F1 teams urged to boycott Bahrain Grand Prix

Activists push for rethink on April race in light of rights abuses, ongoing protests in Gulf state

Bahrain scrapped its Grand Prix this year following widespread civil unrest

Bahrain scrapped its Grand Prix this year following widespread civil unrest

Human rights groups have urged Formula One teams to consider boycotting the Bahrain Grand Prix in April amid continued political unrest in the Gulf kingdom.

Bahrain’s season-opening race at Sakhir circuit was postponed last March after widespread political unrest in the country and the deaths of a number of pro-reform demonstrators.

Efforts were made to reschedule the race, but the Gulf state was eventually dropped from the 2011 calendar in June after protests from Formula One teams and drivers.

“We will do campaign for….drivers and teams to boycott. The government wants Formula One to tell the outside world that everything is back to normal,” said Nabeel Rajab, vice president for Bahrain Center for Human Rights.

“Formula One, if they come, they are helping the government to say [it is normal]. We would prefer it if they didn’t take part. I am sure the drivers and teams respect human rights.”

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone said in November he would press ahead with plans to return the race to Bahrain and did not believe the Grand Prix would become a focal point for protesters.

“It's on the calendar. We'll be there, unless something terrible happens to stop us,” he said.

Bahrain reportedly paid around £25m ($39.2m) in hosting fees for last year’s scrapped three-day race, after refusing an offer of a refund from F1’s Jersey-based parent company, Delta Topco.

“They have internal politics and I doubt very much whether they'd use international matters to sort out internal politics,” Ecclestone added.

Thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets in February and March last year demanding curbs on the power of the ruling Al-Khalifa family and an end to perceived discrimination.

The pro-democracy movement was suppressed with the help of military forces brought in from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But small, low-level protests have persisted on an almost daily basis.

Mariwan Hama-Saeed of New York-based Human Rights Watch said F1 should rethink the race in light of a report into the crackdown that found police guilty of using excessive force and torture.

 “[The FIA] should consider the serious abuse of human rights in Bahrain and the fact that to this day authorities continue to suppress pro-democracy protests.” Mariwan Hama-Saeed of New York-based Human Rights Watch told Arabian Business.

“I doubt that Formula One can be a success in a country where serious human rights abuses have been committed. The political situation is unstable and polarised in Bahrain. We are very concerned about the government's commitment to implement meaningful reform.

A spokesperson for the Bahrain International Circuit said the Gulf kingdom was acting “swiftly and convincingly” on the report’s recommendations and said the race would go ahead.

“The Bahrain Grand Prix forms a fundamental part of the local economy,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement.”The independent report was a milestone for Bahrain and we will now work tirelessly to ensure that the race is a great success."

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Posted by: Peace loving

As an expat residing in Bahrain, I will see the things with different angles. The picture portrayed by the International media and Human right group is contrary what happen in Bahrain. Asking for democracy and better living condition on what ground. When protesters putting fire their own school, blocking the roads, abusing, beating and even killing poor immigrant workers and security personals. They have thanks to God that all they have. Blocking F1 is not the way to convey your message. Come on the table talk with the government which your group refuse so many times. Stop vandalism and respect the right for other. Inshah Allah F1 will be more successful alongwith Bahrain Airshow which begin today

Posted by: B. Michael

Bahrain's political difficulties stem from the actions of a minority of thugs who will do anything to derail reforms, which the Government is doing everything to implement. 6 weeks ago, the head of the independent commission, acting similar to a court prosecutor, stood in front of the King and laid out human rights abuses committed by the Government. In his unprecedented response, the King admitted the failings. How many other countries would do that? I live in Bahrain and healing wounds opened during the unrest and subsequent violent demonstrations, which are usually effected by teenagers, at the direction of rouge religious and political leaders, is the biggest challenge facing Bahrain. Rather than sit in their offices criticizing, these so called human rights leaders should put feet on the ground in Bahrain and live with the daily disruptions to the lives of most Bahrainis, regardless of political and religious beliefs. The Bahrain GP could easily unite people. It must go ahead.

Posted by: Mohamed

We welcome F1 race in Bahrain,,, BUT when we are ready for it.
Having the race in Bahrain will just give the chance to this government to show nothing is there. We want our rights before any race be held here.
Please do help putting pressure on this government if feel we are human!!

Posted by: Bahrani

No F1 in brutal Bahrain :(
People of Bahrain are killed by the teargas, torture, bullets, & even inside prisons!! Alot of people lose there jobs , because of prodemocracy demonstrations.
The regime want recovering International confidence, while he still engaged in repressive actions. Dont help Bahrain regime to do that in Baharain.

Posted by: Bern

Nothing wrong with holding the F1 in Bahrain - one of the most democratic, friendly and open coutries in the Middle East. I know, I live here...and its sad the way the media loves to paint a completely distorted picture of life here. But, I wonder if all the armchair critics who like to go on about human rights and democracy are going to be as vocal about the Shanghai GP?! I think not somehow...

Posted by: Salis

Totally agree. The dissenters should take their proteste to the country opposite the straits and see how well they do in Human rights!!

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