Hunger-striking Bahraini dissident Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja near death; Formula One president still plans to run races in Bahrain

Tuesday night's As It Happens program on CBC radio featured a segment on the terrible human rights situation in Bahrain, opening with an archive interview with Zainab Al-Khawaja, daughter of the dissident Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who was snatched, beaten and indefinitely detained by Bahraini police a year ago. Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja is now on a hunger-strike and may die soon. As It Happens then interviews his daughter again about her father's situation and the human rights situation in Bahrain. Zainab Al-Khawaja explains that her father is risking his life to draw international attention to Bahrain's awful human rights situation, the hundreds of dissidents rotting in jail, some as young as 12 years old, facing torture and inhumane conditions.

As It Happens then interviewed Bernie Ecclestone, president of Formula One, whose big annual race is to be held in Bahrain this year. Ecclestone is the perfect picture of denial and callousness, as he blithely asserts that Bahrain is a perfectly nice place where protest is tolerated. He's smug about his race for expensive cars in a totalitarian police-state, and blames the media for any negative impression the world may have gotten about Bahrain.

Here's a recent CNN article on the Al-Khawajas, here's Murtaza Hussain on Salon on the same subject, and here's Democracy Now!'s archive of pieces on the family. Zainab Al-Khawaja tweets as @angryarabiya.

As It Happens's producers were kind enough to supply an MP3 of the segment for us to host (linked below). As It Happens is my favorite news magazine program. I download the previous night's episode every day and listen to it on my waterproof MP3 player on my daily swim.

As It Happens Bahrain dissident segment (MP3, 11 mins, 11MB)


  1. Turns out they haven’t cancelled major league baseball this year here in the US either, despite Guantanamo still being open and the whole Bradley Manning situation. Obviously the person to spotlight here should be an MLB official.

    1. If Barack Obama personally owned Guantanamo and all the MLB venues and was President for life, that might be a good analogy.

    2. They cancelled the race last year and they should be indefinitely removing Bahrain from the schedule until their Government stop being assholes. Diplomatic isolation and sanctions on oil sales are also in order.

      I suppose you think the world should’ve just let South Africa join international sporting contests during apartheid? There is precedent for this and your analogy is pretty far off the mark:

      Can’t find a contact for the fucktard at the top of F1 (Bernie Ecclestone) but we can always bombard his daughter as a means of  getting through to him:!/TamEcclestone

  2. I suspect that as long as Bahrain is hospitable enough to host the 5th fleet, there will be no ‘human rights problems’ worthy of drawing ‘serious’ attention to…

    The fact that Formula One has a taste for money and considers it to have no scent is just icing on the cake.

    1.  Basically, notice how both the media and “liberal” sites have pretty much ignored Bahrain for months and months.

      1. Just as they ignored the conditions leading up to the Arab Spring until it was in full swing.  Genocide, rape camps, police states – all got a free pass and still do in a lot of circles. Anyone criticising a Muslim dictator was shouted down as a racist and a Zionist dupe.  They were all Heros Of The Left with twinkling halos above their heads until they started to burn their own cities to the ground whilst shopping for Louis Vuitton handbags.

        1. Do all you right winger believe your self-invented mythology about what left wingers believe? On the other hand I can understand your confusion: on the one hand we have a good totalitarian fascist state that rightly oppresses the lower orders as far as possible, but on the other hand it’s done by brown people. You want to approve but cannot!

        2.  Anyone criticising a Muslim dictator was shouted down as a racist and a Zionist dupe.

          You have a curiously bizarre view on events.  Most of the Arab spring dictators were/are subservient to The West and its military/business interests while brutal to its citizenry. 

        3. Actually, I’m going to ask you to defend your comments and explain how Ben Ali, Mubarek, Saleh, “King” Hamad etc. are “Heros Of The Left” [sic] with pesky facts and stuff…

          You can chime in too “Guido” since you liked his bizarre comment.

  3. Bernie Ecclestone? The man famous for saying “women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances”? Or for publicly expressing his admiration for the way that a certain German leader “got things done”?

    I am shocked, just shocked to learn that he could be insensitive to the state of (or rather absence of) human rights in Bahrain. I’m sure he admires the Bahraini government for their efficiency as well.

    1. Yeah… the guy’s proven himself time and again to be a douche of immense proportions. When Jensen Button got held up by guys with machine guns in Brazil in 2009 he quipped:

      “They look for victims, they look for anyone that looks like a soft touch and not too bright…The people that look a bit soft and simple, they will always have a go at. All the people who have been robbed seem to be people outside the top 10 of the grid.”

      So he thinks robbers pay attention to F1 grid positions as a means of determining who to rob. Then the fucker got mugged himself in London and lost $300,000 worth of jewelry… who’s soft and simple now you old fool? Makes me kinda wish the assailants had beaten him to death.

  4. Ecclestone may be avarice personified but don’t assume that all F1 fans think the same way.

    I run an F1 blog called F1 Fanatic and this has been a major talking point since the Arab Spring last year when the previous Bahrain Grand Prix was (eventually) cancelled.

    Naturally there are strong views on both sides of the debate, especially from Bahraini F1 fans. But I would say most people I’ve heard from are unhappy with the situation and don’t think it reflects well on F1 to be racing there.

    Here’s what I wrote on the subject on Tuesday: F1′s Bahrain Grand Prix brinkmanship is all about money

    Incidentally, Ecclestone is not the “president of Formula One”, he’s the commercial rights holder. Jean Todt is president of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), the governing body responsible for motor racing including Formula 1. Note that Sheikh Abdulla Bin Isa Al Khalifa of the Bahrain royal family is a member of the FIA World Motor Sport Council which ratifies the Formula 1 calendar.

    1.  Can I correct your phrasing?

      Bahrain Grand Prix ….. is all about money

      It’s not like there is a national tradition of F-1 fandom and historic race teams in Bahrain as in Britain, France, Italy, Germany etc……

      1. Let’s not get sidetracked onto the question of whether F1 should expand beyond its traditional heartland; there’s clearly a much more important issue at stake here.

    2. Exactly – most F1 fans I talk to are not happy at all about the running of the Bahrain GP (myself included) and I guarantee that no F1 fan has any liking of Bernie Ecclestone.  Hopefully the sponsors will decide that the risk to their image is too great to appear at the race.  Although BE can force the teams to participate it would be an interesting scene with un-adorned cars.  

      News is that the pit crews have direct tickets from China (the previous GP) to Bahrain & also tickets from China back home.

  5. I think Bernie Ecclestone is the epitome of greed, wealth, avarice and uncaring human being.  He has one purpose in mind:  make as much money as absolutely possible with Formula 1.  Holding sway over racetracks to make sure they pay F1 enough money to have the right to hold their races.  His daughter is just as bad, as evidenced by a report in an Australian newspaper about her excess lifestyle.  Champagne, crystal bathtubs, trips to Paris for shopping and the like.  It is so sad to see Bahrain being held hostage by their corrupt leaders that pander to Ecclestone.  Sickening, in fact.

    1. “Champagne, crystal bathtubs, trips to Paris for shopping and the like.”

      It sounds as if Ecclestone and his family have a lot in common with the rulers of Bahrain and other Gulf states. No wonder they get on so well.

      1. His daughter spent £12,000,000 on her wedding.  She’d give them a run for their money.

  6. Far be it from me to correct anyone’s misperception, but, as a former resident of Bahrain, and as someone who actually knows several of the people involved, I don’t think things are quite as simple as anyone in the west wishes this situation to be.  A few things to consider- you really think that Bahrain acts independently? You really think that moving the ASU away from Bahrain has never been on the table? That no other States have made attractive offers? You really think that neither Iran nor Saudi Arabia might be involved? If so, I imagine that the situation makes you either very baffled or very bitter… 

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