macrohistory & world report


Bahrain and neighboring states in the Persian Gulf region

Bahrain and neighboring states around the Persian Gulf, including the King Fahd Causeway (exaggerated in width) connection to Saudi Arabia

World Factbook as of October 2014: "Bahrain has made great efforts to diversify its economy; its highly developed communication and transport facilities make Bahrain home to numerous multinational firms with business in the Gulf. As part of its diversification plans, Bahrain implemented a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US in August 2006, the first FTA between the US and a Gulf state. Bahrain's economy, however, continues to depend heavily on oil. In 2012, petroleum production and refining accounted for 77% of Bahrain's export receipts, 87% of government revenues, and 19% of GDP. Other major economic activities are production of aluminum – Bahrain's second biggest export after oil – finance, and construction. Bahrain competes with Malaysia as a worldwide center for Islamic banking and continues to seek new natural gas supplies as feedstock to support its expanding petrochemical and aluminum industries."

GDP growth rate
2013: 4.4%
2012: 4.8%

Import/export ratio
2011: Exports 124% of imports in cash value, a favorable trade balance
2010: 124% favorable balance

Health expenditures
2009: 4.5% of GDP (reflected perhaps in It's poor infant mortality figure, which ranks 127th in the world, while it ranks 50th in per capita wealth.)

Military expenditures as a percentage of GDP
2006: 4.5%


Living in an urban area
2010: 89%

Ethnic groups
2001 census : Bahraini 62.4%, non-Bahraini 37.6%

2001 census: Muslims (Shia and Sunni) 81.2%, Christians 9%, other 9.8%. The king of Bahrain and the bulk of his army and police are Sunni. Much of the rest of the population is Shia.

Density: 1,035 persons per square kilometer


Middle East, archipelago in the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia. Square km: 760, 3.5 times the size of Washington D.C.


Said to be a constitutional monarchy. The Prime Minister and his cabinet are appointed by the monarch. Legal system is based on Islamic law and English common law. Capital: Manama

Recent History

Independence from Britain: August 19, 1971.

Constitution adopted on February 14, 2002.

July 2005: Political societies are legalized – while political parties continue to be prohibited.

March 2010: Bahrain has around the same per capita GDP as Sweden, but apparently those with power in Bahrain care less about health care for common Bahrainis. Barhain's infant morality rate is five times higher than Sweden's.

February 17, 2011

According to the Economist, "Most of [Bahrain's] people actually have to work, and increasingly there are not enough jobs or houses for newly-weds to go round."

Toby Jones of Rutgers University interviewed by Margaret Warner of the Public Broadcasting's NewsHour yesterday, said:

Bahrain has a long history of political activism and civic sophistication. Over the last decade or so, Bahrainis have been agitating for political reforms of various kinds, reform to a constitution that they consider to be unfair, free and fair elections, and a more equitable distribution of power and material resources, social justice, if you will, amongst the country's majority Shiite population. But, clearly, what we see here, too, is – is an effort on the part of a group of Bahraini activists to tap into a sense of regional momentum. They have identified a very important moment historically across the region and are seeking to capitalize on what they believe to be a kind of energizing moment and to sort of secure some sort of legitimacy for themselves and to rally their fellow countrymen.

Jones described the younger protesters as focused on "reform of basic institutions of governance, the parliament, the constitution" and the "socioeconomic status of the island's majority Shiite population, which faces a number of different kinds of disciminatory practices on the part of the government." Jones continues:

The government has taken a dim view of its Shia community over the last several decades and has implemented various oppressive and repressive apparatuses to make sure that they don't enjoy any kind of considerable political influence.

April 9, 2011

Bahrain authorities crackdown on newspaper editor Mansour al-Jamri. According to the New York Times, he has been "urging both the Sunni royal family and leaders of the predominantly Shiite protest movement to sit down and compromise." He has criticized government repression, and now he has become its victim.

April 11, 2011

Two Bahraini Shia activists, Ali Issa Saqer, 31, and Zakaraya Rashed Hassan, 40, have died in police custody. Several Shia activists have complained of being tortured while in custody, and police have been seen beating and kicking men who are handcuffed and hooded.

Rights groups say the government has detained more than 400 people, including human rights activists, doctors, bloggers and opposition supporters.

The BBC reports:

In recent weeks, the government has cracked down on doctors, bloggers and opposition activists – some of whom have simply "disappeared", according to reports from family, friends and rights groups. It is difficult to verify the reports, as journalists are not being allowed to report freely from the tiny Gulf kingdom that has been shaken by a wave of pro-democracy protests since mid-February...

Bahrain is now a state where the police are acting with complete impunity. There is no accountability, not even an effort to cover up what is going on," said Mr Stork, HRW's [Human Rights Watch] Middle East and Bahraini expert.

Activists describe years of discrimination against Shia.

In this wealthy kingdom, Shia villages are impoverished. Housing is inadequate, schools are often dilapidated, unemployment is rampant. Shia are prevented from working in defence and security police jobs.

People recently released by royal decree in the early days of the protests have either been re-arrested or gone into hiding. Among the imprisoned are six doctors who treated injured protesters.

Popular athletes who in February took part in the call for democracy have been pressured to recant on television. "They grovel and say they are ready to die for the king," said one journalist who cannot be named. "It is excruciating to watch."

The World Factbook

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