Amnesty International have expressed their deep concerns after the Ladies European Tour announced it will stage two events in Saudi Arabia in November.
On Monday, the Ladies European Tour (LET) announced two new events to be held in Saudi Arabia later this year for a total of $1.5 million in prize funds, marking it the first professional female golf tournaments ever staged in Saudi Arabia.
The LET insisted that it was a “landmark moment for women’s sport in the kingdom” when confirming the tournaments. These tournaments however are highly controversial given Saudi’s high-profile human rights violations.
“With leading Saudi women’s rights activists currently languishing behind bars, there’s an unmistakable irony to the spectacle of Saudi Arabia throwing open its heavily-watered greens to the world’s leading women golfers like this,” Kate Allen, director of Amnesty International UK, told the Guardian.
“Under the Crown Prince, Saudi Arabia has embarked on a major sport washing drive – attempting to use the glamour and prestige of big-money sporting events as a PR tool to distract from its abysmal human rights record,” added Allen.
“It’s almost exactly two years since the grisly murder of Jamal Khashoggi. It’s clear the Saudi authorities would prefer that golf handicaps are discussed this week, not their whitewash over Khashoggi’s killing.
“Every golfer considering whether to compete in Saudi Arabia ought to take a proper look at the human rights situation in the country and be prepared to speak out.
“We’d urge any golfer who makes the trip to Saudi Arabia in November to use her profile to help highlight human rights issues in the country, not least with an expression of solidarity with jailed women’s human rights defenders like Loujain al-Hathloul or Nassima al-Sada.”
The $1 million Aramco Saudi Ladies International will take place November 12-15 and the $500,000 Saudi Ladies Team International will be held November 17-19. The Aramco Saudi Ladies International will be the third highest-paying event on the LET schedule, behind the Scottish Open and AIG Women’s British Open.