For years Bloody Elbow’s Karim Zidan has reported on the intersection of sports and politics. Specifically, Zidan has identified incidents where powerful (and often despotic) regime use sports to advance their goals.
Sometimes those goals include distracting the international community, and corporate partners, from human rights abuses. This practice has been coined ‘sportwashing’.
Recently Zidan appeared on a panel, organized by the Oslo Freedom Forum, to discuss Saudi Arabia and their sportwashing practices. Appearing alongside Zidan was Russian chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov and Saudi dissident Areej al-Sadhan.
Al-Sadhan works for the humanitarian group Red Crescent Movement. In 2018 her brother, Abdulrahman al-Sadhan, was detained by Saudi Arabia’s secret police. Al-Sadhan’s family has not heard from him since a short phone-call in February and they fear he may have been killed (per Bloomberg News).
Between 1985 and 2005 Kasparov won 6 World Championships. Since retiring from chess Kasparov has written extensively about human rights abuses and corruption in Vladimir Putin’s Russia. He is currently the chairman for the Human Rights Foundation, a non-profit organization focuses on human rights and promoting democracy.
Ahmed Gatnash moderated the discussion. He is the co-founder of the Kawaakibi Foundation, an NGO focused on human rights and political reform in the Middle East and North Africa.
The panel can be viewed below: