Ecclestone repeats Bahrain denials
Keith Collantine – 15 April, 2013 – NBC
Bernie Ecclestone has repeated his claim that there are no demonstrations against this weekend’s Formula One race in Bahrain.
“They’re demonstrating now? I didn’t know that,” he said when asked by news agency AFP. “There’s nobody demonstrating.”
A car exploded late on Sunday in the financial district of the country’s capital Manama. A group calling itself the February 14 movement – a reference to the pro-democracy protests of 2011 that were brutally suppressed by the government – claimed responsibility.
That year’s race was cancelled due to the crisis. Last year’s Grand Prix went ahead amid extremely tight security. Despite that Force India team members were involved in an incident when a petrol bomb struck one of their vehicles. They later missed one of the practice sessions so their team could return to their hotel before nightfall.
Bahrain information minister Samira Rajab blamed the explosion on “terrorists” but claimed “there has been no major escalation of violence on the ground recently as the F1 Bahrain Grand Prix is drawing nearer.”
International media reports protests have been happening every day. Last week Human Rights Watch accused the Bahrain government of arresting over 20 people without warrants to prevent them from protesting during the race weekend.
Meanwhile the hacking group Anonymous, which took down the official Formula One website during last year’s Grand Prix, has threatened to cause further disruption again this year.
Asked if he thought the race would be a success Ecclestone replied “there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be”. …more
April 16, 2013 No Comments
Bahrain NGOs Publish Letters to F1 Organizers in Advance of Race
The full text of the letter addressed to Formula One teams is below:
Dear Formula One team,
We are writing to ask you to rethink your commitment to the 2013 Bahrain Grand Prix and pull out of the race. If the race goes ahead, it will be taking place in a country whose government continues to commit gross human rights violations, from arbitrary arrests to torture. Bahrain’s jails contain hundreds of political prisoners, police use excess force with impunity, and opposition members have been stripped of their citizenship.
Given the global controversy and public outcry, last year’s Bahrain Grand Prix was an embarrassment to the sport and all those who took part. The race was used by the Bahrain government to broadcast a false picture of normality to the outside world, whilst also preventing entry to journalists who wanted to see the reality on the ground.
The 2012 race was held under conditions which effectively amounted to martial law. In the weeks preceding it, many activists and protest leaders were arrested, some of whom subsequently spent months in jail. Foreign journalists were attacked, arrested, and even deported. During the weekend of the race, a young man, Salah Abbas Habib, was shot dead by security forces. His body, bearing marks of torture, was dumped on a rooftop.
The situation in Bahrain has not improved since last year. If anything, it is getting worse. The Bahrain government has made many pledges of reform, but it is doing nothing to implement them. In November 2012, a report by the Project on Middle East Democracy found that only three of the twenty-six recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry have been fully implemented. In the same month, Amnesty International released a report describing the human rights situation in Bahrain as, “Reform shelved, repression unleashed”. In February 2013, Human Rights Watch visited Bahrain and found there to be “no progress on reform”. In the same month, police killed two protesters.
The race is scheduled to take place at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC) on 21 April 2013. In 2011, at the height of the government crackdown, many permanent members of BIC staff were dismissed from their jobs, arrested and tortured. To date, there has been no justice for these Formula One workers. By continuing to race on this track, Formula One is facilitating the culture of impunity through which the authorities have operated. …more
April 16, 2013 No Comments
10 April, 2013 – By Dean Walsh – World News Curator
Human Rights Watch (HRW) claimed on Wednesday that police in Bahrain have arrested 20 opposition activists from towns surrounding the country’s Formula One circuit, ahead of the international Grand Prix event on April 21st.
The government of Bahrain has refuted the allegations.
Pro-democracy protests linked to the ‘Arab Spring’ movement first started in Bahrain near the beginning of 2011. The initial protests were quelled by security forces after the government declared a state of martial law, which lasted until June 2011. Since then there have been regular protests, many of which have ended in clashes between police and protesters. There have also been many allegations of government oppression from international groups such as HRW.
Bahrain is rules by A Sunni royal family, but has a majority Shi’ite population. Many Shi’ites claim that they are actively discriminated against by the state.
A statement from HRW claims that the 20 activists were detained without a warrant, with the intention of preventing protests from taking place during the Grand Prix. Protesters gained widespread global media attention during last year’s Grand Prix as images of violent clashes between protesters and police were beamed around the world.
Information Minister Sameera Rajab denied the allegations, insisting that nobody could be arrested in Bahrain without a warrant. “This doesn’t happen in Bahrain. If there is any action against peace and security, it must be dealt with according to law,” he said.
April 11, 2013 No Comments
April 11, 2013 No Comments
April 9, 2013 No Comments
April 5, 2013 No Comments
Bahrain Freedom Movement – 5 April, 2013
As the Bahraini people continue their revolt against staging the Formula 1 race under the patronage of the Alkhalifa, the regime has intensified its crackdown against the pro-democracy activists, detaining and torturing them in revenge.
At least fifteen people were arrested on Wednesday, taken to the torture dungeons and abused. More were snatched from Duraz, Sitra and other towns as pre-emptive desperate steps to stop people exposing Alkhalifa crimes to the world during the race. The walls in several towns and villages were decorated with paintings and cartoons highlighting the people’s predicaments as the regime’s mouthpieces went into full swing to present deceptive image of a country ravaged by Revolution. “Don’t race on our blood” is the main message to the teams and drivers of the F1, with cartoons depicting Bahrain’s dictator using people’s blood as fuel to the cars.
One of the victims of the decision to hold F1 race in Bahrain is Abdul Ghani Hassan Al Rayes, 66 from Duraz Town. He was martyred on Monday night 31st March as he waited for his son to be released from the torturers hands. The son had been arrested earlier in the day together with other young boys for chanting anti-regime slogans. They were taken to Budayya’s police station where they were interrogated, tortured and abused as their families waited outside. The martyr was in agony as he heard the cries of his son being tortured. He was suffering in silence. As the cries of the victims intensified, he started feeling pain in his chest. When his other son requested his father be seated or offered water the torturers refused. He was rushed to hospital by his son but died on the way. The way he lost his wife has touched Bahrainis who are dying in silence as their anger boils inside them at the way their country is being raped by the Alkhalifa dictators and Saudi occupiers. His funeral was savagely attacked by members of the Death Squads operated by the dictator’s royal court.
Meanwhile, the Saudi regime has put one of its most famous victims on trial. Sheikh Nimr Al Nimr is accused of “spreading corruption on earth” for calling for democratic rights and an end to the Al Saudi hereditary dictatorship. On 8th July 2012 he was arrested after being seriously wounded by the regime’s forces. He was taken to hospital under military guard where he was surrounded by soldiers. He was then transferred to jail where he was abused and ill-treated. He is accused of opposing the regime and plotting to overthrow the tyrannical AlSaud dynasty. This serious development comes at a time of heightened tension in the land of Arabia as a result of regime’s intensification of repression and dictatorship. The Prosecution has called for beheading Sheikh Nimr Al Nimr, who is from the down-trodden Eastern Province and who had wholeheartedly supported the Bahraini Revolution. Scholars in several countries have issued statements warning the Saudis of dire consequences if the respected spiritual leader is executed by a regime that has always lacked popular legitimacy. The Saudis must release Sheikh Al Nimr lest they inflame the situation further. The country is facing increasing tension as the people, both Shia and Sunni, continue their calls for release of their prisoners. …more
April 5, 2013 No Comments
April 5, 2013 No Comments
It’s time to stop dealing with Bahrain
By Sara Yasin – 26 April, 2012 – Telegraph
In the pages of The Daily Telegraph on Monday, John Yates, the former assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police now working in Bahrain advising the government on police reform, claimed that “Bahrainis are bewildered by the world hostility”, and by headlines that suggested a serious safety risk to Formula One teams.
Last weekend, all eyes were on Bahrain, and not for the reason the government had hoped. Coverage of Sebastian Vettel’s victory in the Bahrain Grand Prix was drowned out by a mess of stun grenades, burning tyres, tear gas and Molotov cocktails. Bahrain’s ongoing unrest pushed human rights organisations to call for the race to be cancelled.
Yates says the F1 teams’ safety was never at risk – but in the lead up to the race he claimed that live rounds could be used to make ensure their cars could speed around the Sakhir track. Does Yates seriously expect the world’s press to ignore incidents that included a Force India team mechanic narrowly avoiding being hit by petrol bombs during a clash between protesters and police?
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and Bahraini officials insisted that the show must go on, saying that sport has nothing to do with politics. Sports journalists were left to cover the violent crackdown on protesters and death of one protester – Salah Abbas Habib – on Saturday. His death and the death earlier in the month of another protester are a testament to the failure of reforms in the country.
Those who defend Bahrain’s government claim it is improving – acting to protect human rights, regulate policing and create more transparency. But as we saw this weekend, the situation on the ground is deteriorating. The country has been plagued by protests, peaceful and violent. The protesters do not believe reform is coming. …more
April 26, 2012 No Comments
F1 teams try to reconcile thier dissonance by blaming media for reporting real story of Hamad’s brutal F1 circus
By Jonathan Noble – 24 April, 2012 – autosport.com
Sakhir paddock Formula 1 team bosses have hit out at the way the sport was turned into a political battleground over the Bahrain Grand Prix, on the back of the media storm that erupted around the event.
With the Sakhir race becoming into headline news, and various politicians stepping in to call for it to be cancelled, several team bosses say they are unhappy about the way the situation was portrayed outside the paddock.
Lotus team principal Eric Boullier told AUTOSPORT: “I should not say it, but the media did not do for me what they should have done.
“There are various issues, which are up to the country to fix. But there are issues in every country, even in England, France and other European countries, and the over-dramatisation was definitely wrong.
“F1 is a sport and should be seen as a sport. We also know that it is very important for Bahrain to have this event, it is their biggest event of the year, and F1 should not be used as a political tool.”
When asked if the negative coverage could be a turn-off for potential sponsors, Boullier said: “It is their choice, but politics is never good to mix with sport.
“We have enough inside our paddock. We don’t need to bring what is going on outside in, and that is what the media did. The media brought the external politics inside the paddock and that is not good.”
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said his outfit did not spend much time worrying about how the event was being reported. But he feels that F1 should not have been forced into the political arena. …more
April 24, 2012 No Comments
20 April, 2012 – The Daily Star – AP
LONDON: Hacking collective Anonymous has claimed responsibility for a denial-of-service attack on the official Formula One website in protest over the running of the Bahrain Grand Prix this weekend.
The group also attacked F1-racers.net where it posted a message saying the “Formula 1 racing authority was well-aware of the Human Rights situation in Bahrain and still chose to contribute to the regime’s oppression of civilians and will be punished.”
The Bahrain Grand Prix is going ahead despite violent clashes between riot police and demonstrators who believe the race should not be held until the government ends its rights abuses and enacts concrete reforms that benefit the Shiite majority.
Formula1.com was unavailable to many users for some of the day Friday. Denial-of-service attacks work by overwhelming a website with bogus traffic.
April 20, 2012 No Comments
Bahrain’s “Shot Heard Around the World” – International calls to STOP F1 as Protesters shot down in Streets
Why Is Bahrain F1 Race Under Fire?
Peter Wilkinson – CNN – 20 April, 2012
(CNN) — Democracy campaigners in Bahrain and politicians around the world are calling for this Sunday’s Formula 1 race in the Gulf state to be canceled as violent clashes continue between activists and authorities. What are the issues around the controversy, and how are the sport and its fans reacting? Why are there calls for this weekend’s Grand Prix in Bahrain to be scrapped? Opposition groups in Bahrain as well as politicians, rights groups and many F1 fans around the world want Sunday’s Grand Prix — which could be watched by a global audience of more than 500 million — to be canceled while the Gulf state braces itself for more violent demonstrations after months of political unrest.
Protesters see the race as a publicity stunt by the country’s rulers to make the nation seem more unified than it actually is. The Bahrain Grand Prix was canceled last year amid a Shiite-led uprising against the Sunni monarchy and a government crackdown in which dozens were killed and hundreds detained.
Nabeel Rajab, an opposition protester, said the demonstrators were not against the Formula One race itself. “We are just against the government or the oppressive ruling elite using that as PR,” Rajab said.
In Britain, where many F1 teams are based, opposition leader Ed Miliband said: “Sport and politics generally shouldn’t mix, but … what kind of signal does it send to the world when this grand prix is going ahead, given the concerns there are, given the violence we have seen in Bahrain, given the continuing issues around human rights?
“I don’t think it’s the right decision to let this grand prix go ahead and I think the government needs to weigh in and express its view.”
And opposition politician Yvette Cooper urged British F1 stars Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton to pull out of the race. “It shouldn’t go ahead, I don’t think British drivers should go. I think the Formula 1 should not go ahead in Bahrain,” Cooper told the BBC.
But UK Prime Minister David Cameron refused to join the calls, insisting it was a matter for the F1 authorities whether the race went ahead. “It is important that peaceful protests are allowed to go ahead,” he said. Why are protests now taking place in Bahrain? Shiite opposition groups in the Sunni-ruled kingdom say they want equality, and have posted calls on social networking sites for daily protests during the Grand Prix weekend, to focus media attention on their demands.
The government has sought to ban protests in the capital Manama but that has failed to prevent violent clashes in the capital between demonstrators and authorities, who are accused of heavy-handed tactics.
The government has condemned violence on all sides — saying that any police officers found guilty of heavy-handed tactics would be held to account and that protesters should behave in a civil manner as well.
An Amnesty International report this week says promised reforms in Bahrain are inadequate and fail to provide justice for victims of human rights violations.
Protesters are also demanding the release of jailed activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike for more than 70 days. Al-Khawaja, 52, was arrested in April 2011 for his role in anti-government protests that began a month earlier with demands for political reform and greater freedoms for Shiites.
In June, Bahrain found him and seven other Shiite opposition activists guilty of plotting to overthrow the country’s royal family.
The government also stands accused of punishing its own national sporting heroes and accusing them of being traitors. International and local human rights groups say three players in the Bahraini national soccer squad were arrested last year, along with more than 150 sportsmen, women and administrators. It is unclear how many remain in jail.
The authorities maintain they were part of illegal, violent protests. Could protesters disrupt the race or threaten spectators? This is the big question. Protesters have vowed to protest near the Sakhir circuit, which is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Manama, but witnesses there say there is a heavy police presence on the road between the track and the airport.
The unrest makes hosting the race precarious because the racers must pass through some areas where clashes have occurred to get to the circuit, which is in the desert.
On Thursday protesters burned tyres, briefly blocking several main roads leading to Sakhir. A Molotov cocktail exploded late Wednesday near a car carrying members of one F1 team, Force India, during clashes between protesters and security forces. No one was reported injured in the incident. …more
April 20, 2012 No Comments
A DANGEROUS ESCALATION: AT LEAST 11 SHOTGUN INJURIES ON 18 APRIL 2012
19 April, 2012 – Jadaliyya
Bahrain Watch Identifies Cyprus, UK, and Italian Birdshot, and Other Live Ammunition
[Manama] Activist group Bahrain Watch has observed a dramatic escalation in the use of birdshot and live ammunition by police against protesters over the past week, as well as a marked increase in related injuries. Many individuals are reported injured in the back, raising serious questions about whether police are using proportional force and are discharging their firearms only as a last resort, as required by Bahrain’s new police code of conduct. Meanwhile, new video shows policemen laughing as they repeatedly beat an arrestee with their shotguns, the result of continuing impunity.
Bahrain Watch has identified six birdshot manufacturers, and four manufacturers of live ammunition whose products have been used in Bahrain. The widespread use of these types of ammunition to control protests and riots makes Bahrain an international pariah in policing.
What is Birdshot?
Broadly, ammunition for shotguns is referred to as “shot,” and consists of pellets of a certain material inside a cartridge. Larger pellets are referred to as “buckshot,” whereas smaller pellets are called “birdshot.” Within the category of birdshot, shot is assigned a number to indicate the diameter of the pellets. Bahrain Watch has observed two sizes of metallic birdshot in Bahrain: #2 birdshot (pellet diameter of about 3.8mm), and #8 birdshot (pellet diameter of about 2.2mm). Typically, a #2 birdshot cartridge would have on the order of 100 pellets, whereas a #8 birdshot cartridge would have on the order of 500 pellets, assuming pellets are made of lead or a similar metal. Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior denies that it uses #2 birdshot.
Birdshot is typically used for hunting animals, or for clay shooting, where competitors shoot to break flying stone discs. Metallic birdshot is almost never used for riot control. When shotguns are employed for riot control in other countries, officers typically shoot “less-lethal” ammunition such as “beanbag rounds.” In contrast, Bahrain’s police primarily use cartridges specifically designed and marketed for hunting or clay shooting. Eleven civilians were killed with birdshot in Bahrain during 2011 according to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry and Human Rights Watch, and scores have been injured throughout 2011 and 2012.
April 18, 2012: Bahrain’s Birdshot Night
While Bahrain Watch has observed near-continuous use of birdshot since the start of the uprising in February 2011, reports of birdshot use and injuries have dramatically spiked in the last week. On 12 and 13 April 2012, Bahrain Watch noted an abnormally large number of images of shotgun cartridges posted by activists from at least seven areas around Bahrain (A’ali, Bani Jamrah, Sehla, Ma’ameer, Sitra, and Duraz). On 13 April, an individual was seriously injured by birdshot at a funeral, and remains in the hospital.
On 18 April 2012, Bahrain Watch noted an unusually large number of images and videos of birdshot injuries from at least five areas around Bahrain. Reports on Twitter claimed up to 23 were injured by shotgun pellets on the night of 18 April. No medical records exist, as birdshot victims are treated in private homes; presenting at a hospital with a birdshot injury may mean arrest. Through pictures posted by village news networks and activists, Bahrain Watch has seen at least 11 of these injured individuals.
Bahrain Watch first performs reverse image searches on all posted images to validate their recency To identify distinct injuries, images from a given village are compared with each other.
Bahrain Watch stresses that the number of injuries is likely to be higher than 11, but cannot determine the number of additional distinct individuals injured. A description of the observed injuries from 18 April follows.
In Sanabis, where protesters chanted anti-regime slogans during a visit by Bahrain’s Crown Prince earlier that day, multiple injuries were reported in the evening. A village news agency in Sanabis posted a photo album of injuries. Among other birdshot injuries, the album shows:
An individual with more than 100 pellets in the back of his legs (right leg) (left leg).
An individual with more than 45 pellets in his back, also seen in this video (0:24 – 0:34).
An individual with more than 20 pellets in the back of his legs (right leg) (left leg), also seen in this video (0:05 – 0:21).
An individual with approximately 14 pellets in the left side of his body.
In the village of Abu Quwah, photos show:
An individual with more than 80 pellets in what appears to be his back.
An individual with more than 30 pellets in his back.
On the island of Sitra, photos and videos show:
An individual with more than 30 pellets mainly on the right side of his body. 16 pellets are visible in this still image, and the remaining pellets are seen in this video (0:05 – 0:29).
An individual with approximately 18 pellets mainly on the right side of his body, also seen in this.
April 19, 2012 No Comments
April 19, 2012 No Comments
19 April, 2012 – By Alan Baldwin – Reuters
MANAMA, April 19 (Reuters) – The violent reality of Bahrain’s political unrest moved closer to Formula One on Thursday when the Force India team said two of their staff had asked to go home after colleagues were caught up in a petrol bomb incident outside Manama.
A spokesman for the British-based team said one of those concerned was a team member, the other a contractor brought in for Sunday’s race. Neither were directly involved in the incident on Wednesday evening.
He said four team members had been returning in their rental vehicle to their Manama hotel from the Sakhir circuit when they were caught up in the incident on the motorway.
The Bahrain International Circuit issued a statement referring to “an isolated incident involving a handful of illegal protester acting violently towards police.
“During this incident a Molotov Cocktail landed in the vicinity of their vehicle. After approximately two minutes, the route was cleared and the vehicle carried on its journey,” it added.
“There were no casualties and eyewitness reports from the scene confirmed that their vehicle had not been targeted itself.”
The circuit said it had confidence in the authorities to deal with such incidents “and can confirm that all the usual precautions are being taken around the track to ensure the level of security is maintained”.
Numerous anti-government protests took place in and around Manama on Wednesday evening, with more planned leading up to the race, including one near the circuit according to the U.S. embassy. Police fired sound bombs to disperse the crowd.
Force India, whose drivers are Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg and Britain’s Paul Di Resta, said they had not been a target and nobody was hurt.
The MRS team entered in the supporting Porsche SuperCup series withdrew its entry from the weekend season-opener, citing safety reasons, without travelling to Bahrain.
“It is the first time in our team history that we have had to cancel a race of the Porsche SuperCup,” team head Karsten Molitor told autosport.com. “In the end we have the responsibility for our employees.”
Anti-government protesters are planning ‘Days of Rage’ ahead of a race that they want called off while security forces have rounded up dozens of activists in recent days in a clampdown on the opposition.
Bahrain has been in turmoil, with almost daily protests, since a democracy movement erupted last year after popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
Local authorities have said teams need not worry about their personal safety but John Yates, the former assistant commissioner of London’s Metropolitan police who has been hired to oversee reform of Bahrain’s police force, said there could be no guarantees.
“People say can we guarantee security. Of course we can’t guarantee security. I’d be a fool to sit here and say that,” he told the Guardian newspaper.
“I judge it more likely there will be protests on the route and around the villages. I just hope it’s a good event and I hope it goes off without too much trouble.”
Police maintained a low-key presence around the circuit on Thursday, although that was likely to be stepped up considerably closer to the event and in the evening when teams are returning to Manama.
Teams at the circuit were holding news conferences as usual, without any reference to the political situation and tension around them. Nothing in their race previews indicated the event was anything other than a normal round of the 20-race championship.
Formula One last visited Bahrain in 2010, with last year’s race cancelled due to the protests, and the race is the biggest sporting event on the tiny Gulf island, with a global television audience of tens of millions.
April 19, 2012 No Comments
Bahrain ‘Day Of Rage’ Planned For Formula One Grand Prix
18 April, 2012 – By Andrew Hammond – Huffington Post
DUBAI, April 18 (Reuters) – Anti-government protesters in Bahrain are planning “days of rage” directed at this weekend’s Formula One Grand Prix, while security forces have rounded up dozens of activists in a clampdown on the opposition in the Gulf Arab nation.
Bahrain has been in turmoil since a democracy movement erupted last year after uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia.
The island state’s revolution was initially crushed with the loss of dozens of lives but youths still clash daily with riot police and thousands are turning out for opposition rallies as the motor race approaches.
“Boycott F1 in Bahrain,” reads a graffiti message daubed on a wall in a village outside the capital, Manama, next to a painted image of a red Ferrari race car. “You will race on the blood of martyrs.”
Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifa family had to cancel last year’s race because of the uprising, but its return on April 20-22 is a chance to tell the world that all is back to normal – which could work if protests and clashes are kept to Shi’ite districts and do not reach major highways or the capital.
Bernie Ecclestone, the colourful British owner of the commercial rights to Formula One, said last week the race would go ahead because all was “quiet and peaceful” in Bahrain, which paid last year’s hosting fee of an estimated $40 million despite cancelling the race due to the conflict.
The Bahrain race, part of a 20-event worldwide season that has revenues of $2 billion, drew 100,000 visitors and generated an estimated half a billion dollars in spending when it was last held two years ago. Formula One, the business arm of one of the world’s most watched sports, is expected to be floated on the Singapore stock exchange later this year.
Race organisers say “the security situation in Bahrain is suitable for the staging of a major sporting event”. John Yates, a former senior British police officer hired by Bahrain to oversee reform of its police force, said he felt “safer than I have often felt in London”.
The official Formula One website, describing the Sakhir Circuit as “first-rate”, tells visitors: “As the wind picks up each evening and the early sunset takes hold, the place has a magical ‘Arabian Nights’ feel to it.”
Amnesty International said in a report this week that dozens remained in jail after unfair military trials for their role in mass protests a year ago while action was needed to address what the human rights group called discrimination against majority Shi’ites.
“With the world’s eyes on Bahrain as it prepares to host the Grand Prix, no one should be under any illusions that the country’s human rights crisis is over,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director.
OPPOSITION PARTY RALLIES
The opposition, led by the Wefaq party, say they do not oppose the race and their protests – licensed by a government under U.S. pressure to allow more space for dissent – will focus on demands for political reforms in a country where the Khalifa family dominates government and the economy.
Formula One was originally brought to Bahrain in 2004 as part of economic reforms championed by Crown Prince Salman – whom Wefaq continues to bet on as a man to deliver political reform – to encourage foreign investment and jobs for Bahrainis.
“We think Formula One is a secondary issue compared to the question of long-term rights. What we care about is our demands. We don’t want to ruin the projects’ of others,” said senior Wefaq member Sayed Hadi al-Mousawi.
But he predicted protesters would try to hold demonstrations near or inside Sakhir, which lies south of the capital and away from most residential areas.
“There are hundreds or maybe thousands who will get there and raise slogans, and they don’t care if they are taken to jail. People have reached the point of no fear,” Mousawi said.
Thirty-five people died during a month of protests when the uprising first began last year, but activists say the ongoing violence has taken the toll to around 70.
Activists say heavy use of tear gas has caused many deaths. The government disputes the causes of death and their attribution to the strife, and accuses youths of endangering police lives with petrol bombs.
YOUTH PROTEST MOVEMENT
Opposition figures outside the political parties and who are opposed to the race say they will stage protests inside the F1 circuit if they can, hoping to catch international attention.
They say they will host daily events, including a march in Manama on Thursday at a location to be announced, culminating in a country-wide “day of rage” on both Saturday and Sunday.
“They plan activities at the track but they have not announced what. For sure there will be something,” said Sayed Yousif al-Muhafda of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.
Activists opposed to the race point out that some Bahrain International Circuit employees say they suffered torture during the period of martial law that ended last June. Bahrain commissioned a report by international rights experts which revealed systematic abuse during the crackdown. …more
April 18, 2012 No Comments
Idiocy – John Yates: lures F1 teams to Bahrain saying “all is safe”, once arrived says “can’t guarantee safety”
Security can’t be guaranteed at Grand Prix, says Yates of the Yard
Richard Hall – 19 April, 2012 – The Independent
The former high-ranking Metropolitan Police officer currently advising the Bahraini government has said that security cannot be guaranteed at the upcoming Grand Prix.
Former Assistant Commissioner John Yates made the remarks as anti-government demonstrations continued to rock Bahrain and protesters called for a “day of rage” ahead of the event this weekend. Nearly 50 people have been killed since February 2011 in violence between security forces and protesters from Bahrain’s Shiite majority, which seeks to break the near monopoly on power by the island nation’s Sunni monarchy.
Protests have intensified in recent weeks and opposition activists have called for the F1 race to be cancelled.
Mr Yates, who in his previous job was known as “Yates of the Yard”, is currently on a six-month contract advising Bahrain’s ruling Khalifa family on police reform. He is also working on security for the event. He told the Guardian: “People say can we guarantee security. Of course we can’t guarantee security. I’d be a fool to sit here and say that. Is it possible there might be an incursion on the track? Of course there is. It’s an open event. Can you stop some idiot running onto the track? There have been other incidents of track incursions.”
Opposition figures outside the political parties – and who are opposed to the race – say they will stage protests inside the F1 circuit if they can, hoping to catch international attention.
Mr Yates said of the planned demonstrations: “There will be protests over the weekend. But we want to make this a sporting event, not a security event. …more
April 18, 2012 No Comments
F1 Companies don’t respond to Human Rights Concerns: “Seldom have we seen a response rate this low anywhere”
How Formula One companies responded (or failed to respond) to human rights concerns
18 April, 2012 – Business & Human Rights Resource Centre
LONDON, Apr. 18 – CSRwire – Only 29% of firms linked to Formula One responded to Business & Human Rights Resource Centre about human rights concerns that various organizations raised relating to the Bahrain Grand Prix, scheduled for 20-22 April. Forty two companies or teams failed to respond.
See all the responses on this webpage, which also lists each company that failed to respond. That page also summarises human rights concerns raised by international human rights groups, human rights advocates in Bahrain, and others. Human Rights Watch warned Formula One that by holding the Bahrain Grand Prix, it would be endorsing the kingdom’s government despite claims that sport and politics don’t mix. Amnesty International said “Human rights violations are continuing unabated… Holding the Grand Prix in Bahrain in 2012 risks being interpreted by the government of Bahrain as symbolizing a return to business as usual.” The UK Labour Party urged Formula One to cancel the Bahrain Grand Prix, saying that proceeding with the event would “send the wrong signal.” Among the prisoners of conscience detained in Bahrain is human rights advocate Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who is on hunger strike – there are fears that he may soon die.
The company responses were on the whole disappointing, given the gravity of the human rights concerns raised about Bahrain, and given that last year the United Nations Human Rights Council adopted by consensus the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which confirmed that all companies have a responsibility to respect human rights.
“Seldom have we seen a response rate this low from a group of companies anywhere in the world”, said Christopher Avery, Director of Business & Human Rights Resource Centre. “And of the responses that were received, seldom if ever have we seen such a high proportion that completely fail to comment on the human rights concerns that they were asked to address.”
Chris Marsden, Chair of the board of Business & Human Rights Resource Centre, said: “I encourage everyone to look at each company’s response and to draw their own conclusions about which companies are taking human rights concerns seriously, and which are not.”
April 18, 2012 No Comments
18 April, 2012 – Bahrain Freedom Movement
They poured past in their thousands: men of all ages, chattering children, women dressed head to toe in black abayas, many of them holding placards, all of them chanting slogans. You did not need to be able to speak Arabic to get the gist of what they were saying: “Down with King Hamad” mostly. That and: “No Formula One in Bahrain.”
Every so often a protester would peel off from the crowd and shake the hands of visiting journalists, thanking us for being there in person and imploring us to help them get their message out.
We had been told to see with our own eyes what the situation was in Bahrain. So there we were; at a protest march in Al Dair, a small Shi’ite village north east of Manama, near the airport. It was the largest of several such protests yesterday.
This was the acceptable face of the opposition. While tear gas was used to disperse protesters armed with Molotov cocktails during Monday’s march in Salmabad, yesterday’s in Al Dair was peaceful, almost joyful.
But there was an edge. Rubber bullets, remnants from previous clashes, lay scattered about. A 13-year-old girl, Reem, whose father was killed in police custody last year – allegedly beaten to death – came up to introduce herself. She was with her uncle, a politician in Bahrain’s main opposition party, Al Wefaq, which has called for seven days of protest to capitalise on the presence of F1.
Our guide for the day, Dr Ala’a Shehabi, an activist who met with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone in London earlier this year in an effort to have the race cancelled, told us about some of the other faces in the crowd; a nurse, Rola Alsaffar, who was allegedly beaten by police last spring after helping to treat injured protesters; a doctor, Huda Alawi, whose husband is a prominent local lawyer representing hundreds of protesters in jail.
With the grand prix coming up this weekend, she told us, many activists had been rounded up in the past few days. One of her colleagues, a 19-year-old student, told us he had slept in three different houses over the past three nights after the police had come looking for him.
In Al Dair, the police kept their distance and everyone headed off after an hour or so to answer the call for evening prayer.
One man, who was wearing a red Ferrari polo shirt, approached us. “I love F1,” he said. “But not over our blood. They are forcing it on us.”
I had heard much the same thing from my taxi driver after landing in Bahrain yesterday. On our way into town, which, as we were assured it would be by Bahrain’s authorities, was ghostlike, he gave me his thoughts on Sunday’s race. “I have two emotions,” he said. “One is that I am proud to have such a big event in Bahrain. But the other part of me feels shame. You will be welcome here because you are guests in my country but you will be racing over blood this weekend.”
Asked if the race was not vital to the economy, he insisted that the average Bahraini would see little of the $400-500 million which the Bahrain GP organisers estimate it generates. “The government and their supporters own all these buildings,” he said, sweeping his hand in a wide arc to indicate the smart hotels of the diplomatic quarter. …more
April 18, 2012 No Comments
THE ROVING EYE – By Pepe Escobar – 18 April, 2012 – Asia Times
And the winner is … the Gulf Counter-revolution Club (GCC), also known as Gulf Cooperation Council.
Their collective celebration party is this weekend’s Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix – complete with buckets of Moet and Ferraris oozing by. See it as a coterie of Sunni sheikhs telling the “international community” – we won; it’s our way or the (boiling hot) desert highway.
How could they not gloat? The unruly waves of that noxious Arab Spring never had a chance of disturbing the placid waters of the Gulf. The arrival of the Fast White Man Formula 1 circus – a spectacular public relations operation – proves that the GCC is as “normal” as an Arab prince swinging through Monte Carlo with a blonde babe in a Ferrari 458.
Who cares that Bahrain activists sent a letter to Formula 1 emperor Bernie Ecclestone denouncing the state of siege in the placid al-Khalifa dynasty realm, the killing and torture of pro-democracy protesters, the thousands still in jail and the lack of the most basic human rights? This does not concern The Fast White Man.
Strategically, the GCC was invented – with essential American input – to defend those poor Gulf petro-monarchies from the evils of Saddam Hussein and the Iranian Khomeinists, with its members comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. But when the 2011 Arab revolt exploded in Northern Africa – and then reached the Gulf, in Bahrain, and even generated protests in Oman and Saudi Arabia – the petro-monarchies faced a larger evil that simply petrified them: democracy. The status quo had to be protected at all costs.
King Hamad al-Khalifa, technically, asked the GCC for “help” into smashing the Bahrain pro-democracy movement. The fact is the House of Saud already had masterminded an invasion across the causeway linking the capital Manama with Saudi Arabia. The Pearl roundabout in Manama – Bahrain’s Tahrir Square – had to be literally razed to the ground by the al-Khalifa dictatorship to erase any physical memory of the protests.
For the GCC and its top dog the House of Saud, not only Bahrain was “contained”, Saudi subjects were placated with billionaire bribes. Ample possibilities of profiting from the geopolitical black hole in northern Africa were also opened.
Ever since the House of Saud and the emir of Qatar, Hamad al-Thani, got their act together, they have been on a roll – recent rumors of a military coup against the emir notwithstanding. The “humanitarian” bombing of Libya represented the apex of the NATOGCC embrace – with Qatar in the forefront and the House of Saud sort of leading from behind. …more
April 18, 2012 No Comments
April 17, 2012 No Comments
April 17, 2012 No Comments
Systematic arrest, illegal detention of Bahraini youth follows FIA disastrous push to hold “blood race”
16 April, 2012 – Al-Akhbar
Bahraini forces are arresting protest leaders across the country and detaining them without charge in a bid to prevent disruption at the Formula One Grand Prix next weekend, senior human rights activists have said.
The country is due to host the race on Sunday, but has been hit by pro-democracy protests calling for it to be cancelled.
Dozens of protesters have been arrested, with many expected to be held without charge until the race is over, activists have said.
Two American representatives of Human Rights Watch were detained on Sunday whilst attending a protest against the race.
They were held for four hours along with Said Yousif, the deputy head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), before being released.
Yousif said they had fled the protests after the arrival of heavily-armed riot police, but had been targeted by the security services.
“I took the Americans to a close house and they came to us inside the home and sprayed something on our face – one of them beat me on my back and after that they took us to a police car,” he told Al-Akhbar.
Yousif said government forces had been going to villages across the country to arrest potential trouble-makers.
“Every day they go to one village or one city and arrest activists. They want to arrest all the activists – maybe they will release them or they will charge them with something,” he said.
He added that he expected many to be detained without charge until after the race.
Ala’a Shehabi, founder of Bahrain Watch – which tracks abuses of power by the ruling government – said on Twitter that there was an “unannounced state of emergency,” with activists being rounded up.
A Reporters Without Borders report last month condemned the Bahraini government for trying to suppress the protests.
It added that the upcoming Grand Prix was an attempt by the ruling regime to pretend the protests were not happening. …source
April 16, 2012 No Comments
Suad Hamada – 14 January, 2011 –
Savatri used a condom for the first time in her life when she was forced into prostitution a few months ago. Fortunately, the 34-year-old Indian woman was instructed by the managers of the brothel to insist that her clients wear a condom – the only preventive method against sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, in use by sex workers in Bahrain.
Sex workers’ last hope for proper medical care was lost at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna last July when Bahrain officially declined to provide licenses to sex workers as a measure to reduce HIV/AIDS cases. Although sex work remains one of the risk factors in increasing HIV/AIDS rates, Bahrain rejected the proposal without hesitation out of fear of clashes with our conservative society, Dr. Somaya Al Jowder, head of the National AIDS Program, tells me.
“Condoms were compulsory in my unexpected profession, although I never used them with my husband, who thinks I’m working as a domestic worker at a house in Bahrain,” Savatri recalls from jail while serving a four-month sentence, not for prostitution but for violating residency regulations in Bahrain.
“I was locked inside the brothel after a man convinced me to run away from the family I used to work for as a maid. He promised me better income, but I received nothing for my service and my one-month nightmare of free sex ended when the police raided the house and rescued me with the other females,” Savatri remembers. …more
April 16, 2012 No Comments
A highly-organised prostitution ring supplying Thai women to the booming market of Bahrain is the first target of the new police Transnational Sex Trafficking Unit. A Thai prostitute in Bahrain said: ”Bahrain is a lucrative destination for us. Many women are said to have made a million in less than a year.”
Though most Thai prostitutes in Bahrain are working there of their own volition, this is still regarded as transnational human trafficking, said Pol Maj-Gen Kamronwit Toopkrachang, chief of the Crimes Against Children, Juveniles and Women Suppression Division, which oversees the unit.
Unit chief Jaruwat Waisaya said there had been complaints from sex workers about slave-like working conditions, with some claiming to have been tricked and forced into prostitution. This prompted his team to head to Bahrain early this month to investigate.
Talks with the Thai ambassador to Manama, the capital, and some sex workers confirmed the illegality of the human trade, said Pol Col Jaruwat. He declined to give details.
A source leaked the unit’s confidential report, which said that of the 8,000 Thais living in Bahrain thousands were women engaged in the thriving flesh trade, which pays 10 times more than the rate they get back home.
Bahrain has become a draw for sex workers from eastern Europe and Africa and Asia _ including Laos, Burma, China, the Philippines, India, Russia, Turkey, Egypt, Morocco and Ethiopia.
According to the report, Thai sex workers ply their trade in locations ranging from coffee shops, Thai massage outlets, nightspots and five-star hotels.
Most of them typically solicit customers at massage shops in the so-called Thai town of Adliy.
The source quoted the report as saying: ”Agents, known as ‘Mae Tak,’ oversee Thai sex workers in Bahrain until they earn enough [to pay off their debts].”
After repaying the on-arrival expenses of around 130,000-180,000 baht each to Mae Tak, they can return home or work freelance.
Many women did go there voluntarily, but were tricked into working as prostitutes.
Without passports or cash, they were kept in brothels until their on-arrival expenses were covered.
The source said the unit was trying to reach the sex workers to round up their recruiters in Thailand and agents in Bahrain.
The unit was also studying Thai and Bahraini laws and coordinating with its Bahraini counterparts in preparation for a crackdown on the ring, said the source.
Due to the unit’s lack of funding and equipment, the Foreign Affairs Ministry has footed the initial investigation bills. …more
April 16, 2012 No Comments