On the previous days, there had been violent confrontations between demonstrators and the police. According to the opposition, at least one person had been shot in the process. His body was found on a house roof on saturday.
King hamad bin issa al-chalifa tried to smooth the waters on sunday with promises of reforms. "I would like to emphasize my personal commitment to reform and reconciliation in our great country," the monarch said. "The door is always open for a serious dialogue with all our people."
The protest movement had used the grand prix to draw the world’s attention to human rights violations in the gulf monarchy. First, the opposition called for the race to be cancelled as it was the previous year. She accused the king of exploiting the grand prix for political purposes. But some of the opposition has since changed its mind about it. The protest movement said on sunday that the competition had helped to draw attention to the problems.
The ruling family belongs to the sunni faith of islam, whose adherents are a minority in the country. Most members of the opposition are shiite muslims. They complain of discrimination based on their religious affiliation.
Influenced by the mass protests in tunisia and agypt, in february 2011 hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in bahrain also demanded the transformation of the state into a constitutional monarchy in which the government is appointed by parliament. This is what the ruling family rejects. When security forces ended the protests with violence and mass arrests, the demonstrators became radicalized. In the meantime, the call "down with king hamad" is also being heard at demonstrations in bahrain!".