Protest Formula One's Complicity In Bahrain Torture
12 March 2019
On the eve of the 2019 Formula One Grand Prix Inminds Human Rights Group along with Bahraini human rights activists will protest outside the global headquarters of Formula One to highlight Formula One's open complicity in human rights abuses in Bahrain, and demand freedom for Najah Yusuf, mother of four, who was tortured, sexually assaulted and imprisoned in 2017 for facebook posts criticising Bahrain's Formula One Grand Prix, as a way of whitewashing the human rights abuses in Bahrain.
Free Najah Yusuf placard design
A week after the Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix in April 2017, Najah Yusuf was arrested for her facebook posts criticising the holding of F1 Grand Prix in Bahrain. She was tortured at Muharraq Police Station for four days, 8 hours at a time. In her own words Najah describes the ordeal:
“If I wrote down the violations I was subjected to, it would be a book. They insulted my honour and dignity, they physically assaulted me, removed my headscarf, tried to tear off my clothes, and touched my sexual organs. They threatened me with rape, and threatened to kill or put my sons in prison. All this in the presence of plainclothes officers.”
Najah was told to sign a pre-prepared confession without being allowed to read it. When she refused to sign, Najah was violently beaten, kicked and sexually assaulted. A thug was specially brought into the police station to frighten her with rape. When she could take no more, she signed and for that she was given a three year sentence in June 2018.
Najah says "Rape is a powerful weapon, as the victim's shame is used to leverage their silence. I was tortured and humiliated for four exhausting days, until I gave them what they wanted; confessions for a crime I did not commit."
FORMULA ONE COMPLICITY
The court judgement specifically cited Najah's facebook posts where she had written “no to Formula races on occupied Bahraini land” in one post, while in another she pointed out that F1 coming to her country was “nothing more than a way for the [ruling] al-Khalifa family to whitewash their criminal record and gross human-rights violations”, and she called for a “Freedom for the Formula Detainees” march to put the spotlight on protestors who had been jailed and killed for criticising the race, which was cancelled in 2011 after the regimes brutally crushed peaceful protests in the country.
In total complicity with the regime, Formula One has turned a blind eye to Najah's plight with it’s general counsel Sacha Woodward Hill insisting Najah's imprisonment has "nothing to do with peaceful protest around the Bahraini Grand Prix".
In the meantime Najah's suffering continues. Najah remains imprisoned in Bahrain’s Isa Town Prison, where concerns were raised by the UN’s Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders about her case and the deteriorating conditions and abuses against political prisoners. Last September she was badly beaten as a reprisal for her case being raised in the British parliament. As part of the punishment she has not been able to see her family since then - for over 6 month. In a recent phone message from prison Najah appealed for help: "We are fighting to stay alive inside our prison cells but dying slowly because of the mental and physical abuse. I appeal to the international community and international human rights organisations to intervene urgently and quickly to stop the violations we face inside the prisons."
Inminds chair Abbas Ali said "By not cancelling the Bahrain Gran Prix, Formula One is shamefully sending a clear message to the al-Khalifa dictatorship that its acceptable to sexually assault, torture and cage a mother for 3 years for simply criticising the Bahrian Formula One in a facebook post. Clearly Formula One is happy to act as a fig leaf for this murderous regime. We are here to say to Formula One that no amount of whitewash can hide the bloody crimes of the Khalifa dictatorship against the Bahraini people. The Bahraini people will never forgive or forget Formula One's complicity in the torture and imprisonment of Najah Yusuf. Shame on Formula One!"
TIME: 3pm Thu 14th March 2019
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