On Sunday, April 22, Bahrain’s Grand Prix went on as scheduled. This year’s grand prize is disgrace, not glory.
Formula 1’s governing board shamed itself by not pulling out. So did participating drivers. Agreeing to race in a virtual war zone shows nothing matters but winning and money – lots of it. Going along turns a blind eye to state terror.
Mass street protests for justice don’t matter. Nor do brutal security force crackdowns. London Guardian writer Richard Williams said F1’s “supremo Bernie Ecclestone” has a “habit of taking the money and asking no questions.”
Already a billionaire, his money lust is insatiable. Even with race day blood on the streets he wants more. So do participating drivers. Many are multi-millionaires. Passing up one stop on the circuit hardly matters. Sacrifice isn’t their long suit. Neither is doing the right thing.
They turn race competition into a perversion of sport. Thanks to Ecclestone, said Williams, “a sport whose conscience was only troubled by its environmental impact now looks like a pariah.”
Welcome to Bahrain. Witness two spectacles for the price of one – Grand Prix racing and security force viciousness on street protesters in one of the world’s most repressive dictatorships.
One protester death was reported. Salah Abbas Habib’s body was found on a Al Shakhoura rooftop. A well-known activist leader, he was arrested the previous night with others. Reportedly they were tortured. His body showed evidence of shotgun injuries and abuse.
Police tried to prevent journalists and others from seeing it. Photos revealed what they tried to suppress.
Mohammed Hassan was arrested. He tried escorting journalists to protest areas. Security forces beat him badly. Now detained, he’s held incommunicado with no access to counsel or family members.
On a March 30 TV interview, he was asked why he risked speaking publicly. He replied:
“I don’t care anymore. My friends have been in prison. Some are still (there), and some are in hiding, and some are dead.” Whatever happens to him, he added, he accepts it. “I have no choice but to accept it.”
After the interview, he was threatened. He was arrested and beaten. He also participated in a public debate. Expressing his views freely made him a marked man. Now he’s dead. Responsibility points one way.
For weeks, security force violence caused many injuries. More occur daily. On April 10, Bahrain’s interior minister authorized excessive force. Dozens of casualties followed. Many were from shotgun cartridge fragments directed on faces, chests, backs, abdomens, thighs, and other upper body areas.
For weeks ahead of race day, security forces raided towns and villages. Dozens of arrests followed. So did torture and other forms of abuse.
Imagine turning a blind eye and agreeing to be part of this. Writer/activist Finian Cunningham quoted a racing fan saying “(a) bunch of rich people hav(e) fun while others are being killed.”