also a human being who cares about the suffering of others. To reflect our support to you, a new phenomenon spread in the prison. Inmates began to write or draw ‘Sir 44' or ‘Lewis 44' on their clothes, which we would wear in support while watching the race."
Al-Hajee claims he has been subjected to torture during his interrogation and that he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for organising peaceful protests in Manama, the capital of Bahrain. "I am a free man despite my handcuffs and the prison walls. The cement walls in this prison did not stop me from exposing the human rights abuses we suffer from within," he told Hamilton.
"The prisoners view you not only as a world sports champion but as someone who is defending their human rights. I, along with my other cellmates, wish you the very best in your race in Bahrain. Please remember that you have supporters in the prison who will follow and cheer you on for all of your races."
Various groups are once more demanding F1 and the FIA act to make a difference in Bahrain, which has recently signed what is believed to be the longest contract in F1 history in regards to hosting meetings - to 2036. Bird has written to F1 questioning its failure to set up an inquiry investigating the race's impact on human rights abuse and requested it use its platform and influence with Bahrain to secure redress for victims of abuses. The organization cites the state's "heavy repression" last year and how it has "sustained its violent campaign of persecution against political dissidents, and escalated its targeting of children."
A coalition of human rights groups will write to F1 on Tuesday expressing their desire for the sport's owners to take action, while a cross-party group of MPs from the UK and Europe will address their concerns on Wednesday about Bahrain to the FIA, demanding the sport's governing body takes responsibility for the race's impact in Bahrain.