Tension is rising yet again at Bahrain as an increased number of pro-democracy protests has recently been replied to by the government. Local sources claim 20 people have been arrested by masked policy officers, with amongst them some protagonist protesters.
The 20 arrests were all made following raids in towns close to the Bahrain International Circuit where F1 is to hold its Grand Prix in one week.
Human Rights Watch has heard this from differing local sources that these arrests were made without the proper papers are required by the Bahraini law, and that people held in detention were denied their legal rights. To HRW, this clearly raises further questions on the stance of the Bahrain government.
“This latest crackdown and the way it’s being carried out raises new questions about the Bahraini authorities’ commitment to reform,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “These raids and detentions suggest that officials are more concerned with getting activists out of circulation for the Formula 1 race than with addressing the legitimate grievances that have led so many Bahrainis to take to the streets.”
Yesterday, another protest outside of the state's capital was dispersed following the firing of tear-gas and sound bombs, a witness said to Malaysian newspaper "The Star". There, protesters came together specifically against the Bahrain Grand Prix, shouting "Your race is a crime" and "Down with Hamad," in reference to the king, who heads a Sunni minority regime in the Shiite majority island state.
The Bahrain government on the other hand claimed that security forces were responding to an "an escalation of extremely riotous behavior". The national press agency also just released a report claiming that ticket sales are spurring as "excitement grows".
"With all the excitement kicking off in just six days, tickets have been moving fast as people snap up their tickets to ensure their place at the Grand Prix."
Indeed, with the Chinese Grand Prix still ongoing, many eyes are already at Bahrain, and for the third time a row, now only for the quoted "excitement" ahead of a Formula One race.