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Saudi Arabia accused of using golf tournament to 'sportswash' its human rights record

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By Angela Barnes
Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, who heads the kingdom’s General Sports Authority
Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, who heads the kingdom’s General Sports Authority   -   Copyright  Credit: AP photos

Saudi Arabia has been accused of using sport to build up a positive reputation and distract from its human rights record. 

Amnesty International says the kingdom's hosting this week of its first professional golf tournament for women is an example of "sportswashing". 

"We know that women have been in jail for the past two years for having done nothing but just called for reforms and for claiming their rights," Lynn Maalouf, the human rights organisation's deputy regional director, told Euronews. 

"Amnesty for instance has documented over 60 cases of persons who were either tried or charged or sentenced, only for exercising their very basic right of peacefully expressing their views.

"So doing all of these PR stunts and these sports activities, it would be fantastic to actually be able to comment on them as positive and for the Saudi society but as long as this is going on in parallel with the very serious human rights abuses going on and with dozens and dozens of peaceful citizens locked up in jail then this is just pure hypocrisy."

The Saudi Ladies International golf tournament started yesterday and ends on Sunday.

It is taking place at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club with prize money in the region of €846,000.

Last year, Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki al-Faisal, the 36-year-old royal who heads Saudi Arabia’s General Sports Authority, told Associated Press:  “Saudi Arabia is going through a transformation.

“We were always criticised that we are not opening up to the world, we’re not doing anything in the kingdom, we’re not opening up to tourism.

“Now that we’re doing it, they’re calling it ‘sportswash’.”