November 26, 2020

Protests raise fresh concerns over Bahrain GP

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Fresh doubts have emerged about the viability of this year’s Bahrain Grand Prix after a human rights group in the Gulf kingdom called on the Formula 1 teams to boycott the race in the wake of continuing civil unrest.

It is the first public intervention by an interested party on the subject of the wisdom of holding the race since F1’s governing body the FIA confirmed Bahrain’s place on the 2012 calendar last month.

Bahrain’s inclusion on the official schedule raised eyebrows. That’s because unrest continues there, despite pledges by the ruling royal family to increase human rights and democratic representation in an attempt to move on from the disturbances that led to the cancellation of last year’s race.

The call for a boycott – by the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) – became public two days after police were accused of beating a leading opposition activist on the back, neck and head at a rally on Friday.
That man was the vice-president of the BCHR, Nabeel Rajab, who also happens to be the man who gave the interview calling for the boycott of the race.

Rajab told a leading Arab business magazine: “We will campaign for… drivers and teams to boycott. The government wants Formula 1 to tell the outside world that everything is back to normal.

“Formula 1, if they come, they are helping the government to say [it is normal]. We would prefer it if they didn’t take part. I am sure the drivers and teams respect human rights.”

F1, then, appears headed for another long-running saga over whether the Bahrain race can go ahead this year – just as in 2011, when it was four months between the outbreak of civil unrest and the race finally being cancelled.

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