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Criticism of Formula 1: Whitewashing in Bahrain

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Criticism of Formula 1: Whitewashing in Bahrain

The Bahrain Institute for Law and Democracy (BIRD) has accused Formula 1 management of continuing to ignore human rights violations in the Persian Gulf monarchy and thus engaging in “whitewashing”. “Although Formula One claims its presence is a ‘force for good’, Bahrain’s human rights record has deteriorated significantly over the past 20 years,” BIRD director Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei said at a news conference in London.

In a letter dated February 26, also available to the FAZ, to the CEO of the Formula 1 group FOM, Stefano Domenicali, 28 human rights groups and trade unions complained about a difference between Formula 1’s claim and reality: “Although Formula 1 has assured that it has always made it clear to all race organizers and governments (…) around the world, including Bahrain, that (it) takes violence, human rights violations and oppression very seriously,” Bahrain systematically violates the rights of citizens and suppresses dissent , would allow violence including torture.

Formula 1 has been in Bahrain since 2004. After mass demonstrations against the rulers were bloodily suppressed in 2011, the Grand Prix was canceled. Since 2012, the racing series has been circling the slopes in the Sakhir Desert again. The new season begins this Thursday with training for the Bahrain Grand Prix (Saturday, 4 p.m. in the FAZ live ticker for Formula 1 as well as on Sky and RTL). BIRD and other organizations point out year after year that Bahraini activists who raised awareness of human rights violations during Formula 1’s presence at demonstrations or online have been and are subjected to severe reprisals by the authorities.

Sönke Sievers, Sakhir Published/Updated: Recommendations: 4 Christopher Meltzer, Munich Published/Updated: , Recommendations: 7 Sönke Sievers, Sakhir Published/Updated: Recommendations: 1

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During the press conference, Bahraini Hajer Mansoor was quoted as saying: “While Formula 1 was conducting its tests last week, the authorities searched our house. My son Sayed Hashim was arrested without a warrant and is now in custody for alleged protest activities, some of which date back to last year. He was abused, beaten, spat on and harshly interrogated. We fear for his fate.” Lord Scriven, a member of the upper house of the British Parliament, said he had asked Formula 1 for evidence to investigate the allegations, but had not even received a response. The group called on the FOM not to allow Bahrain’s Prince Nasser to present Grand Prix trophies during the awards ceremony again this year. BIRD accuses Nasser of being involved in torture.

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