17th Apr, 2013 –

Citizens for Bahrain response to British Parliamentarians

A number of British MPs from an obscure parliamentary group are calling for the Grand Prix to be halted. It appears that these MPs know almost nothing about Bahrain and base their position entirely on relentless propaganda from the London-based Islamist opposition. For their edification; here are ten reasons why it is important that the Formula One goes ahead; while providing them a few valuable insights about the reality of Bahrain:

1)    The F1 is good for Bahrain’s national unity

This is a Bahraini event held in Bahrain, organized by thousands of Bahrainis who have put effort into making this a success for the whole nation. The race unites people, despite political differences, after a period of unrest and sectarian tension.

Even those Bahrainis with little sympathy for the Government will be buying their tickets or glued to their TV screens. The Grand Prix is a national event.

2)    The F1 is good for Bahrain reforms

The F1 allows Bahrain to showcase itself to the world: Yet this also puts our society’s problems under the microscope, forcing the political system to put its house in order. This can only be a good thing, which acts as a wheel for further reforms.

Arguably, many of the positive changes have occurred because Bahrain knows it is in the spotlight. It is possible to be cynical about that, but isn’t that kind of scrutiny a major factor in forcing any politician to show that they deserve the public’s trust?

3)    The F1 is good for the mainstream opposition

Shaikh Ali Salman, leader of the main opposition party Al-Wefaq Islamic Society, stated that he is not against the F1; but they will take advantage of the press presence to present their cause to the world.

This is the one week of the year when the world wakes up and wonders what happened to the Bahraini opposition. Shaikh Ali Salman and Ayatollah Isa Qasim can imagine their moment of feeling relevant again, before the start of the hot summer months where few rioters and thugs dare to step outside in the 50 degree heat and the rest of Bahrain can enjoy a break.

The opposition loves the Grand Prix for all the fleeting attention it gains them – which is why they are out on the streets every day this week – enjoying their moment.

4)    The F1 is good for Bahrain’s economy

Formula One is a much-needed boost to Bahrain’s economy and provides hundreds of jobs; as well as the indirect benefits to the tourism industry, catering business and other businesses which benefit from the inflow of visitors, cash, advertising, investment and media attention.

Canceling the race in 2011 cost Bahrain an estimated $480-$800 million.

5)    The F1 is good for the F1 teams

It is clear that the core F1 teams look forward to the Bahrain race. Teams like Ferrari and Mercedes also have some of their biggest markets in the Gulf, so this is a great showcase for them.

They should come with a clear conscience, knowing that they are welcomed with open arms by most Bahrainis. We hope that F1 drivers will still be coming annually to Bahrain, long after the unrest is a dim and distant memory.

6)    The F1 is good for international awareness of Bahrain

How many people around the world only ever became aware of the tiny Kingdom of Bahrain because of the Grand Prix. This event truly puts our country on the sporting map.

Despite superficial and ill-informed media reporting, this event also presents the opportunity to gain a better understanding of events in Bahrain and what Bahrain is all about: Three things everybody should know:

1.     Bahrain is not Iran: This is a tolerant and open country based on the rule of law, where all religions and people are welcomed and respected.

2.     Bahrain is not Saudi Arabia: Women enjoy full rights, wear whatever they want and play a central role in society.

3.     Bahrain is a Constitutional Monarchy, which has seen considerable reforms since King Hamad ascended to the throne – Bahrain is considerably more democratic than neighboring Qatar, UAE, Saudi Arabia or Oman.

7)    The F1 is good for Bahrain human rights

Bahrain is a tiny island. Everybody can know pretty much everything that happens here. Thus, often quite minor human rights infringements gain a lot of attention. The result is that the authorities come under unrelenting pressure to improve their record.

Things are infinitely better than two years ago; but the negative international media attention shows that there is still some way to go. If the F1 was cancelled then this pressure would largely evaporate – do people really want this?

8)    The F1 is good for the media

The media love sensationalist stories, and with the odd smell of tear gas and burning tyres – let’s face it, Bahrain makes a far more news-worthy and conversation-starting location than most of the other bland stop-of points for the F1 teams and the flock of correspondents who follow them.

This is one of the few events which bring journalists to Bahrain, so that they can see the reality. Although they’ll enjoy heading to Sitra and Sanabis to get some footage of the rioting and escape the Molotovs – honest correspondents will be forced to acknowledge that most of Bahrain is actually very quiet and normal – and not really so deserving of all the fuss and controversy.

9)    The F1 is good for sport

Sport should not get mixed up in politics, otherwise half of international events would get cancelled and many of the rest would come under huge pressure to do so. Or are we saying that China, South Africa, the US, Mexico, India, the UAE and other venues where the Grand Prix turns up have prefect human rights and security records?

We see a constant procession of international conferences coming through Bahrain. This is not a pariah state, but a country aspiring to be at the heart of the international community.

Bahrainis love their motor racing and this event serves as an inspiration to an upcoming generation.

10) The F1 is bad for extremists, terrorists and thugs

The smooth-running of the Grand Prix is a message to the terrorists that their scare tactics have failed. They don’t terrify us with their poorly-built explosive devices or their crude threats against the general public.

The recent blasts at the Boston Marathon show that terrorism is not something particular to Bahrain and we certainly shouldn’t be cancelling the Formula One as a result.

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