Bahrain to end state of emergency two days before FIA decide on race

2011 Bahrain Grand Prix

Bahrain deadline

Bahrain deadline

The good thing about Adolf Hitler, mused Bernie Ecclestone two years ago, was that he could “command a lot of people” and “get things done”.

So it’s not difficult to imagine him admiring how the rulers of Bahrain have got things done in the three months since their Grand Prix was postponed.

One of the things they have done is keep the international media out, suppressing coverage of what has gone on in the country in recent weeks and months.

One team of reporters who did make it into the country earlier this week heard stories of schoolgirls being beaten and threatened with rape on suspicion of their involvement in the February and March protests.

Further details of what has gone on in Bahrain since the postponement of the race make for grim reading.

Earlier this week that King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa declared the country’s state of emergency, which began six days before the race was postponed, will end on June 1st.

Coincidentally – or perhaps not – the FIA World Motor Sport Council meets to discuss whether the race should happen just two days later.

Jean Todt’s words to Autosport last week stressed the FIA’s desire to “support” Bahrain’s efforts to hold a race this year:

“We completely sympathise with the problems that are happening, and we all understand that it would not have been possible to keep the Grand Prix as the first race of the championship. [...]

“Fortunately things have improved, but they were not in a position to commit definitely – and I had a discussion with Bernie, with the government, with the ASN, and they asked us if we would accept one more month, which means until the next World Council on June 3, which I accepted.

“I think if you are in a difficult situation, you need support. That is our responsibility. We need to give some support and it will penalise nobody to have a final answer by June 3.”

While some F1 journalists are considering not attending the race on principle if it takes place and at least one team has dropped hints it would not go, Todt echoed Ecclestone’s claim that F1 should not take a “political” stance.

He said: “I don’t think we could get involved in what is normal, what is not normal. Let’s hope there is more peace in our world and we can enjoy the sport.”

Todt is kidding himself with these bland platitudes. There is no apolitical stance on this matter.

Giving unqualified support to the government of Bahrain and handing them an F1 race as a reward for their violent suppression of pre-democracy protests would be just as much a political decision as taking their Grand Prix away.

Should the Bahrain Grand Prix go ahead? Cast your vote here: Should the Bahrain Grand Prix be held in 2011?

Cartoon by Gurmit for F1 Fanatic. See more of Gurmit’s work here.

2011 Bahrain Grand Prix

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123 comments on Bahrain to end state of emergency two days before FIA decide on race

  1. Alex Bkk said on 14th May 2011, 1:55

    The Bahrain GP has been like a dark cloud hanging hanging over the season thus far. Honestly, I don’t care if there’s never another GP there. I just wish it would blow away.

  2. Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 14th May 2011, 9:46

    F1 goes to China, Malaysia, Singapore and Turkey. All countries where people get mistreated, tortured or even killed for their opinions/beliefs or their ethnicity.

    Why is Bahrain such a different situation?

    In fact even Paris had it’s riots from the underpriviliged muslim youths. Does that mean that an F1 race in France is made impossible by that? Protesters were shot by police then too.

    The only real issue is the safety. So far travel advice is to refrain from travelling to Bahrein unless travel is “essential”.

    If that doesn’t change then of course there can’t be a race there.

    • Icthyes (@icthyes) said on 14th May 2011, 11:43

      The Bahrain situation is made complicated by the fact it’s a tiny country, so F1 cannot be safe.

      Furthermore, because it’s a tiny country, the protests are “nation-wide” meaning something is up with the whole country and it’s not just some demo in one city. It would be akin to having student riots mowed down by the police everywhere in England and the same thing would happen as is now with Bahrain.

      Bahrain is a different situation because…it is a different situation.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 14th May 2011, 19:25

      Well, I am pretty certain a French GP would have been cancelled if it would have been planned to happen in the middle of those french riots.

      • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 14th May 2011, 21:23

        There was no negative travel advise during those riots.

        Again though, I’m talking about the moral debate. When protesters, trying to storm the police in Bahrain, get shot it’s a moral barrier for ever racing there again. When the French (Chinese, Malaysian, Turkish, Singaporese) police does exactly the same, there seems to be no issue with it at all.

        Why not?

        • Maciek said on 15th May 2011, 15:04

          I had a longer answer and my computer went plonk, but now I’ll just say that the examples you cite are just different on many levels (French police shot a youth, after which riots exploded – definitely not the same). And let’s not forget that the Bahrain race is directly paid for by the same government who’s doing the shooting. China is the most glaring current stain on F1 as far I’m concerned, but even there things aren’t as clear cut as they were some years ago. And a lot it is just timing – if Tienanmen were happening now, most people would say F1 shouldn’t be in China.

  3. cubejam (@cubejam) said on 14th May 2011, 10:08

    Brilliant :D Hopefully we get 20 races after all!

  4. Paul A (@paul-a) said on 14th May 2011, 17:18

    [ Normal programming will resume as soon as possible ]

    If I proposed cancelling the Canadian GP because the cops arrested a thousand or more protestors at the last G8/G20 summit, or cancelling the Brazilian GP because the government does nothing about underage prostitution, or Silverstone because the Met Police arrested (or didn’t) the kids who dinged up Charles and Camilla’s RR on Regent Street – you’d all say I’m as nutty as a fruit cake.

    So, please, let’s get out of politics and return to Formula One. I’m a fanatic

  5. VXR said on 14th May 2011, 19:49

    We could say that we shouldn’t go back to China until their internet access is no longer censored. There are many ways to oppress a people without resorting to violence. Do we always have to wait for the fighting to start before we say that enough is enough?

    • Patrickl (@patrickl) said on 14th May 2011, 21:32

      It’s not even just censorship. The Chinese have killed hundreds of protesters in the last few years (2005, 2008, 2009).

      Hundreds got shot in the 2008 march protests. Yet I don’t remember anyone arguing that the race in China should not be held since the prestige of the F1 race would support the regime.

      • Maciek said on 15th May 2011, 15:08

        Got any links for stories on those ‘hundreds’? I don’t remember hearing anything remotely like that…?

      • BasCB (@bascb) said on 15th May 2011, 18:43

        Well there were certainly a lot of people talking about going to china when the race was planned for the first time.

        But I guess having the Olympics there etc. have taken a bit off the argument of going there now.

        I am certain, there is a lot wrong in China. But hundreds of deads in a country as big as China is pretty bad, but hardly compares with the current situation in Bahrain with hundreds of dead on about 600.000 inhabitants.

  6. For me it is simply about f1. Not nazis/bahranis, which I feel are one of the same if I believe a lot of the opinions above. If the decision is made to give them a race, I will be there and will enjoy it. So will many of the people that oppose the idea now, because at the end of the day it will be about 24 cars going racing. Which is why we all read this site.

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