Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk encouraged to speak out on Saudi Arabia

Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk have been urged to speak out on the human rights record of Saudi Arabia ahead of their fight in Riyadh.

Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk are set to come to blows for the undisputed world heavyweight crown on Saturday night - and the two boxers have been urged to use their platform speak out on Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

Saudi Arabia has become a mainstay in the boxing world recently - after the country played host to Callum Smith vs George Groves back in 2018, mega fights such as Anthony Joshua vs Andy Ruiz 2, Tyson Fury vs Francis Ngannou and Anthony Joshua vs Oleksandr Usyk 2 have taken place there.

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However, human rights groups, such as Amnesty International, feel that much work needs to be done to spread awareness of the country’s human rights record and policies.

Not only have Saudi Arabian officials been accused of torturing detainees, they also exercise the death penalty and do not allow their citizens to express their right to freedom of speech. Furthermore, the LBGTQ community in Saudi Arabia is effectively criminalised - public LGBTQ relationships can result in prison or even capital punishment.

Peter Frankental, Amnesty International UK’s economic affairs director, said [via BBC Sport]: “Boxing is very much part of the Saudi sportswashing strategy under Mohammed bin Salman, dating back to at least Anthony Joshua's fight with Andy Ruiz in 2019.

“Glitzy events like Fury v Usyk are designed to rebrand Saudi Arabia as a 'sporting hub' while deflecting attention from the country's jailing of women's rights activists, suppression of free speech and rampant use of the death penalty.

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“At the very same time that the Saudi sportswashing machine has cranked into high gear there's been a widening crackdown on human rights defenders, including the recent 11-year jail sentence handed down against the fitness instructor Manahel al-Otaibi.

“The Leeds University student Salma al-Shehab has been jailed for 27 years for tweeting about women's rights, while the retired teacher Mohammad bin Nasser al-Ghamdi faces execution for his peaceful remarks on Twitter and YouTube.”