A man was found dead April 21 after overnight clashes between the pro-democracy protesters and police in Bahrain, as the Formula One Grand Prix car-racing spectacle is set to open in the conflicted Persian Gulf mini-state. Some media reported the man had been beaten to death by riot police, while other said there were gunshot wounds on his body. Claiming Friday the 20th as the first of “three days of rage” against Bahrain’s rulers, some 50,000 anti-government protesters gathered in the capital Manama, 25 miles away from the Formula One site. Demonstrators called for the “overthrow of the regime” and demanded freedom for the dissident Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, who has been on hunger strike in prison for more than 70 days. Police fired tear gas and sound bombs to disperse the crowds. The protest movement has called a boycott of the Grand Prix, but Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa rules out cancelling the event, saying such a move would only “empower extremists.” (AllVoices, April 21)
The Demotix website identifies the dead protester as Salah Abbas Habib. He was apparently a prominent leader of the movement, and the site shows a picture from last March of him standing in front of a column armored vehicles advancing on Manama’s Pearl Roundabout—invoking the iconic image from the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing.
We unequivocally support the Bahrain protesters and their boycott call, but we wish they wouldn’t keep repeating that they would welcome Formula One to a free Bahrain. The Grand Prix is an exponent of the global car culture sustained by the global petro-oligarchy, of which Bahrain’s reactionary monarchy is a pillar. It is time to start getting the big picture.