Sanctions for Syria. But in Bahrain, it's bring on the Grand Prix!
Pay no attention to the human rights violations behind the curtain, Mr. Ecclestone.
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He then moves on to the question of crackdown. He recounts his meeting with Interior Minister and royal family member Rashid bin Abdullah al-Khalifa, from whom he learned that "initially peaceful protests turned quickly into a very aggressive situation ... which saw brutal attacks on the police, resulting in four policemen being killed and 180 were injured." A hospital was "targeted" by protesters and Mr. Gracia relates that the situation "pushed police to act forcibly in order to restore security." No mention is made anywhere in his report of the at least 30 demonstrators who have been killed.Skip to next paragraph
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In his conclusion recommending a return for F1, he writes that he found an "atmosphere of total calm and stability" and that "life in Bahrain is completely normal again."
He should tell that to Ayet al-Gormezi, whose story was told by Caryle Murphy yesterday. In March, Ms. Gormezi was arrested, beaten, tortured with electric shocks, and had a toilet brush forced into her mouth. She's currently awaiting trial for participating in democracy protests and publicly criticizing the king or, as Bahrain has it, "breaching public security." Most Bahrainis that Ms. Murphy spoke with for the story asked her not to use their real names, fearing government reprisals.
At the end of May, as F1 was coming to the conclusion that all was well in Bahrain, Human Rights Watch urged the group to consider “whether a successful Formula One event could be held in an environment characterized by large-scale arbitrary arrests, prolonged incommunicado detentions, credible allegations of torture, and mass dismissals of workers.”
To be fair, the situation in Bahrain is more stable than in Syria, which is lurching toward civil war, or Libya, which is already there. The arrest of 1,000 demonstrators and the use of Saudi and other foreign troops (Saudi Arabia is deeply afraid of the demonstration effect of a monarch being toppled and also fears Bahrain's Shiite majority calling the shots there) has restored order.
Since the protests, hundreds of Shiites have been fired from government and private jobs, in an apparent warning to the community not to dare raise up their voices again. That's all helped bring the situation to a point where F1 thinks its time to return to business as usual.
To be fair to Mr. Ecclestone, he's not alone. President Obama hosted Bahrain's Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa at the White House yesterday, in which the younger Khalifa promised a "continuance of Bahrain’s process of meaningful reform."