Bahrain cracks down on Formula One protesters

SHAFAQNA – Security forces in Bahrain cracked down hard on people protesting the country’s hosting of the Formula One race, which they say serves to distract world attention away from the government’s large-scale rights violations.

Protest rallies took place in the Bilad al-Qadeem suburb of the capital, Manama, the western Nuwaidrat Village, as well as on the Sitra Island, likewise situated in the country’s west, on Thursday, according to the Sitra Media network.

Security forces were deployed to all protest sites and attacked the demonstrators to break up the rallies, according to the network, which reports on political and human rights activism in Bahrain and the authorities’ treatment of the campaigners.

Pictures were also circulated across social media showing protesters burning the race’s tickets.

The Bahraini regime is notorious for its lack of tolerance of political opposition and exercising discrimination against the country’s Shia majority.

The government’s unremitting abuses prompted a popular uprising in 2011. Manama has been quelling all the protests ever since, killing scores of protesters in the process. The regime has destroyed a square in the capital that had turned into an icon of the uprising. It has also dissolved opposition bodies.

Human rights organizations and rights activists say Bahrain’s move to host Formula One worked to deflect attention from its ongoing draconian treatment of dissent. Earlier in the month, four rights bodies wrote to the Formula One management, urging it to call off the upcoming Grand Prix.

“Concerted and visible action is now required from Formula One, consistent with its commitment to human rights,” the letter read. “We call on you to suspend this year’s race in view of the alarming situation in the country.”

Formula One would “become complicit” in the rights violations in Bahrain if the race was not canceled, the letter added.

Separately, a rally was held in the northwestern village of Diraz, the native village of prominent opposition Shia cleric Sheikh Issa Qassim, to protest his treatment by the regime.

Sheikh Qassim, 77, is the spiritual leader of al-Wefaq, one of the opposition bodies dissolved by the regime.

Bahraini authorities revoked the cleric’s citizenship on June 20, 2016. They later dissolved the Islamic Enlightenment Institution — founded by him — too.

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