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F1 faces Bahrain backlash if grand prix goes ahead

June 7, 2011
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F1 faces Bahrain backlash if grand prix goes ahead
by Byron Young, Daily Mirror 

GRAND PRIX racing could be caught up in a bloody Day of Rage if it returns to the troubled desert kingdom of Bahrain.

A leading human rights activist claims protesters have threatened to mark the controversial return of Formula 1 to the Middle Eastern state with widespread demonstrations and civil unrest.

Clashes between security forces and what have been described as “peaceful protests” have led to more than 30 deaths, hundreds of arrests and worrying reports of torture since March, when the race was originally scheduled to take place.

Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, spoke out after the sport’s governing body announced it had reinstated the race and shoehorned it into the calendar on October 30 despite the widely-reported human rights abuses.

He said: “We have buried two bodies today who were victims of the government oppression.

“One woman died last night from a sound bomb and one woman who was injured last March died early morning today.

“It is a very sad moment to hear that Grand Prix feels that their benefits and their interests are more important than the human rights of people in this region.

“It’s very upsetting and the people are very upset and already they have called a day of that racing as a Day of Rage where you come out everywhere and in every city of Bahrain to show anger towards the Bahrain government, what the Bahrain regime is doing towards their own people”.

Grand Prix teams are set to hold further talks ahead of Sunday’s Canadian Grand Prix over their response to the shock FIA decision although they do not have a good record of standing up to F1 ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone or the FIA.

Bosses had made it plain that they did not want to return to Bahrain for ethical reasons as well as logistical ones which would stretch the longest season in the sport’s history even further, leaving engineers and mechanics exhausted and disenchanted.

The FIA announced there was unanimous agreement for the return to Manama despite the fact the voters included team bosses from Ferrari and Force India trenchantly against the move.

But former FIA chief Max Mosley joined the voices of protest. He said: “By agreeing to race there, Formula One becomes complicit in what has happened.

“It becomes one of the Bahrain government’s instruments of oppression. The decision to hold the race is a mistake which will not be forgotten and, if not reversed, will eventually cost Formula One dear.”

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