Bahrain arrests activists ahead of Grand Prix

By Danielle Wiener-Bronner
April 18, 2013

Bahrain arrests opposition activists before big race, university snubs the Dalai Lama, and Pakistan’s former president makes a run for it. Today is Thursday, April 18, and this is the World Wrap, brought you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.


Protesters move a tree trunk to a road to set up road blocks in the village of Sitra, south of Manama, April 18, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

All eyes on Bahrain during Formula One race. Bahrain arrested five protesters ahead of Sunday’s Formula One motor race, which opposition activists see as an opportunity to publicize their pro-democracy uprising:

The race at the Sakhir desert circuit was canceled in 2011 when protests were crushed and at least 35 people were killed. Activists put the death toll far higher. Last year’s race went ahead against a backdrop of burning tires and riot police firing teargas at protesters throwing petrol bombs in Shi’ite Muslim villages. Bahrain’s main opposition bloc has called for peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations to be stepped up before the race, saying the global spotlight shone on the kingdom by the Grand Prix would help showcase its message of reform.

Amnesty International criticized the government for putting up a façade of progress for its global audience. Human Rights Watch said Grand Prix officials haven’t addressed human rights abuses apparently tied to the event, and accused Bahraini authorities of raiding homes and making arbitrary arrests to prevent protests . Clashes between the Shi’ite majority and the Sunni leadership have occurred daily since protests began two years ago, but usually garner little international attention.

Australian university snubs Dalai Lama. Sydney University canceled the Dalai Lama’s visit in a move critics say is intended to appease China:

China’s human rights record in Tibet remains a controversial issue in Australia, a close U.S. ally, and Sydney University’s new Institute for Democracy and Human Rights organized an on-campus talk by the Dalai Lama during his 10-day visit. This was overturned by a decision to move the event off campus after the university warned organizers not to use its logo, allow media coverage or entry to the event by free Tibet activists.

The university receives Chinese funding for its Confucius Institute. Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard refused to meet with the Dalai Lama when he visited the country in 2011.

Going, going, gone. Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf sped from a courtroom in a black SUV after judges ordered his arrest in relation to treason allegations. The humiliating scene further dashed his hopes of making a political comeback:

Despite Taliban death threats and a host of legal challenges, Musharraf returned from almost four years of self-imposed exile in London and Dubai last month in the hope of winning a seat in the National Assembly at the May 11 polls. But his arrival has placed him at the mercy of judges whose memories are still raw of a showdown in 2007 when he sacked the chief justice, placed his colleagues under house arrest, and lawyers fought running battles with police.

Musharraf reportedly fled to a farm in the outskirts of Islamabad. The former president is charged with failing to provide sufficient security for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007.

Nota Bene: In a blow to democracy, a restive region in Russia will allow Putin to pick its governor.

Standouts:

Rhino raid - Four rhinoceros heads worth $650,000 were stolen from the National Museum of Ireland. (Bloomberg)

North Korea kerfuffle - London School of Economics students who accompanied a BBC crew on a trip to North Korea said their school put them at risk by publicizing the story. (BBC)

Food crisis - More children in Greece are going hungry. (The New York Times)

Traffic jam – South Korea banned Psy’s new video over a scene in which the star kicks over a traffic cone. (The Wall Street Journal)

Progress in Pakistan - Transgender candidates run for office for the first time. (The Associated Press)

From the File:

  • Italian parliament fails to elect state president
  • North Korea demands end of sanctions if U.S. wants dialogue
  • Taliban in Qatar see no early peace talks with U.S.
  • Iran dismisses Israel threat at Ahmadinejad’s last army parade
  • Sri Lanka tracks tourists to ensure national security

 

2 comments

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There are many comments that can be made about the Grand Prix in Bahrain, but Unification & Financial beneficial are not amongst them. It is a shame for the people of Bahrain to see such such an almost total lack of shameless self-respect by those at the helm of an event that has done about as much for human rights & justice as the Titanic did for ocean safety, perhaps with the sole exception of acting as to a warning of the dangers of complacency & greed.
There can be no question as to financial burden the Grand Prix places upon Bahrain, even with local business being compelled or intimidated in purchasing (heavily discounted tickets) and government employees making up the usual Bahrain ‘Rent-a-Crowd’ official 2013 VIP Grand Prix Grandstand tickets with face values of over $500,are widely available; on offer at under $45 each.
It comes as no surprise that circuit chairman Zayed Alzayani refuses to provide any financial support for his claims; the government wont even provide accounting to the all powerful Shura Council
There is little local support for event in Bahrain, as demonstrated by the low ticket sales; it is not just the opposition parties who are against the Grand Prix it is the rank and file population from all sides of the country.
If there is such a ground swell of support why, in the week before the race, have hundreds of people been arrested in night raids; held without legal recourse.
The mass rally and government crack-down closing the Budaiya Highway is a clear message to local leaders and the empty words from Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone that regardless of their religious or political divide, rank and file Barainis do not want the Grand Prix
There are still daily demonstrations and international embassies, including the US & UK, have issued a series of worrying safety warning and a schedule of major demonstrations for the entire F1 race period, advising all but essential travel in the island.
The US Embassy map denotes areas considered so dangerous that US citizens should NEVER go there; areas which include the Circuit and all access thereto.
* It is hard to fathom precisely what the Bahrain authorities want:
First they state the race is a clear demonstration of unification, peace and democracy and a testament to their respect for human rights. Clearly not!
* Then they justify gagging the press and refusing entry to all but ‘Bernie’ sanctioned tame journalists
* They openly criticize BBC and world media for extreme bias
* Then claim that the race is a showcase for Bahrain – a showcase for what … oppression and greed?
What more evidence do the Bahrain authorities and the international community need?!
An old English friend recently compared Bahrain paraphrasing a famous Monty Python sketch; something that would be amusing were the symbolism not so poignant
“There’s only one rule here no abusing their human rights …. when anyone is looking that is!!”
Perhaps the Chairman of the Bahrain International Circuit lives in a different country … ?

Posted by NudaVeritas | Report as abusive

Only a few days ago the Bahraini authorities were telling the world that there was widespread support for the Bahrain Grand Prix, there was absolutely no danger and all was in fact secure and dandy in the small island nation.

Yet now we hear how the Bahrain Secret Police found 1,000′s of homemade bombs only days before the race, although this old chestnut is rolled out by the Ministry of Interior whenever they appear to be overstepping the mark. So were the Bahrain authorities lying then or now? Not that it really matters

The Bahrainis voted with their feet – far from a few minor demonstrations by disaffected youths in the villages tens of thousands of peaceful demonstrators from across the social and religious divide protested by blocking the main highway from Manama the day before the race, one of many such major displays of displeasure. To belittle or ignore these events witnessed by local media, expats and nationals alike is disservice to the truth – something there is a distinct shortage of in official reports

If the demonstrations were not enough evidence then look to the race itself, no doubt a great tribute to the sport of F1, but not supported by even the loyal local population. The official figures claimed over 75,000 visitors attended the three day of the Grand Prix, (even more than before the troubles started) yet if you look to the video or photographic coverage of the weekend, or as the writer, experienced the race in person, you will note that on Friday and Saturday the circuit was almost empty and even on race day, when you could eventually get in through the lengthy security measures, the one grandstand that was open held now more than a few thousand people.

The question is of the opposition don’t want the race and the government supporters cant be bothered to attend the race what is going on?

Finally this week far from the Bahrain authorities Pravda’esque reporting, claiming unbridled approval and support from the west, the US Department of State, the UK Foreign Office and the UN all issued official reports concerning the abuse of human rights in Bahrain, and the repeated abuse of privilege.

However the healing process will only start when substance becomes more important than spin!

Posted by NudaVeritas | Report as abusive