A protester flashes a victory sign during an anti-government rally in Manama
A protester flashes a victory sign during an anti-government rally in Manama

Bahraini protesters have promised "three day of rage" to coincide with the Bahrain Formula 1 Grand Prix with several demonstrations planned.

Protesters in Bahrain are angered at the lack of international response to what they say is the continued government crackdown on activists, professionals and opposition members.

In return they have called for the cancellation of the Grand Prix, which was abandoned last year, following weeks of unrest.

The Formula One governing body, the FIA, decided to go forward with the race this year but tensions between the security forces and protesters have escalated in recent days with fears violence is set to increase.

'Down with F1"

On April 18, India Force team members were caught in a standoff between protesters and security forces, while on their way back from the track.

Four of the team's mechanics were in a car when petrol bombs thrown by angry protesters landed close to their vehicle.

No Force India staffs were injured but two mechanics have since left the country.

Activists have accused the Grand Prix organisers and drivers of backing an oppressive regime.

"Formula One in Bahrain has been taken as PR for the ruling elite, the repressive dictators who are ruling the country," said human rights activist Nabeel Rajab at a news conference.

Anger mounted this week after security forces threw grenades at protesters outside a cultural exhibition in the capital, Manama.

Bahrain has faced pro-democracy protests for more than a year. The government led a severe crackdown on protesters in February and March 2011.

Despite insisting it is now committed to reforms and dialogue with opposition groups, activists warn human rights violations including torture, arbitrary arrests and detention, intimidation tactics and excessive use of tears gas and force are still on-going.

Unrest or Hype?

Despite the India Force incident and reports of increased violence, Red Bull's double world champion Sebastian Vettel played down the unrest saying: "I haven't seen anyone throwing bombs. I don't think it's that bad. I think it's a lot of hype."

A spokesman for the McLaren F1 team was aslo sanguine. "We are putting in place the appropriate security measures, which we always do at every grand prix, in accordance with local requirements."

Bahrain Grand Prix chairman Zayed Alzayani conceded there would "probably" be more violence, but added: "I can't comment on the degree of violence, whether it will be more or not - I don't have that kind of information.

"I don't think they will be within the track or close to the track, and I think they will be handled in the right way."

"I would give them advice to enjoy the weekend," he said. "Don't be too worried and too distracted not to enjoy the weekend."

The Foreign Office also announced it would not be advising British fans to avoid travelling to the race.

Dismissive Attitude towards Human Rights Concern

Rights organisations have been angered at the participants, organisers and sponsors' dismissive attitude to human rights concern,

The Business and Human Rights Resource Centre said that only 29 per cent of firms linked to Formula One responded to their invitation to respond to human rights abuses. Forty two companies or teams failed to respond, the organisation said.

"Seldom have we seen a response rate this low from a group of companies anywhere in the world" BHRRC Director Christopher Avery said.

"And of the responses that were received, seldom if ever we seen such a high proportion that completely fail to comment to on human rights concerns that were asked to addressed", he added.