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F1 IN BAHRAIN: Kill Me With Hypocrisy

How can you have a peaceful race when people are dying in the streets? 

Inspired by the revolutions around them, the people of Bahrain, mostly young Shiites, have publicly refused to bow to their autocratic leader King Hamad. The demands of the protesters are better conditions, greater freedom and the resignation of Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman, the prime minister of four decades and the uncle of King Hamad. In Bahrain, Shiites, who are the majority, are ruled by the minority Sunnis. This doesn’t have to be a problem, but it is, because the Shiites feel unrepresented and not listened to; and they want greater freedom. High-profile positions in the government are held by Sunnis and the country is ruled by a Sunni dynasty. But the minority believe the Shiites are after absolute power and want to annex them. The problem has split the country in two.

Last year, on the 14th of February, 2011, fearless youths captured the attention of the international community when they occupied Pearl Roundabout in Manama. The government responded with a brutal crackdown against the protests. The violent repression against peaceful protesters shocked the world and prompt, longtime ally, the US and some European countries to condemn the action. But like many other countries in the region, the international focus decreased when the government convinced its allies, including the US, Europe and the Arab League, with a phony reform. Ever since then the allies are silenced, the media attention is limited and the uprising hinges on bloggers and social media. Just recently on the eve of the Arab League Summit in Bagdad, Iraqi foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said “the Bahrain situation is not on the agenda,”. Encouraged by the lack of action by the international community the hardliners in the government have ruled out concession.

In 2004 Bahrain became the first Middle East nation to host an F1 Grand Prix event. The annual spectacle race was cancelled last year due to demonstrations. This year however things are different. The uprising is moved to the background and the government is in desperate need of a new image. Despite the violence in the streets, its allies and business partners believe the country can be in a state of emergency and do business at the same time. In the mist of the outcries, protests, unlawful arrests and brutal crackdowns on activists, bloggers and doctors, the F1 Grand Prix aka FIA Formula One World Championship sees no problem having a festive race in the Persian Gulf country. I guess when it comes to race human rights do not matter. The western leaders are stifled because, what other reason could it be, they have a stake. Besides strategic value, Bahrain has large natural gas reserves and is home to US Navy´s Fifth Fleet. And then you have commercial interest for major companies and sponsors of the race.

I have nothing against businesses or CEO´s. However I believe that there is something wrong with an organisation that feels like it has no responsibility whatsoever, towards the indigenous people where he makes his money. Amidst criticism by the international journalism on the upcoming event Bernard “Bernie” Ecclestone, the president and CEO of Formula One, had the following to say to critics: “It’s nothing to do with us”. Mr. Bernie Ecclestone recently described Bahrain as “quiet and peaceful”. I dont know how he can say this, when during the London riot thousands of people in the streets were enough for Cameron to recall parliament for crisis session. Here we have 100.000 to the double of it protesting, thousands injured, hundreds of people disappeared in jail, in cemeteries and who knows where, and you are shrugging your shoulders saying: “It’s nothing to do with us”. Kill me with hypocrisy. His choice of words gives away his ignorance. F1 is supposed to be sport and sport is supposed to be about peace. If it’s so, can someone tell me when we got off track so bad? Just like many others who are in a position to pressurize the Bahrain government to do the right thing, F1 doesn’t care about the voice of the people. In fact it has taken the hardened stand of the government and is saying to the protesters: why don’t you people go home, take whatever injustice you are facing and be quiet – just as we are.

We are going to have the best race of our life, with an apocalyptic background, that I´m afraid, we will not be able to explain to our children. Why did we race and not help?

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