Silver Lining

Food for thought

Protests escalate as Bahrain prepares for F1 race

by Dave Brown


Formula one moves to Bahrain this weekend, with the Grand Prix again taking place against a backdrop of long-running dissent and continued protest.

In 2011 the race was shelved due to pro-democracy protests but resumed last year, despite calls for it to be axed due to human rights abuses and heavy-handed police tactics against protesters.

The run-up to Sunday’s race has again witnessed an increase in protests by opposition groups and a crackdown by the Bahrain authorities, prompting fresh calls for F1 to question its annual presence in the country on ethical grounds.

Young protesters who took to the streets sounding drums have called the race “the Formula of blood”.

Formula One’s commercial rights holder, Bernie Ecclestone, though, has dismissed concerns about holding the race in the country, while the Bahrain government has pledged to take “appropriate” measures to ensure security.

One notable absentee from the race will be Jean Todt, as he seeks re-election as president of world motorsport governing body the FIA.

Graffiti on walls said: “No F1. Don’t race on our blood.”

This comes as Bahrain’s main opposition bloc called for more peaceful anti-regime demonstrations across the Persian Gulf state ahead of the upcoming Formula One Grand Prix.
“I am calling on people to share peaceful protests to send a message to the world about our demand for peaceful democratic reform,” said Sheikh Ali Salman, head of Bahrain’s al-Wefaq opposition group, on Wednesday.

Salman further urged Bahrainis to take advantage of the spotlight shone on the kingdom due to the international racing event to showcase their message of change.

“I am against violence. Our protest is to take place today, tomorrow and on Friday,” the al-Wefaq leader said.

Khalil Marzouq, a leading figure of the al-Wefaq party, also said tens of thousands of people are expected to take part in the main anti-regime demonstration, which is scheduled to be held on Friday.

“These demonstrations show that the movement continues and the demands have not been met yet. Obviously, the presence of the media for the Formula One helps shed the spotlight on Bahrain,” Marzouq added.


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