Bahrain: Tear Gas, Violence Surround F1 Grand Prix Race

Bahrain hosts the Formula One Grand Prix on April 22 but the run-up to the event has seen huge protests. Protestors have been trying to draw international attention to the human rights situation [PDF] in Bahrain, and to the deteriorating health of imprisoned activist Abdulhadi Alkhawaja who has been on hunger strike since February 8, 2012.

The Grand Prix was cancelled in 2011 because of political unrest in the country. The decision was made not to cancel this year, despite ongoing unrest. In recent days the government has made every effort to limit the scale of protests, and has also denied entry to many foreign journalists. In clashes police have been firing tear gas and stun grenades at protesters, and one protestor, Salah Abbas Habib, was found dead.

The following video from Al Wefaq Society features a huge opposition march on April 20:

Tensions are high, with a huge police presence around the country. Formula One journalist Ian Parkes wrote on the morning of April 22:

@ianparkesf1: On the final day of the ‘count the police cars’ game’ heading to the track, today's grand total is 86!

On April 21 activist Nabeel Rajab described the situation in parts of Bahrain:

@NABEELRAJAB: From my house I hear ambulance, helicopter, police car and shooting but #F1 management say every things is ok #Bahrain #GP London

Dr Fatima Haji (one of the doctors put on trial for treating protestors last year) tweeted on April 21:

@drFatimaHj: My 3yrs old son, my husband and I are suffocating in our flat in Bani Jamra as security forces are shooting tear gas in Duraz!! #F1 #Bahrain

The following video from Qamar70 shows riot police firing tear gas in the streets of Saar on April 19:

Justin Gengler at the blog Religion and Politics in Bahrain wonders if the decision to hold the race has backfired:

If you search Google News for “Bahrain Formula One,” you find that the ratio of negative (political) to positive (race-related) news articles is about 4,082 to 232, or about 17.5 : 1. With coverage like this, Bahrain's leaders may be rethinking their cost-benefit analysis.

In another post Justin Gengler has a roundup of images about the Formula One race, including this by Carlos Latuff:

Boycott F1 in Bahrain. Image by Carlos Latuff.

Blogger Emily L. Hauser questions the idea that holding the race was positive for the country:

Discussing the fact that the Formula One Grand Prix race will be held in his country on Sunday despite a year-long uprising in which protesters have been killed, gassed, imprisoned, and tortured, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa told the BBC that “cancelling the race just empowers extremists,” whereas holding the race can serve as “a force for good.”

A force for good.

A force for good?

You know what’s a force for good? Democracy. Human rights. Liberty and justice. That sort of thing.

Barbed wire put up around the village of Qadam before the F1 race. Image by Twitter user @Sajjad_Alalwi.

Mohammed Ashoor wonders what the day of the race will bring:

@mohdashoor: The skyline in #Bahrain is filled with smoke from burning tyres as #F1 teams get ready to start their engines. Will be an interesting day.

Journalist Javier Espinosa writes:

@javierespinosa2: New clashes in villages like Malkiya, Karzakan, Sadad and Damistan in #Bahrain before the start of #F1

Motor racing correspondent of The Times, Kevin Eason, writes:

@easonF1: Good morning Bahrain and the UK and others. On way to #bahrain GP circuit for one of the most controversial races in F1 history

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has made the following video about the race:

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