Huffpost UK uk

Bahrain Hunger-Striker's Wife Attacks Bernie Ecclestone Over Grand Prix

Posted: Updated:
Khadija al-Mousawi's husband Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has been on hunger strike for two months
Khadija al-Mousawi's husband Abdulhadi al-Khawaja has been on hunger strike for two months

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has been accused of "ignoring" the plight of a jailed Bahraini activist who has been on hunger strike for two months ahead of this weekend's Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Formula One circus has arrived in the Middle Eastern kingdom as controversy grows over whether the race should be held in a country where protests against its rulers have continued for more than a year with the loss of dozens of lives.

Abdulhadi al-Khawaja was imprisoned for his role in the protests and is now being fed by intravenous drip in hospital after starting his hunger strike in February.

Speaking to Reuters, Abdulhadi al-Khawaja's wife Khadija al-Mousawi was scathing of Ecclestone for his attitude to what was going on in Bahrain.

"What makes me angry is people like Ecclestone who decides to come to Bahrain because he thinks everyone is happy," she said, adding: "I can assure you that I am not happy. My family is not happy."

Only a few days ago during the Chinese Grand Prix, the sport's governing body, the FIA, announced the Bahrain race would be going ahead with Ecclestone keen to play down any thoughts of unrest in the country, saying: "There's nothing happening. I know people who live there and it's all very quiet and peaceful."

Al-Mousawi added she was saddened that Ecclestone, instead of acknowledging her husband's situation, had chosen to "ignore the matter completely" when he could have said "he would come if Abdulhadi is freed".

Meanwhile, a group of MPs led by Labour's Jeremy Corbyn and the Conservative's Peter Bottomley have tabled an Early Day Motion calling for the cancellation of the race.

Corbyn's motion reads: This House is astonished that the Bahrain Formula 1 race is going ahead despite huge concerns over abuse of human rights expressed by Amnesty International and others.

"[It] notes that a trial is continuing of 52 medical professionals who tried to help victims of the suppression of protests; believes that the Formula 1 race will be used by the Bahrain government as an endorsement of its policies of suppression of dissent; and accordingly calls for its cancellation."

The motion has attracted support from five MPs but even if a debate is held, the intervention is probably too little, too late.

In Bahrain, F1 journalists have found themselves reporting on events taking place on the streets as protests continue ahead of Sunday's race, including Kevin Eason of The Times:


Kevin Eason
Damn earache now thanks to stun grenade though. No idea how the protestors do this every day

Kevin Eason
We have just picked up a collection of rubber bullets from the street. They are in my pocket

and Byron Young of The Mirror:


Byron Young
One protester has handed me rubber pellets. "Walk on the streets and see how many there are, everywhere. My son has been hit by these."

A former leading Bahraini politician has expressed "fears we could see some casualties" over the coming weekend.

Economist Jasim Husain represented the primary opposition group Al-Wefaq for five years before resigning in protest during last year's anti-government demonstrations that rocked the country last year.

Speaking to Press Association Sport, Mr Husein, insisting his views are his own and not that of Al-Wefaq, added: "It's now a challenge for the security forces who have to handle things properly. They should avoid using force."

F1's rulers have continued to distance themselves from the political controversy with the FIA president, Jean Todt, asserting his organisation is "only interested in sport not politics".

However, one unnamed protester believes F1 does Bahrain no favours.

He said: "People here are getting killed, and with F1 here we feel like they are driving on our blood, on our bodies."