Human Rights Campaigners Call On Red Bull, Formula 1 To Pull Out Of Bahrain Grand Prix After Crackdown

Will Red Bull race in Bahrain?

This past winter, the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix was cancelled, following the brutal crackdown by the monarchy against pro-democracy protesters. “At the present time the country’s entire attention is focussed on building a new national dialogue for Bahrain,” the nation’s crown prince told the press.

Since then, the regime has continued to torture, detain, and kill protesters, despite officially lifting its “state of emergency.” Tomorrow, Formula One will decide if it will reschedule the cancelled grand prix or whether it will simply not hold the races in the Arab kingdom this year.

International human rights and democracy promotion group Avaaz is calling on one of the teams participating in the race, represented by energy drink Red Bull, to pull out of the race. Avaaz says that if a high-profile team like Red Bull pulls out, it could dissuade Formula One from participating in any races at all and send a message to Bahrain condemning the crackdown:

Red Bull has built a reputation as a sporty, fun drink — but by this Friday, it and other leading F1 teams may become better known for endorsing government torture and murder. Formula One has 24 hours to decide whether to hold its already-delayed race in Bahrain, site of one of the most brutal crackdowns in the Middle East. If Red Bull refuses to race in Bahrain, other teams will pull back as well — and the Formula One race could be taken off the schedule, sending shock waves through Bahrain’s brutal government and sending an unmistakeable message that the world will not ignore state brutality. Sports boycotts have piled pressure on other regimes such as apartheid South Africa — we can do it again.

By invoking the South African example, the human rights group is noting an interesting parallel. Over the course of several decades, South Africa faced a number of major sporting boycotts, including being expelled from the International Olympic Committee, being denied access to the Golf World Cup, and repeatedly being kicked out of rugby competitions. These boycotts helped undermine the government’s legitimacy and eventually led to the collapse of apartheid.

Avaaz is aiming to garner 200,000 signatures to its petition by Friday. You can sign on here.