Jailed Bahrain GP protester describes ordeal in prison
A Bahrain Grand Prix protester, jailed for posting on social media in opposition to the Formula 1 race, has detailed her shocking treatment at the hands of government officials in prison. Najah Ahmed Yousuf was sentenced to three years in prison in June 2018 for "promoting terrorist acts" in opposing the 2017 Bahrain GP on Facebook.
The race in Sakhir has been met with local disapproval ever since its controversial return to the F1 calendar in 2012, following the previous year's race being cancelled due to opposition surrounding the Bahraini uprising.
The uprising and its aftermath is estimated to have left more than 100 dead, while a continued government crackdown has sparked further controversy.
According to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Ms Yousuf has been detained since April 2017 – a week after that year's grand prix – and has been subjected to physical and sexual assault.
Writing in The Guardian ahead of this weekend's race in Sakhir, Ms Yousuf said: "Prison authorities regularly discriminate against me on account of my status as a political prisoner.
"Last September, my cellmate and fellow political prisoner Hajer Mansoor was hospitalised following an assault by prison guards."
She added: "Since then, all inmates have been punished collectively because I had the temerity to speak out, with restrictions on our family visits, phone calls and time outside the cell. The prison authorities want to silence us, but we will not stop protesting at the appalling conditions at Isa Town prison, which were recently condemned by the UN.
"I am a mother of four, but I have not seen my children for the past six months. The same punishment has been inflicted on my cellmates, Hajer and Medina. The situation breaks my heart, but I count myself lucky compared to others.
"The five children of activist Salah Abbas will never see their father again, as he was killed during protests on the eve of the 2012 Grand Prix."
In F1's Statement of Commitment to Respect for Human Rights, it states: "Formula 1 companies are committed to respecting internationally recognised human rights in its operations globally."
When BIRD brought the case to F1, it is claimed F1 Group replied: "The appropriate way for Ms. Yousuf to pursue any grievance" is by complaining to Bahrain's Ministry of Interior Ombudsman, which "will investigate the matter independently".
The United Nations Committee against Torture says of Bahrain's Interior Ombudsman: "The Committee is concerned that those bodies are not independent, that their mandates are unclear and overlap, and that they are not effective given that complaints ultimately pass through the Ministry of the Interior. It is also concerned that their activities have had little or no effect, and that the authorities provided negligible information regarding the outcome of their activities."
The race's return this week has once again brought Ms Yousuf's case into focus and F1 issued a rare statement regarding political issues in a host nation ahead of the race.
The statement read: "We continue to remind all our promoters, including Bahrain, that peaceful protests at all our events is a democratic right, and we continue to raise our concerns in regard to Ms Yusuf with the Bahraini authorities.
"Only last week we met to discuss Ms Yusuf's case with campaigners, we continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding it, and as all these parties are aware, we are working on a number of initiatives in regard to this case, that we, and they, have agreed it would be unhelpful to comment on further at this time.
"Formula 1 is committed to respecting internationally-recognised human rights in our operations globally and we take all such responsibilities seriously.
"As a global sporting organisation we already have a clearly defined human rights policy.
"We obtain from every national promoter of a Formula 1 Grand Prix its commitment to respect internationally recognised human rights."