Hundreds of Bahraini protesters have taken to the streets of Manama answering a call from the Shiite opposition Al Wefaq party for a week of anti-government demonstrations to coincide with the Formula One Grand Prix set to be hosted in Bahrain. Al Wefaq called for the demonstrations to continue until the end of the tournament on 22 April.
Al-Wefaq said what they called “the pro-democracy protests” under the banner of "steadfastness and challenge" would take place in Shiite villages on the outskirts of Manama. The party said there are no plans for protests near the Sakhir circuit where the F1 race will be held.
Al-Wefaq leader Abdel Jalil Khalil told AFP that the bloc would not try to prevent the event but was organising protests to "take advantage of this week's race to highlight our political and democratic demands".
Bahrain's cabinet insisted in a statement on Sunday that the decision by Formula One's governing body to go ahead with the race reflected "confidence in the country's security and stability".
Analysis and Forecast: Increasing Risk
Calls for protests in Bahrain against the Formula 1 decision to hold the race in the country this year may put pressure on the race to call it off. If that happens, the return to normality which the government was hoping for would not have materialized, as F1 is one of the main international event that the country regularly hosts. Should the organizers continue with plans to hold the race, plans for demonstrations are likely to be some of the largest the country has seen during the past several months. If those are held during the race, clashes with security forces may lead to further aggravation of tensions.
In any event, the calls for the demonstrations which have been triggered by the announcement that F1 will be held in the country constitute an increased level of risk of civil unrest, until at least after 22 April.