Friday, April 20, 2012
Bahrain's opposition is out on the street as all eyes are directed towards Formule 1 Grand Prix
Bahrain's main opposition group, Al-Wefaq, has called for a week of daily protests to coincide with the Grand Prix, using the sports event to focus media attention on their longstanding demands for greater equality and representation in the kingdom, AFP reports.
"There is a desire to take advantage of the presence of (international) press, normally barred from entering the country," said Bahraini rights activist Nabil Rajab. "The Formula One... is a symbol of the regime, it represents its repression," said Rajab, noting that the Bahrain race was a personal project of the crown prince.
The government on Thursday barred Al-Wefaq from holding a protest in central Manama, an interior ministry statement said. The announcement came in the wake of several demonstrations in Bahrain's Shiite villages late on Wednesday, in which police and protesters clashed. Witnesses said police used tear gas and buckshot to disperse the crowds, wounding a number of people, with protesters hurling petrol bombs in response. The violent clashes followed calls by the February 14 Youth Movement on social networking sites for "three days of rage" to coincide with the event.
Earlier this week, hundreds of protesters marched carrying banners calling for a boycott and a demonstration was held near Bahrain's international airport as the teams began arriving, despite the arrest of about 80 leading democracy activists.
The Bahrain Grand Prix was cancelled last year in the wake of a Shiite-led uprising against the Sunni monarchy and the brutal government crackdown that followed in which a government commission said 35 people were killed.