By Andy Sambidge
Shiite opposition group set to hold daily demonstrations following Formula 1 go-ahead
Bahrain's Shiite opposition on Sunday announced a week of daily pro-democracy protests in the Gulf kingdom in the run-up to the Formula One Grand Prix race scheduled for next Sunday.
Al-Wefaq, Bahrain's largest Shiite bloc, said on its website it plans sit-ins and demonstrations under the banner of "steadfastness and challenge", AFP reported.
The protests will take place in Shiite villages on the outskirts of Manama, including one on Tuesday near Bahrain's International Airport, according to Al-Wefaq which has spearheaded calls for democratic reform.
AFP quoted Al-Wefaq as saying there were no plans for protests near the Sakhir circuit where the race will be held on April 22.
However, the "Revolution of February 14" youth group, whose members have repeatedly clashed with security forces, has called for "three days of rage" from April 20-22 to protest against the decision by motorsport chiefs to go ahead with the race.
Al-Wefaq leader Abdel Jalil Khalil told AFP the bloc would not try to prevent the race from happening but was organising the protests to "take advantage of this week's race to highlight our political and democratic demands."
On Friday, both F1 governing body the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) and commercial rights holder Bernie Ecclestone declared that the race would go ahead as scheduled.
US-based Human Rights Watch condemned the decision, claiming it would "obscure the seriousness of the country's human rights situation".
The race was cancelled last year in the wake of the Shiite-led uprising and the crackdown that followed.
The opposition wants to protest; bring it on!!!
However, they should realise that either they engage in their right to peaceful protest; in which case they will have their opportunity to be heard in organized and licensed demonstrations outside the racing stadium; or they can resort to their usual tactics of violence, throwing molotovs and sabotage - in which case the police will exercise their duty to protect the public and keep these extremists miles away from the event. The protesters cannot have it both ways.
Unfortunately the opposition has generally chosen the latter option in recent months, which has resulted in its support collapsing in Bahrain, leaving behind a hard-core of extremist revolutionaries. Bahrainis don't want them and we reject their intolerant and sectarian vision for Bahrain.
We hope that the Grand Prix will represent a positive turning point away from the divisions of the last few months, which is why we are so pleased to welcome the F1 to our soil.