TEHRAN, JC. -- Bahrainis have staged a mass anti-regime demonstration near the capital to protest against the upcoming Formula One Grand Prix.
Thousands of Bahrainis took to the streets in the village of al-Aali, some 15 kilometers outside the capital Manama, on Friday to express their opposition to the Persian Gulf state's hosting of the April 19-21 event.
Bahrainis say Formula 1's governing body, the FIA, should cancel the event over Manama's ongoing crackdown on protests.
"The Formula One is used by the regime to advertise that there is nothing wrong in Bahrain," a demonstrator said adding that "We are showing the world that we are people with demands."
"As long as there are oppression, arrests and killings, there should not be a Formula One," said another protester.
The demonstrators also chanted slogans against King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa and Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa. There were no immediate reports of violence.
On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch said the Al Khalifa regime has arrested 20 opposition activists ahead of the event.
"Bahraini authorities are carrying out home raids and arbitrarily detaining opposition protesters in advance of the Formula 1 Grand Prix," the human rights body said.
Formula One is Bahrain's premier international event. It was cancelled in 2011 as the result of mass anti-regime protests in the country, but in 2012 it went ahead despite protests.
Bahrainis have been staging demonstrations since mid-February 2011, demanding political reform and a constitutional monarchy, a demand that later changed to an outright call for the ouster of the ruling Al Khalifa family following its brutal crackdown on popular protests.