Letters: Formula One crowd ignores Bahrain tyranny

These letters appear in the print edition of The Independent, 21st April, 2013

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Sir Jackie Stewart’s support for the ruthless, one-family dictatorial dynasty in Bahrain is disturbing, not least for his analogies (“Bahrain’s F1 protest? It’s just like the Old Firm derby, says Jackie Stewart”, 20 April).

Like all in the F1 circus – drivers, team officials, mechanics, even most of the spectators who come from outside the country – Sir Jackie is taken from airport to limo to hotel to racetrack without seeing the real Bahrain, the Bahrain of cruel and often lethal discrimination against the Shia majority. Indeed, they are prevented by the security forces from doing so (as was the ITN TV crew who were kicked out for trying to tell the world, including Sir Jackie, what was going on). 

Having lived and worked in Bahrain during the 1980s, and maintained contact with my Bahraini friends since, I can assure Sir Jackie that the self-styled “kingdom” – its top sheikh decided to declare it a kingdom and call himself King just over 10 years ago – has neither “started a move towards democracy” nor shown any sign of doing so.

To compare the majority Shia population’s struggle for democracy with the Protestant-Catholic football rivalry in Glasgow is not only ludicrous but offensive to all concerned, including Glasgow football fans and police. Bahraini Shia are regularly jailed and tortured and, in recent years have been killed in their struggle for democracy. 

To say “You can go in shorts and a bikini in Bahrain” shows Sir Jackie’s unfortunate ignorance of life outside the F1 bubble. For the Bahraini majority, democracy has nothing to do with wanting to go in shorts or bikinis. If, and more likely when the Bahrainis overthrow the family which has ruled them for close to 200 years I can assure you wearing shorts or bikinis will be the last things on their minds.

P J Davison, Richmond upon Thames


‘Star Wars’ cops flood streets of Boston

Am I the only one who thinks that America is fast becoming a laughing-stock? Obama’s speeches have praised the people of Boston for being resolute, brave and not cowed; yet the city was locked down, tanks and Swat teams packed the streets while the residents stayed behind locked doors. Why? A teenager was on the loose.

Eddie Johnson, Long Melford, Suffolk


The Boston bombing was a very grave matter and needed a proper police response. But I wonder how many other readers felt qualms at the photograph of the Boston “armed police descending on the town” (20 April)? 

Their Swat force looked like something out of Star Wars. Not only does this picture glorify the gun culture but it brings home the reality that modern democracy has a very fragile base: we may think it depends on the votes of the people but when push comes to shove governmental brute force could easily win the day.

David Ashton, Shipbourne, Kent


It would appear that the vicious Chechen Islamic separatist war which has plagued Russia for decades has now reached US shores courtesy of our misguided foreign policy leaders (such as Zbigniew Brzezinski, Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright) who subscribe to the principle that the “enemy of my enemy must be my friend.” 

We need to cease our pro-Muslim extremist and pro-separatist policies in places such as Chechnya, Bosnia and Kosovo as we are continuing to suffer much “blowback” as a result.

Dr Michael Pravica, Henderson, Nevada, USA


Watching the massive display of weaponry from the US police on the streets of Boston, I am reminded of Brendan Behan’s remark: “The terrorist is the one with the small bomb”.

Keith Nolan, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co Leitrim, Ireland


Hard to enforce minimum wage

The leading article identifying the problem of non-enforcement of the minimum wage (20 April) was spot on. Those likely to be affected are unlikely to be in a union or to be aware of the law or able to represent themselves.

However, the enforcement agency is HMRC, which is not able to represent individuals seeking redress for underpayment. Thus there is no incentive for a worried worker to go to HMRC. They may persuade HMRC to issue an order, or even to name and shame an employer, but their reward will be to feel good, not to be recompensed – that needs them to go to an employment tribunal.

I have been through the process for somebody who had been badly trapped, and got nearly £10,000 underpayment at a tribunal, but the experience with HMRC was not encouraging.

Professor Tony Pointon, University of Portsmouth


Thatcher’s mentor?

Attempts to equate Baroness Thatcher with Sir Winston Churchill do a disservice to the memory of that great man. A more apposite comparison might be with another titan of British history, Oliver Cromwell.

Cromwell and Thatcher both came from modest backgrounds and rose to positions of great power. Both presided over a divided nation, embracing in one case civil war, in the other public disorder.

Whereas Thatcher was a political zealot, Cromwell was a politico-religious one, sustained in part by military force. Cromwell demonised a section of his fellow countrymen – the royalists; Thatcher did the same with trade unionists.

Cromwell’s body was twice carried through the streets of London, initially at his extravagant state funeral; then, following its exhumation after the return to constitutional government, his head was mounted on a pole outside Westminster Hall, where it remained for nearly a quarter of a century, a reminder to all that unjust use of power eventually brings its reward.

Mike Timms, Iver, Buckinghamshire


Drama on the railway track

Further to Sophie Goodrick’s intriguing letter (19 April), following your entertaining profile of Scarfolk: The Finishing Line (1977) was a late and, yes, truly unforgettable short film by British Transport Films. This highly respected production unit turned out decades of well-crafted travelogue, public information and training films on behalf of nationalised transport. The Finishing Line was perhaps the most unusual chapter in its illustrious history.

Director John Krish is himself one of British cinema’s best kept secrets: an outstanding talent, particularly in documentary, public information and films for children. The Independent’s critic Anthony Quinn, reviewing the BFI’s 2010 re-release of earlier short films by Krish, hailed their “technical accomplishment”, “humane sensitivity” and “timeless” imagery.

Readers interested to learn more are encouraged to check out the growing range of books, DVDs and webpages exploring such rich, but unfairly neglected seams, of Britain’s film heritage. A high-definition transfer of The Finishing Line is included in the recent DVD/Blu-ray release of Krish’s hitherto unavailable Captured (1959).

I was slightly too young to have caught The Finishing Line the first time round, coming to thrill to its anarchic moralism later in life. I was, however, subjected sometime in the early 1980s to the Central Office of Information’s Apaches (1978), and duly traumatised. But that’s another story.

Patrick Russell, Senior Curator (Non-Fiction), BFI National Archive, London W1


Iraq war was not a crime

Richard Carter (letter, 20 April) is wrong to claim that Tony Blair or anyone else could be prosecuted for the Iraq war under the proposed crime of aggression at the International Criminal Court.

This proposed crime so far has only been accepted by five out of the 122 members of the court. If there were a two-thirds majority in favour by 2017 the court could only exercise its powers over alleged aggression that took place after January 2018. This “crime” would be optional and state parties could opt out of accepting the jurisdiction of the court over it. The full text of the crime also makes highly dubious that it would cover the circumstances of the 2003 war.

Those who believe that the Blair government committed a crime over Iraq are misguided. The war might have been wrong but it was not a crime.

John Strawson , Reader in Law, University of East London


Both sides of the MMR argument

I have followed the MMR controversy only from a distance and have been swayed one way, then the other by the arguments. But I would like to support the editorship of The Independent in having the courage to present both sides of the story (Letter from the Editor, 20 April).

The public needs the truth and sometimes the only way is to print both sides of an argument and let the individual decide. It is for this reason that I shall continue to read The Independent.

Keep being controversial.

Cliff Woodcraft, Sheffield


An obvious reason for not bringing in a single measles vaccine (letter, 19 April) is that there is nothing wrong with the MMR vaccine. It is also likely that those at risk with respect to measles are equally at risk to mumps (sterility in adult males) and rubella (high risk in pregnancy).

Max Richens, Lymm,  Warrington


No salvation by good deeds

David Hooley writes that religious good deeds are not so much moral as prudent (letter, 20 April). 

Martin Luther read the words of Paul and preached that we are justified with God by faith and not through good works. Luther’s teaching resulted in the Reformation. No Protestant should believe in salvation through prudent good deeds.

Vaughan Clarke, Colchester,  Essex


Hospital parking

You report on the burden of hospital parking charges for cancer patients (19 April). Some hospitals recognise the expense for close family visitors to long-term in-patients, and offer discounted parking on a “bulk purchase” ticket. It would be worth finding out whether they do the same for out-patients receiving regular and lengthy treatments. 

S Lawton, Kirtlington,  Oxfordshire


Heavy lift

The piece about Horacio Cartes and the election in Paraguay (20 April) mentions “a small plane” carrying a 370-tonne cargo of drugs. Very impressive, if not exactly laudable.

Norman Foster, Duxford,  Cambridgeshire