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Protests Erupt Ahead of Bahrain's F1 Race

April 20, 2012

VOA News

Thousands of protesters have rallied across Bahrain in a bid to use the country's Formula One auto race to draw international attention to their plight.

Activists and witnesses say security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets in an effort to disperse demonstrators as practice for Sunday's race took place on Friday.

Anti-government groups led by the country's Shi'ite majority have called for "days of rage," coinciding with the three days of action at the Sakhir circuit.

Jasim Husain, a member of the opposition Wefaq party, said demonstrators in Manama are seeking greater representation in Bahrain's minority Sunni-led government.

"Protesters are calling for an elected government based on parliamentary results, having fair and equal districts," Husain said. "They want to make sure there is no discrimination in the country and we have equal opportunity for all."

The Force India Grand Prix team pulled out of Friday's practice session citing security concerns after protests flared up late Thursday in villages surrounding the capital.

Two members of the Indian team left Bahrain after firebombs landed near the team's race car on Wednesday.

Last year's Bahrain Grand Prix was postponed and later canceled because of demonstrations.

A group calling itself Citizens for Bahrain voiced support for the race's return. In a Friday statement, the group said Formula One "puts Bahrain back on the world map after the dark days of the last year."

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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