Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton has been a champion of several social, political and humanitarian causes in recent times. Ever since he secured his seventh title last month, making him the joint-record holder with Michael Schumacher, the 35-year-old Briton has been receiving letters from Bahraini citizens seeking his help and influence.
However, one particular letter – from 11-year-old Ahmed Ramadhan asking him to help save his father from a death sentence – Hamilton claimed, “really (hit) home.”
LETTER OF HOPE
Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), an advocacy group in London, said that the letter, accompanied by a drawn picture of Hamilton’s race car, said: “Lewis, please save my father. When I was drawing the car, I felt hope that it might save my father’s life.”
“I really hope Lewis Hamilton delivers my message so my dad can come back home,” Agence France-Presse reported.
Ramadhan’s father Mohammed, a security guard, was allegedly arrested in 2014 for the death of a policeman, and subsequently sentenced to death. Human rights groups, however, have claimed that confessions that led to the conviction were forced through torture.
Ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last weekend, Hamilton addressed the letter at a press conference.
“I think the saddest thing for me was that there is a young man on death row and it’s not clear… when his son writes me a letter, that really hits home. All lives matter. I think there’s definitely work to be done in the background,” he said. “I definitely won’t let it go unnoticed. When I get some time now, I will definitely try and speak to those (people) and see how I can positively impact that (race) weekend (in future).”
“A picture is worth a 1000 words”
AP: Included with the letters to @LewisHamilton was a photo of 11-year-old Ahmed, who is proudly holding up his drawing of Hamilton’s Mercedes F1 car.
— Sayed Ahmed AlWadaei (@SAlwadaei) December 13, 2020
The Bahrain Grand Prix has been a regular on the F1 circuit since the first race in 2004. It’s also the country’s biggest sporting event.
COVID INTERRUPTS MEETING
Hamilton claimed that he had hoped to meet Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa to address the issue of social injustice prevalent in the kingdom. He had hoped to attend the meeting while in the Middle-Eastern country that hosted back-to-back Grand Prix on November 29 and December 6.
However, Hamilton tested positive for the coronavirus at the time, and was forced to miss the second race.
The Mercedes driver has been vocal in his support for the Black Lives Matter movement that gained steam in May after the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of the police. In fact, Hamilton has also been critical of the F1’s apparent lack of responsiveness when it comes to addressing human rights issues, especially in countries where races take place.
“We realise we’ve got to face and not ignore the human rights issues in the countries that we go to, not just 20 years, 30 years from now, but now,” he had said after securing his seventh world title after winning the Turkish Grand Prix in November.
In Abu Dhabi, Hamilton added: “Naturally, the human rights issue in so many of the places that we go to is a consistent and a massive problem. We are probably one of the only ones that (go) to so many different countries and I do think as a sport we need to do more.”
FORMULA ONE’S STANCE
In a statement, the F1 claimed it had been vigilant regarding social injustice around the world.
“We have always been clear with all race promoters and Governments with which we deal worldwide that we take violence, abuse of human rights and repression very seriously.”
However, there have been constant protests by activists ahead of the annual Bahrain Grand Prix, seeking the race to be cancelled in light of the government’s alleged human rights violations.
BAHRAIN GOVERNMENT’S TAKE
Ever since Bahraini citizens – both current and former political prisoners – started to appeal to Hamilton to support their cause, the government of the country has claimed that it respects freedom of expression and the right to protest.
“No person is arrested or prosecuted for the peaceful expression of their opinion, and all persons arrested (regardless of the charge) benefit from full due process safeguards, including the right to representation and the right to fair trial before Bahrain’s independent judiciary,” read a statement reported by The Guardian.
The statement also addressed the claim about the use of torture in Ramadhan’s case.
“Further, the claims of torture and/or retribution are categorically denied.”