Human rights activists in Bahrain have called on the teams and drivers to boycott the Bahrain GP.
Last year the Bahrain GP was omitted from the Formula One World Championship because of the unrest that engulfed the Persian Gulf country as part of the Arab Spring. The race that should have started the 2011 season was first delayed and later cancelled, even though the $30 million hosting fee was paid and never returned to the principality's coffers. This year the Bahrain GP is on again, scheduled as the fourth round of the F1 World Championship, though many wonder whether it will actually take place.
Nabeel Rajab, the vice president for Bahrain Center for Human Rights, has called on the teams and drivers to boycott the race and has promised to campaign to that end. "We will do a campaign for...drivers and teams to boycott [the race]. The government wants Formula One to tell the outside world that everything is back to normal." In the past, F1 ringmaster, Bernie Ecclestone, said he would press ahead with plans to return the race to Bahrain as he did not believe the Grand Prix would become a focal point for protesters. "It's on the calendar. We'll be there, unless something terrible happens to stop us," he said.
Thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets in February and March last year demanding curbs on the power of the ruling Al-Khalifa family and an end to perceived discrimination. The pro-democracy movement was suppressed with the help of military forces brought in from Saudi Arabia and the UAE. But small, low-level protests have persisted on an almost daily basis. The Center for Human Rights has also exposed a list of 10 sportsmen who are held in jail for various periods, including life sentences.