Worrying developments in Bahrain

The press lunch in London to promote the Bahrain Grand Prix gave the impression that all was well in the Gulf kingdom. Within hours, however, there was street fighting again and the country’s leading human rights campaigner was arrested. Nabeel Rajab of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights has long been seen as untouchable because of his high profile, but he was arrested in Saturday before a planned march in Manama which was designed to be a show of solidarity for Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, another human rights activist, who is currently on hunger strike. On Friday, Amnesty International issued a statement calling on Bahraini authorities to release al-Khawaja.

While this was happening a 22-year protester was shot and killed by what protesters say was a militia loyal to the regime. The shots came from a civilian car. The police say that the case is being treated as a murder.

40 thoughts on “Worrying developments in Bahrain

  1. The Bahraini government continues to show its brutal stripe in quelling any protest or demonstration. If the F1 event takes place, there are sure to be demonstrations to attract media attention; to make sure the F1 race goes ahead without interruption, the government is likely to increase its actions against protesters. In the past week, as you said, another protester was killed. How many protesters, demanding self-governance and freedom of expression, will die around the Grand Prix? I love F1, but I have to question motives in holding a race at this time, in this country.

  2. I really hope F1 cancels the race. It’s not worth the risk (safety, reputation of the sport) and going forward will allow the government to say to the world– Everything is fine here.

  3. One has to wonder if the advance recon parties including Damon ever set foot off of a red carpet or lifted their eyes from it. No doubt it they did it was not in the villages or the usual demo assembly areas but in serene approved views. They must have realised that we would be paying close attention to whatever they said.
    On the other hand it is surely to be expected that the opposition will make every effort to capitalise on the forthcoming GP, so the authorities will be correspondingly keen to stop them. So basically expect more!

  4. I presume Bernie has been getting his status reports from the Spanish FIA guy who went there…

    In the meantime, I am reading that a large number of teams don’t think it is going to happen and there are a great many air reservations from China directly back to Europe. Also, the freight is being routed via Dubai where I presume it can either turn left a bit, or head North West depending on what happens.

    1. Bernie doesn’t care what the Spanish FIA representative said. Bernie only cares about Bernie. I suspect Bernie actually wonders why other people are so stupid to turn down money from despots.

      If the race is canceled, it won’t be because of Bernie caring about the people of Bahrain, other forces will have completely driven the process. As we say last year, he’ll only cancel if canceling is the best option for Bernie.

      There are other involved parties who actually could be influenced to do the right thing, among them, the team’s sponsors, the FIA, the teams, Bernie’s paymasters – CVC and perhaps CVC’s investors. These groups could influence Bernie by other means.

      As for Bernie, you can’t pressure someone so completely bereft of conscience “to do the right thing”.

  5. That shows definitely in what trap F1 is going to fall, what backing it is going to give to a well-gunned minority hitting at the majority’s demands for equal rights.
    Of course, how convenient that the West and the Arab kingdom’s attention is all focused on the massacres of Syria…
    Wait. Isn’t finally the F1 GP the only way the people of Barain have got to get the world’s attention?
    Maybe promoting the GP IS the secret way BE has found to come to the people’ help? ;-))
    As for me I won’t watch the GP on TV, and write to my député, to the secretary of sport and so on to tell what I think of this.
    Thanks again, Joe, for keeping us informed

  6. Interesting.

    I noted elsewhere in this blog that it would be interesting if it kicked off with the cars and teams inside the circuit, and asked how much press suppression would be needed to block pics of tanks clearing a way out so that the transporters could reach the airport.

    Interestingly on a BBC Radio talk show this PM one of the contributors said, in context of the discussion’……….’well if we really needed money, and an interesting life, we could always cosy up to an oppressive regime like F1 does’.

    If ‘the word’ gets into common public useage it’ll be interesting to see Bernie on News Night justifying his decision.

    He’s good against people that think they’re clever. But what about against people who actually are clever ?

      1. Bernie would be nowhere to be seen if there’s trouble. He’ll issue a statement about bahrains failed promises and he’ll never find any responsibility laid at his doorstep.

        Much like Murdoch, Bernie has the amazing ability to acquire and dispense with failing mental acuity when the situation requires.

  7. While there is no travel restrictions from the British forgiven office there will surely be restrictions from travel insurance companies for team personel?

    Have you already made your own travel plans? Do you think a lot of the press corps will skip it if they do go?

  8. While I’m totally against the GP. These ( the shooting not the arrest)sounds like small pockets of trouble which are unlikely to affect any racing.
    Chance are I’m probably wrong.

  9. No, no, no, it’s just the media stirring things up. Perhaps Mr E still thinks racing cars are dangerous and sex is safe. No matter how wealthy he is or what he has made F1 more and more he sounds like a man very out of touch with the mood of the world.

  10. Wow, Nabeel Rajab was interviewed by the BBC World Service only a couple of days ago too: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00q86x0 (Direct download here: http://downloads.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/worldservice/ht/ht_20120330-0130a.mp3.) Hopefully, given it’s the world service, it won’t be geolocked.

    I’ll be honest, I haven’t listened to it myself yet, but apparently he did say that the GP shouldn’t go ahead (surprise!).

    Also, according to Gulfnews here, about 10 days ago the authorities said they ARE going to be prosecuting 20 doctors after all, despite their earlier statement that said the charges had been dropped.

  11. I wonder how many Bahrainians will die over the next few weeks to give the illusion that all is well in Bahrain so the F1 circus to will come to town.

    One will be one too many.

    I will not be watching the Bahrain Grand Prix.

    1. Well done – I had already decided that I wasn’t going to watch it if it happened either. That said the Chinese authorities are not exactly paragons of virtue are they?

  12. There’s a statement, attributed to Lenin, that says “the purpose of terrorism is to terrorise”.

    In modern times the best way to terrorise is by way of mass media. In a country where the media is tightly controlled the only way to get the message out is when uncontrolled media is in evidence.

    F1 is nothing if not a mass media marketing machine.

    For the Bahraini opposition this is one of the greatest opportunities to promote their message to the world stage.

    Now without wanting to become a target for some of the more intemperate on the blog, maybe the Bahraini government decided that cancelling last year’s GP was better for them in the long run because it denied the opposition an opportunity to do just that.

    Now, by arresting a high profile member of the opposition and allowing the hunger strike to continue past, I believe 50 days, the government is ratcheting up the pressure.

    Cancelling the GP twice due to unrest sends out a bad message. Trying to shut down the opposition before the media descends on Bahrain is their next, obvious, choice.

    Either way, I don’t think this is going to look good for F1. Will the Bahraini government be able to keep a lid on the growing pressure cooker – who knows – but, I think there’s going to be a lot of nervous F1 people on the ground in late April, assuming the event isn’t cancelled at the eleventh hour.

      1. Just curious to know that what do you think nascar would do if suppose they were to race over there in Bahrain? Would they stay clear of these continuous events?

  13. The protesters will see this as a perfect opertunity to rally on mass before the world media. Which is embarrassing enough for F1 on its own but if shots are fired the whole weekend could turn to desaster.

    I love F1, every single race weekend for me is gripping but for the first time I want it cancelled. This is just too risky.

    Another thought, behind the scenes the sponsors cant be happy. Imagine having your high end brand attributed to slain peacfull democracy protesters before the world…. sheeez

  14. Just makes me sad, this saga, because of the indefatigable misdirection, indefensible spin and incessant hubris we are inflicting not only on ourselves but on the reality of the people on the wrong end of bad circumstances in Bahrain.

    But, in one way, it may yet prove useful. The continuous drip drip of attention Bahrain gets, notably through this news outlet, is starting to make people sit up and think. The more the F1 – Bahrain story carries on, the more people are caused to wonder what it is all about, and think for themselves. Sadly whatever we think at this remove is unlikely to be anywhere close to the truth on the ground, but we are thinking. In a tenuous and speculative manner, it’s not beyond me to think that Joe is doing the race untold good, because the race and it’s continuing coverage here is in fact highlighting the plight of who seem unable to exercise their rights to live as they would wish to conduct themselves in Bahrain and elsewhere. Oddly the race may be good for Bahrain, in just the way who supports their opposition movement would like. Meanwhile, unlike the mainstream media, no-one’s skipping off to the next breaking story and forgetting to look back.

    I may not comment on every Bahrain story, but maybe that is inappropriate laziness. Maybe I need to bring more thought and more of anything notable to these comments sections, and we all should. Better than a hundred back and forth prattlings as to whether a certain team owner is a self absorbed dilettante ignoramus, or the unspeakable claim that a wholesome new talent would tie his hands behind his back.

  15. Joe – slightly off topic. But via the grapevine I heard a rumour that Tamara Eccelstone reportedly said that Bernie is hedging his bets in Australia and looking at moving the F1 race to the Gold Coast to replace the Indy race that was held there.

    1. Knowing the place I’d say it would be a stretch. The chaos the Indy race caused was bad.

      If the F1 circus hit town it would be far worse.

      A lot of the residents don’t like it because they are virtual prisoners, the traffic up the Gold Coast Highway would be atrocious and finally the cost would be prohibitive.

      The fact is that the Albert Park track is great. It would be a wonderful thought to see F1 cars screaming around Mount Panorama but I don’t think that would ever happen, much as I’d love to see it. Too far away from anything.

      Sydney would have to have a street race to make it worthwhile because Eastern Creek is just ordinary, not to mention the traffic snarls that would exist getting there and back. To have a street race it would have to be a picturesque site for TV, so near the harbour would be great, except, Sydney traffic is horrific and sadly even I as a long time F1 fan would be muttering expletives under my breath at the gridlock something like that would cause.

      It grates that Melbourne has the race and Sydney doesn’t but unless someone comes up with a great idea I can’t see a competitive venue, but, if someone can come up with one that doesn’t turn Sydney into the worlds largest parking lot I’m there.

      1. A1GP was ridiculously tight, bordering on the downright dangerous, around Eastern Creek a few years ago. Unless it’s since been extended / redesigned, I can’t see F1 cars there.

  16. I read David Tremaynes piece in F1 Racing magazine. Very good analysis of the situation.

    F1 does not need this race this year, maybe in the future a return, but not now while it is all still so volatile

    Iain T

    1. Wow, Haymarket have grown some balls?? I may have to buy it, just to reward them, and also to read Mr. Tremayne’s good words, of course.

  17. hi all, apearantly the opposition in bahrain dont want the benifits thats comes out of Formula one races to the Bahraini people, what we have seen in the previus years that the country gets busy every where, that more income to the bahraini people if you wants to talk on behalf of the citizens as Nabeel Rajab is doing, he need to see whats the benifits that the people makes out of F1, i.e. taxi drivers, hotels, restaurants, local suppliers for machinary and other items that teams need to use during their preps for the race, car rental suppliers, valet parking workers etc.
    i have never seen the oposition supporting the race sence 2004 in Bahrain, they wants to government to build houses instead of the race track, so lets say they build it, whats other benifits bahrainies will get, they have to think more businiss other wise the government will end up building hoses for the rest of our life.
    so people if you wants to consider the oposition acts as they are F1 fans, sorry you are totaly wrong


    1. If you think the concerns of the rest of the world relate to whether or not the opposition like F1, you are sadly deluded. If as i suspect you are a sockpuppet for the regime, and your statement reflects their position, I despair.

  18. Trouble in Bahrain? F1 about to put its big glittery foot right in it? Who woulda thunk it?

    Now, if you were leading an opposition group and pondering how to get the whole world watching, what might you be up to right about now?

    (Still waiting on a report from the “Let’s Not Be Stupid” Parliamentary Group…)

  19. Wanted to make a a point that this Bahrain thing could alienate F1 across the middle east. But there were riots in London and the Olympics are going ahead. There were riots in the USA close to and just before the Olympics there. There were riots in South Africa before the FIFA World Cup. Perhaps a statement of solidarity by the drivers carefully worded to be sympathetic to the oppressed and for any eventual changes is in order?
    Please may I make a comment on the holes in the Mercedes rear wing? Perhaps they just don’t work in the wet.

  20. Why F1 race should be cancelled ?
    Simply it’s brutal DECTATORSHIP looking for big even to blow the dust and smoke in the media where it’s crimes against humanity will be covered. It’s need F1 even to use it as stage & convenes every one that everything is fine in my lovely county, well it’s not fine anymore. This regime had distributed thousands of hand guns to it’s thoughs, ppl in civilian cars rooming in the roads and attack, kidnap and “YES” killing ppl.
    Everyone know this country , know that no one hd guns but the regime.
    Ppl fired from their job
    Sister of Ahmed Ismail 22yrs that been killed had fired from her government job after telling the media that the DR Had lied and did not wrote the correct cause of death in the death certificate of her brother! It was a day off when she talked to media and she got a call from that ministry telling her DON’T COME TO WORK!

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