Saturday, June 4, 2011

Formula 1 Supports Torture

I don't know if many in the US have noticed, but the premier world-wide auto-racing series has just rescheduled its race in Bahrain for later this year.  It was rather inconveinently scheduled for last March.  But, now that the princes of Bahrain have tortured and beaten and murdered their population into some sort of quiet, F1 has now quickly proclaimed the rescheduling of the race.

Anyone who's ever been around motor racing knows that a race can't take place without a lot of hard work from people who work at the track.  There is both long preparation by the employees of the track before the first race hauler and fan RV arrives at that track, as well as usually a big volunteer effort to staff the track for the race weekend.

The following is an account from the Independent (UK) of how the track workers in Bahrain have been treated. This is what F1 supports.  The beating and torture of the people who work hard to put on a race in order to please some billionaire oil-prince.  Formula One has said quite clearly that only billionaire oil princes count.

'At around 7pm he was told to strip naked and was again beaten severely'

This is the account of one Shia member of staff at the Bahrain International Circuit, which hosts the Grand Prix, who was arrested in April. Still suffering from injuries inflicted by his interrogators, he has now left the country. He wishes to remain anonymous and is referred to as AB throughout:

"AB's ordeal began when three cars full of security forces arrived at the BIC offices on the morning of 7 April. They went floor by floor searching for people whose names were on their list. When they arrived at the floor of AB's office, they called out his name. They immediately took him away, beating him as they went along the corridor. At least 23 other BIC staff were arrested that day, he says.

The motor race employees were blindfolded and handcuffed using electric cable and were taken to Riffa West police station. Once there, they were led to a room where the group were all beaten with sticks and cables for hours. They were accused of having celebrated the fact that the Formula One had been cancelled earlier in the year. AB denies this, saying that as an employee of BIC, he depends for his livelihood on the events held at BIC, particularly the Formula One.

AB was taken to an interrogation room. He was interrogated about the number of times he went to Pearl Roundabout, the centre of pro-democracy protests. He said he had been there twice, but the officer forced him to say that he had been there 20 times. At one point an officer put AB's head between his legs and flipped his body over, and he lost consciousness. Beatings continued.

The verbal abuse he experienced was full of anti-Shia sectarian hatred. The officers called him "son of muta'a" – a temporary marriage permitted in Shia Islam – and "son of a bitch". At around 7pm he was told to strip naked and was again beaten severely. The cable around his hands became extremely tight because of severe swelling.

The police station was over-flowing with at least 20 people sleeping on the floor in one cell with barely enough space to lie down. They were not given blankets and the air-conditioning was kept very low so it was too cold to sleep.

This treatment lasted for three days until they were transferred to Dry Dock prison, beatings continuing all the while. At Dry Dock the situation was much better and there was no more torture. AB was given sun cream and told to sit in the sun so that injuries from his torture wounds could heal.

He was freed after 20 days and told to sign papers banning him from talking to the media.

Today his hands tremble and he suffers from numbness in his arms as well as anxiety attacks and paranoia.

BTW, F1 is planning a return to the US at a new track in Texas in June, 2012. Seems like any who support democracy and who oppose torture and murder should start planning a protest to let them know that we do not want these people in the USA.

(Update: 06-05-11)
Max Mosley is the former head of the FIA, which is the official body that sanctions F1 races as being legit.  This is what he has to say about F1 going back to Bahrain this year.

"Why is this different to running an event in any number of countries where people are oppressed, kept in poverty, held without trial and mistreated (or worse) in prison?

"Surely the line has to be drawn when a sporting event is not mere entertainment in a less-than-perfect country, but is being used by an oppressive regime to camouflage its actions.

"If a sport accepts this role, it becomes a tool of government. If Formula One allows itself to be used in this way in Bahrain, it will share the regime's guilt as surely as if it went out and helped brutalise unarmed protesters."

He continued: "Having carried out these horrific acts, the Bahrain government wants to clean up its image. That's where the grand prix comes in.

"By running the race they hope to show the world the troubles were just a small, temporary difficulty and everything is now back to normal.

"By agreeing to race there, Formula One becomes complicit in what has happened. It becomes one of the Bahrain government's instruments of repression.

"The decision to hold the race is a mistake which will not be forgotten and, if not reversed, will eventually cost Formula One dear."
And that's from a son of wartime British fascist leader who likes to dress up in Nazi uniforms and play S&M games.  Even he sees that this is a horrible mistake.

As an example of what America's image has become in the civilized world, discussions on F1 forums about whether races should be held in country's with less than perfect human rights records invariably mention the United States in the same breath as Bahrain, China, and Singapore as human rights abusers which also host (or will soon be hosting in 2012) F1 Grand Prix.

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