Much has be made over nothing it seems as AUTOSPORT has quoted the Bahrain GP owners and their commitment to safety at the upcoming Bahrain Grand Prix in March.
Bahrain International Circuit CEO, Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa, said: “The safety of all Bahraini nationals, expats and overseas visitors is a priority at all times in the Kingdom and, at the Bahrain International Circuit, our focus at the present time is on delivering another successful event in the form of the 2011 Gulf Air Formula 1 Bahrain Grand Prix.
“We are monitoring the situation very closely indeed in association with the relevant authorities, and will respond appropriately to any further developments.”
While we’ve all been wondering about those pesky expats and their safety, it seems the fine folks of Bahrain take that very seriously. According the the UK’s own Foreign & Commonwealth Office, it seems that travelling to Bahrain may not be a great idea right now:
There is a general threat from terrorism in Bahrain. Terrorists continue to issue statements threatening to carry out attacks in the Gulf region. These include references to attacks on western interests, including residential compounds, military, oil, transport and aviation interests.
There is the continuing possibility of demonstrations being held in Bahrain in the coming days. We cannot confirm in advance what level of disruption this may cause, and for now we are not advising UK residents or UK travellers to Bahrain to take any special steps beyond those already given in this travel advice. For further details of potential venues for such demonstrations please see the following link: http://ukinbahrain.fco.gov.uk/en/ . Sporadic demonstrations and outbreaks of violence continue at a low level in some parts of the island. Arrests have been made. You should maintain a high level of security awareness, particularly in public places and on major highways. You should avoid large gatherings, crowds and demonstrations, as a number of them have turned violent.
24 British nationals required consular assistance in Bahrain in the period 01 April 2009 – 31 March 2010. See General – Consular Assistance Statistics.
Bahrain operates a zero tolerance to drink/driving and views all alcohol-related incidents dimly. Travellers transiting Bahrain who are clearly intoxicated can be denied boarding and may be detained and fined by Bahraini Public Security.
Visitors must have legal status in Bahrain when they depart. You may be prevented from departing Bahrain if you are subject to a travel ban, involved in legal proceedings, have unpaid debt, or are a child subject to a custody dispute. Visitors can incur heavy fines if they overstay or fail to extend their legal residency.
You should take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance before travelling. See the General – Insurance section of this Travel Advice.
That isn’t the most glowing review of how expats should approach the Middle East kingdom. Of course this has been argued for some time now and while the recent events in Egypt have ratcheted up the protests, it seems that human rights groups have had their eye on Bahrain for some time now:
“What we are seeing in Bahrain these days is a return to full-blown authoritarianism,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The government has taken over associations and shut down media it doesn’t like to silence the loudest critics and intimidate the rest, and Washington says nothing publicly.”
Either way, as I mentioned in my comment on SJ Skid’s original post about the issue: When FOM seek emerging markets in nations that have either exploded economically or potentially will explode, it makes for a quick buck but culturally and sociologically those nations are emerging at a rapid pace. Bahrain may not be emerging economically as oil has been there a long time but culturally it is trying to reconcile an autocracy with the social implications that Egypt has spread and the overwhelming disdain for autocratic governments by the indigenous.
When you choose to participate in emerging markets, it takes more than just a business deal and a race to assure the safety of the attendees. The Dakar rally should have taught us that now that it is firmly planted in South America. There may not be as much money in Europe but chances are the Belgians aren’t planning a coup or violent protest to emerge from their oppression any time soon and I have to admit, they have a nice racing circuit there that is better than Bahrain’s in my estimation. The only protest you may get at Spa Francorchamps is the residents clamoring on about the noise.
We’ll see what happens but proceeding with extreme caution seems prudent.