Human Rights groups are warning that displays of public unrest could accompany F1's return to Bahrain in October, following the decision to reinstate the race on the 2011 calendar.
Amid claims that ongoing pro-democracy demonstrations continue to be forcibly quelled even as the FIA was announcing the switch of dates that will see Bahrain take up the October slot previously allocated to India - and the newest addition to the F1 firmament move to become the season finale - the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights has warned of calls for a 'Day of Rage' to coincide with the sport's return.
According to Britain's Daily Mirror
, the action would include widespread demonstrations and civil unrest, despite previous protests having been met with force, resulting in more than 30 fatalities, hundreds of arrests and ongoing claims of human rights abuses since the uprising first began in February.
“We have buried two bodies today who were victims of the government oppression," Nabeel Rajab, president of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said as the reinstatement of the grand prix was announced, “It is a very sad moment to hear that [F1] feels that their benefits and their interests are more important than the human rights of people in this region.
“It's very upsetting and the people are very upset and already they have called a day of that racing as a Day of Rage where you come out everywhere, in every city of Bahrain, to show anger towards the Bahrain government, what the Bahrain regime is doing towards their own people.”
Motorsport's governing body has claimed that it received 'unanimous' approval to return to Bahrain following a report of 'a stable situation' from FIA vice-president Carlos Gracia, even though there appears to be resistance from within the sport itself.
Red Bull's Mark Webber
has already voiced his concerns, while FOTA, the teams association, is to hold further talks on the issue ahead of this weekend's Canadian Grand Prix
in Montreal, having already highlighted both logistical and ethical reasons not
to hold the race this season.
FIA president Jean Todt has claimed that support for the reinstatement came from all parties in Bahrain, including the opposition groups behind the uprising, but UK sports minister Hugh Robertson points out that there may be good reason for the pro-democracy faction to come out in favour of a return.
"You cannot have a situation where politics overtakes sport," he told Reuters,/i>, "If that happens, you have a disaster on your hands. You can understand why opposition groups might want the race to go ahead if they are planning protests around it and this is a danger."