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Bahrain opposition predicts further Grand Prix protests

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Bahrain opposition predicts further Grand Prix protests

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Pro-democracy protesters have promised three days of rage across Bahrain as the world of Formula One descends on the Gulf state this weekend.

Last year’s race was cancelled due to Arab Spring violence. Friday saw more than 10,000 people come together as this year’s Grand Prix practice day got underway.

Despite warnings from Bahraini authorities not to protest, activists continued their call for the country to be put on the right course towards democracy.

Campaigners have accused the ruling al-Khalifa family of using the international attention that the Grand Prix creates to rebuild the country’s reputation and gloss over human rights violations.

The Formula One Grand Prix brings in millions in tourism for the Gulf state. It remains to be seen whether large numbers of fans have stayed away from this year’s event for fear of being caught up in the protests.

Ali Takach, euronews:

Activist and Bahraini opposition spokesperson Hala Shehabi, welcome to Euronews, what will be the opposition’s next move?

Hala Shebabi, Human rights activist in Manama:

“The struggle will continue going forward. The street movement will continue to put pressure on the government, to respond to its legitimate demands for an elected parliament, an elected government and an elected prime minister, who’ve been in power for 41 years.”

Ali Takach, euronews:

Why was the timing of the Formula One so important for your protests?

Hala Shebabi, Human rights activist in Manama:

“Because the Formula One is officially endorsing the royal family. The Crown Prince is the official patron of the event. Members of the royal family are the organisers of the event and members of the royal family are also the key investors in the Formula One sport, so it’s only natural that this would become a target for the protest movement; especially considering that the media is going to be present in the country, that the attention will be given to Bahrain.

Ali Takach, euronews:

So what is the message that you want to get across?

Hala Shebabi, Human rights activist in Manama:

“The message is clear. It’s the struggle for freedom and liberation. It’s the struggle for greater participation and inclusion. It’s the release of political detainees. There are at least 600 people in prison today. It’s to reinstate people to their jobs. It’s to end the suppression of peaceful protests. Journalists on the ground today have seen the suppression of peaceful protests using tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and more dangerously shotgun pellets.

Ali Takach, euronews:

Do you have anything to say to the organisers and followers of Formula One around the world?

Hala Shebabi, Human rights activist in Manama:

“The message is clear. Do not endorse and support a royal family that is involved in serious violations of human rights. You have an ethical responsibility and this is not a neutral sport. There’s a fallacy that there’s no relationship between sport and politics. We’ve seen this South Africa and Argentina and we see this across the world in different situations unfortunately.

Ali Takach, euronews:

Since last year’s cancellation, the Bahraini government has managed to convince the organisers to go ahead with this year’s race and that the situation (in Bahrain) is calmer. What are your thoughts on these claims?

Hala Shebabi, Human rights activist in Manama:

“I think the decision for the race to go ahead was purely commercial and self-interest really played a part in the Formula One going ahead. This has been very obvious, and from our perspective we have been asking for genuine and serious reform for the past year – the government has had a year to open dialogue with the opposition and to reach a political solution. The message to the government is to finally solve the political conflict. This is the only thing that will bring stability and security to the entire people’s of Bahrain.

Ali Takach, euronews:

Activist and Bahraini opposition spokesperson Hala Shehabi, thank you very much.