Human rights organisation International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) has expressed its concerns over the recent announcement that UAE Team Emirates are acquiring a UCI women’s team for 2022.
The organisation has suggested the United Arab Emirates' involvement in a women's cycling team is "deeply regrettable" when considering that it is "a regime that systematically discriminates against women in law and in practice".
Phil Lynch, Director at International Service for Human Rights, realises that while investment in women's sport is essential, gaining this investment from the UAE is another attempt from the state to try and "wash its dirty human rights record".
Lynch told Cycling Weekly: "The establishment and sustainable resourcing of new women’s WorldTour teams is long overdue but very welcome. Women have the right, and we all have the responsibility, to ensure that women can participate and compete in sports on an equal level with men. Sponsors with a commitment to the fundamental values of equality, dignity and non-discrimination should step up in this regard.
"It is deeply regrettable, however, that the establishment and resourcing of a new women’s tour team relies on the United Arab Emirates, a regime that systematically discriminates against women in law and in practice and that frequently criminalises and detains those who stand up for women’s rights and other human rights. This is yet another example of the UAE’s practice of using sporting sponsorships and cultural events to wash its dirty human rights record."
Lynch continues, condemning the UAE's human rights record while calling for activists such as Ahmed Mansoor to be released from prison.
"ISHR calls on the UAE to release all of those human rights defenders like Ahmed Mansoor who have been arbitrarily detained solely for their work to promote human rights, equality and justice. The UAE should also guarantee a safe and enabling environment for the work of human rights defenders, and repeal all laws providing for male guardian authority over female family members."
ISHR's comments come after the current men’s WorldTour team announced on Tuesday that it will buy the UCI licence of Italian-registered Alé BTC Ljubljana, in order to launch its own women’s team.
It is expected that once the sale of the Alé BTC Ljubljana women's team goes through and is approved by the UCI, the team will then be registered in the UAE.
UAE Team Emirates team manager Mauro Gianetti said: “We are pleased to announce that we are working to create a female team to compete on the world stage as part of the UAE's ambition to develop cycling, in support of a global project that started back in 2017.
“Together with the Alé BTC Ljubljana Team we have found the right opportunity and the availability we were looking for and, in collaboration with the UCI, we are preparing all the necessary documents for the completion of the acquisition of the WorldTour licence starting from 1 January 2022.”
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