The recent and well-documented political troubles in Tunisia and Egypt look set to spread to other parts of the Arab world, which has prompted those in Formula 1 to keep an eye on the goings-on in the island kingdom of Bahrain, home to the season-opening Grand Prix at the Sakhir circuit.
It would seem that the small oil-rich nation is not immune from the same unrest that has gripped its neighbours further to the west, with reports in the recent hours suggesting that protests against the Bahraini government are escalating violently.
There has been some evidence of quiet discontent in the Bahraini populace in the years since F1 first visited the kingdom in 2004, and there have been documented cases of the occasional antigovernment protest on the outskirts of the nation’s capital, Manama, some of which have been witnessed by those in the F1 community.
Some nine years since pro-democracy reforms to the country’s constitution, the citizens are wanting more change, with the royal family deemed to have too much influence in government affairs, and with concerns that the mostly Shiite population is underrepresented in government, which is mostly made up of the (minority) Sunni group.
Reports in the United States media are suggesting that two demonstrators have now been killed – and a further 25 injured – in recent anti-government protests, where police have allegedly used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the angry crowds.
There are suggestions that the government’s reaction to the protests has been particularly heavy-handed, although the Interior Ministry is promising a full investigation and prosecution if this is found to be the case.
At the same time, the ruling government has promised an economic stimulus-style payment to each Bahraini household, which some might perceive as a desperate effort to buy the silence of those who support the political opposition.
The FIA has cancelled its own sanctioned events due to concerns over the safety of its competitors, more recently pulling the pin on the Mexican round of the 2010 World Touring Car Championship due to ongoing political instability in the region where the race was to be held.
And while it is hoped that a repeat action of this would be unlikely in the case of the Bahrain Grand Prix, one certainly cannot discount it if the situation doesn’t improve rapidly.
No doubt, the F1 circus – due to his Bahrain in early March for the final –pre-season test ahead of the first Grand Prix mid-month – will be watching these developments very closely…
[Image via NewsUpdatez]
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