Rights groups slam Bahrain F1 blood race

Alwaght- The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy slammed Formula One’s governing body for staging auto races in the Persian Gulf kingdom while serious human rights violations continue in the country.

The Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy in a letter to Jean Todt, president of Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, raised its concerns about serious human rights violations in the tiny monarchy.

Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at Bird, said: “In the past five years severe human rights violations have been committed during the race authorized by the FIA. These include arbitrary arrests, torture and killings. Until now the FIA have shirked responsibility and failed to use their leverage. We want to remind them of their responsibilities, which mean being prepared to cancel the race in coming years.”

In 2012 human rights activists called for the race to be cancelled. A number of team members privately expressed feelings of discomfort as the race went ahead against a background of unrest and demonstrations in the country. Since then the feeling in the paddock has settled down, and felt safer, because of intense security measures.

The letter continues: “Since 2011 the government of Bahrain has continued imprisoning and torturing those expressing dissent. It is widely recognized that the government response is characterized by the unlawful use of state violence, injuring hundreds of people. In 2015 Human Rights Watch exposed reform promises by the government as a ‘sham’ and that torture was still widespread and systematic.”

The second round of the Formula 1 season took place in Bahrain this weekend. Anti-regime protests were held ahead the major sport event.

Termed “Blood race” by victims of Al Khalifa regime, F1 has become symbol of regime’s brutality and indifference to the misery and death of Bahrainis. The Death Squads have been rounding activists’ right, left and center to ensure that no major protests are organized during the event.

On Friday, Amnesty International condemned the Bahraini regime for hosting the international event while brutally cracking down on dissent at the same time.

“Behind the fast cars and the victory laps lies a government that is tightening its chokehold on any remnant of dissent in the country by stepping up arrests, intimidation and harassment of political opposition, critics and activists,” said James Lynch, Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“The alarming erosion of human rights in Bahrain in recent years means that anyone who dares to criticize the authorities or call for reform risks severe punishment,” he said.

The Bahrain Grand Prix has become a prism through which human rights groups have sought to focus attention on the situation in the country after protests in the capital by pro-democracy campaigners in 2011 caused the race to be cancelled.

Partly due to the unapologetic attitude of the Formula One officials, who have tilted the calendar away from Europe and towards Asia and the Middle East, the sport has found itself at the center of the debate over whether human rights should be a factor in staging major sporting events.
Campaigners have warned that hosting the race increases instances of human rights abuses because authorities clamp down further on freedom of speech and assembly.

According to reports recently published by human rights groups monitoring Bahrain, the Al Khalifa regime forces have arrested 50 dissidents in the past two weeks. Rights activists also say that the Formula One event is used as a political tool by Manama to make the world believe that the situation in the country is normal.

Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the Persian Gulf region, has been witnessing almost daily protests against the ruling Al Khalifa dynasty since early 2011, with Manama using heavy-handed measures in an attempt to crush the demonstrations.

Many Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds of others injured and arrested in the ongoing crackdown on the peaceful demonstrations.

Bahraini regime forces backed by Saudi Arabian troops have destroyed mosques and places of worship of the Shiite majority in the island kingdom in a move meant exacerbate sectarian tensions. However Bahraini activists have maintained that their pursuit for democracy is non-sectarian.

Western countries have clearly thrown their support behind the Bahraini regime refusing to go beyond mild rebukes against the government-initiated violence.

By Alwaght