WASHINGTON, April 22, 2012—The international community has expressed outrage over Bahrain hosting today’s Grand Prix auto race. The concern is that Bahraini rulers will use this international stage to hide ongoing political unrest and human rights violation behind.
The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body of Grand Prix auto racing, said the Kingdom of Bahrain meets all of the security requirements to hold international sports event. This may be true, but it does not hold Bahrain responsibile for political repression and human rights violations persisting throughout the country.
Everything is not norma Bahraini citizens. Bahraini youth activists pledge to hold three days of rage during the event. Amnesty International warns that the country’s host of Grand Prix should not create the illusion that human rights violation of Bahraini citizens is over. It also says that the authorities should be held accountable for their human rights violation of the citizens.
The political unrest in Bahrain is attributed to the conflict between Shia and Sunni Muslims. While the majority of the Bahraini citizens are Shia Muslims, the Sunni Muslim rules the country. The Sunni ruling families, concerned over the Shia majority, have attempted to change the composition of the population by encouraging Sunni immigrants to obtain Bahraini citizenship.
Experts argue King Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, a Sunni, continues to rule the country, despite the win by the Shia party in parliamentary elections in 2010. Since the parliamentary election, there have been few changes in policy or legislative reforms. The Sunni-ruled upper house constantly blocks ratification of parliamentary decisions. As the Sunni King, Khalifa appoints upper house member, giving him practical control over legislative process.
The Bahraini government invokes its wide national security policies to arbitrarily detain citizens. On September 2010, for example, the security forces arrested Muhammad after falsely accusing him of committing terrorism and other related crimes. Not finding him at home, the security force arrested Muhammad’s 15-year-old brother to hold him as hostage at the police precinct.
To bring his brother home, Muhammad presented himself to the local police station. The police arrested Muhammad and took him to a different room for interrogation. Each time Muhammad didn’t know the answer to the question, the officers slapped his back and head. Eventually, Muhammad confessed to a crime that he never committed. He feared that the police officers’ beating would result damage on his ear. He also was afraid of what the police would do to his brother if he didn’t confess, even though he was innocent.
Freedom of press is almost nonexistent in Bahrain. The government restricts the entrance of foreign journalists in the country for fear that they would expose the government’s gross human rights violations of its citizens.
One journalist working for an independent newspaper said to Human Rights Watch that the police threatened to rape him after arbitrarily arresting him. In an interrogation room, the police officers kicked his legs and slapped him on his back and neck. In the second room, the police told the journalist that they would electro shock him if he didn’t confess.
Once the journalist agreed to confess, the police officer described precisely how he should write his confession.
In 2011, the Bahrani government called off the decision to host a Grand Prix in the country due to the political unrest. The F1 decision makers feared for the safety of drivers of spectators. Many experts agreed that the resolving civil unrest took precedent over the sports event.
The Bahraini government expects a tremendous economic benefits from hosting 2012 Grand Prix event. Experts estimate as much as $400 million in profits from tourism and tens of millions more in advertising revenue from the Grand Prix. The Bahraini government hopes that the event will reverse the economic down turn, which has persisted since last year.
Still, without strong democratic reform, rights activists worry that the economic prosperity will only benefit the handful of the ruling parties.
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