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Manama City
Pearling, Testimony of an Island Economy
Qal'at al-Bahrain

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Middle East, archipelago in the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia - The World Factbook

Data »

Particulars for Bahrain:
Locale Type Nation

Corruption Perceptions Index - 2014, Transparency International: 55

History »

In 1783, the Sunni Al-Khalifa family captured Bahrain from the Persians. In order to secure these holdings, it entered into a series of treaties with the UK during the 19th century that made Bahrain a British protectorate. The archipelago attained its independence in 1971. Facing declining oil reserves, Bahrain has turned to petroleum processing and refining and has transformed itself into an international banking center. Bahrain's small size and central location among Persian Gulf countries require it to play a delicate balancing act in foreign affairs among its larger neighbors. In addition, the Sunni-led government has struggled to manage relations with its large Shia-majority population. During the mid-to-late 1990s, Shia activists mounted a low-intensity uprising to demand that the Sunni-led government stop systemic economic, social, and political discrimination against Shia Bahrainis. King HAMAD bin Isa Al-Khalifa, after succeeding his late father in 1999, pushed economic and political reforms in part to improve relations with the Shia community. After boycotting the country's first round of national elections under the newly-promulgated constitution in 2002, the main Shia political opposition group Wifaq participated in 2006 and 2010, winning the largest bloc of seats in the elected lower house of the legislature both times. In early 2011, Bahrain's fractious opposition sought to ride a rising tide of popular Arab protests to petition for the redress of popular grievances. Behind the scenes, the reform-minded Crown Prince Salman bin HAMAD Al-Khalifa worked with the Shia-led opposition to reach a deal to calm the situation. However, in mid-March 2011, with the backing of Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) - including a contingent of mostly Saudi and Emirati forces - King HAMAD put a sudden end to the unrest in the capital and the backchannel talks by declaring a state of emergency. The crackdown on the Shia population that accompanied the state of emergency compounded longstanding grievances. Since that time, intermittent efforts at political dialogue between the government and mainstream opposition have remained at a stalemate, empowering hardline Shia voices that seek to force political change through violence rather than talks. Despite this impasse, Manama has unilaterally implemented selective reforms, including minor constitutional amendments to the operation of the legislature and a host of administrative changes and reparations pursuant to the recommendations of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI), a fact-finding commission formed at Manama's invitation to investigate abuses during the unrest and state of emergency. - The World Factbook

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