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A few weeks before the first F1 Grand Prix in Qatar, the president of the Qatari Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, Abdulrahman al-Mannai, assured that the drivers will have the opportunity to “express themselves freely” on the situation of human rights in the emirate.
Qatar wants to reassure and silence the critics by promising that they can be issued. This is the paradoxical strategy of the gas emirate, regularly criticized by international NGOs on respect for human rights.
While Qatar will host the first F1 Grand Prix in its history on November 21, the drivers, including the Briton Lewis Hamilton, seven-time world champion very committed to societal issues, “will be able to express themselves freely on their platforms”, attempted to defuse Abdulrahman al-Mannai, president of the Qatar Automobile and Motorcycle Federation, in an interview with AFP.
“We have no problem with that in Qatar, as they are free to say whatever they want,” he added.
For the protocol ceremony after the race, the pilots will not be able to sand the champagne on the podium: “We have our values and our culture, we respect the culture of others. (…) We will not use champagne or ‘alcohol during the podium ceremony, but there will be an alternative, “said the head of the Qatari federation.
Qatar is regularly condemned by NGOs for the treatment given to the hundreds of thousands of workers, especially from Asia on the major construction sites of the World Cup, which it will organize in November and December 2022.
Amnesty International calls on pilots to speak out
Last March, the gas emirate was the target of protests from players from several national football teams – Norway, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands – on the sidelines of qualifying matches for the 2022 World Cup. These teams sported T-shirts criticizing the situation and others raised the threat of boycott.
Amnesty International also had in a statement F1 to “insist that all contracts relating to this race contain strict labor standards in all supply chains.”
Faced with criticism, Qatar has introduced several reforms to its labor law, such as the abolition of the “exit visa” for domestic workers, the introduction of a monthly minimum wage (1.12 euros per hour) or even the abolition of the employers’ “no objection” certificate for workers wishing to change jobs.
“Qatar is now open (…) to criticism. In recent years, Qatar has worked to improve the situation of workers,” insisted Abdulrahman al-Mannai. “We have made considerable progress. Of course, the system is not yet perfect.”
The Qatar F1 Grand Prix, scheduled for November 21, replaces the Australian Grand Prix, which was canceled due to the pandemic and health restrictions. Qatar has pledged to host F1 for the next ten years at the Losail circuit.
The announcement at the end of September of the partnership is far from having unanimously delighted fans of the discipline. The latter criticized the decision by hijacking the #WeRaceAsOne (“We will run together”) campaign, launched by Formula 1 to fight inequality and racism by turning it into #WeRaceForMoney: we run for money.