F1: Tear gas used to quell Bahrain Grand Prix protests

Government accused of rounding up troublemakers ahead of lucrative Grand Prix

Security forces fired tear gas to disperse protesters at a secondary school in Bahrain as calls grew for this weekend’s Formula One race to be called off due to escalating violence.

The skirmishes came after the arrest of a student at the boys’ school, amid accusations that the government is arbitrarily arresting potential troublemakers ahead of the Grand Prix. The Interior Ministry said that “thugs” at Al Jabriya School in the capital Manama had been dealt with in line with the law.

Authorities have doubled efforts in recent weeks to quell unrest that has blighted the country for the past two years, since protesters, largely from the country’s Shia majority, took to the streets complaining of widespread discrimination under the country’s Sunni monarchy.

Bernie Ecclestone, the head of Formula One – the coffers of which are boosted by $40m (£26m) in hosting fees from Bahrain – has so far resisted calls to call off the race. He likened the demonstrators to those protesting Baroness Thatcher’s funeral, saying “people use these things when there is an opportunity”. His refusal to reconsider comes despite the fact that often violent demonstrations and scuffles with security forces have ramped up over the past week as protesters demand that the race is cancelled. A series of small explosions rocked the country on Sunday, adding to security concerns.

The blasts, one of which destroyed a car in the city’s financial district, caused no casualties but the Coalition of February 14 Youth claimed responsibility and threatened further action if the race was not called off, in a campaign it has called “volcanic flames”. The hacktivist group Anonymous also issued a threat to wreck Mr Ecclestone’s “little party”, calling on him to “cancel your blood race now”.

Photos and videos of the incident at the school showed young men hurling bottles at security forces before tear gas was fired. On Monday, police arrested a 17-year-old student, Hassan Humidan, at the school.

Human Rights Watch earlier this week accused the government of arresting scores of young men in a series of dawn raids since the beginning of the month. Amnesty International also condemned the decision by the Bahraini government to amend the penal code to enable it to jail for up to five years anyone found guilty of insulting King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah or other national symbols. “Increasing the punishment for criticism of Bahrain’s King is a further attempt to muzzle activists ahead of the upcoming Grand Prix,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, deputy Middle East and North Africa programme director at Amnesty.

A group of 20 British MPs have joined the opposition in calling for the race to be cancelled. “I think most democratic-minded people would be appalled if you allowed the Bahrain leg of the Formula One championship to go ahead amidst the most atrocious human rights violations,” the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Bahrain wrote in a letter to the F1 boss.

The Bahraini government is attempting to bridge a growing political divide by engaging in a “national dialogue” with opposition groups. Mr Ecclestone has offered to speak to representatives of Al Wefaq, the main opposition party, as he did last year.

However, the traditional largely Shia opposiwtion political parties have lost support among many of the demonstrators, with much of the youth contending that they have lost touch. Al Wefaq has refrained from calling for the F1 to be cancelled, wary of derailing discussions.

“They don’t reflect the street,” said Sayed Ahmed a Bahraini activist now residing in the UK after being injured at protests during the Formula One last year and imprisoned and tortured in 2011. “The street are clear, they don’t want a race on their blood. The security being used is enormous – it’s simply martial law which has not been announced.”

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
The veteran poverty campaigner Sir Bob Geldof issues a stark challenge to emerging economies at the Melbourne HIV/Aids conference
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and John Malkovich talk Penguins of Madagascar at Comic-Con
comic-con 2014Cumberbatch fans banned from asking about Sherlock at Comic-Con
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
filmGuardians Of The Galaxy should have taken itself a bit more seriously, writes Geoffrey Macnab
Sir Chris Hoy won six Olympic golds - in which four events?
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Lars Ulrich of Metallica performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform