/bah rayn", -ruyn", beuh-/, n.
1. a sheikdom in the Persian Gulf, consisting of a group of islands: formerly a British protectorate; declared independent 1971. 603,318; 232 sq. mi. (601 sq. km). Cap.: Manama.
2. the largest island in this group: oil fields. 265,000; 213 sq. mi. (552 sq. km).
Also, Bahrein.

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Introduction Bahrain
Background: 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. Possessing minimal oil reserves, Bahrain has turned to petroleum processing and refining, and has transformed itself into an international banking center. The new amir is pushing economic and political reforms, and has worked to improve relations with the Shi'a community. In February 2001, Bahraini voters approved a referendum on the National Action Charter - the centerpiece of the amir's political liberalization program. Geography Bahrain -
Location: Middle East, archipelago in the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia
Geographic coordinates: 26 00 N, 50 33 E
Map references: Middle East
Area: total: 665 sq km water: 0 sq km land: 665 sq km
Area - comparative: 3.5 times the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries: 0 km
Coastline: 161 km
Maritime claims: contiguous zone: 24 NM territorial sea: 12 NM continental shelf: extending to boundaries to be determined
Climate: arid; mild, pleasant winters; very hot, humid summers
Terrain: mostly low desert plain rising gently to low central escarpment
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m highest point: Jabal ad Dukhan 122 m
Natural resources: oil, associated and nonassociated natural gas, fish, pearls
Land use: arable land: 4.35% permanent crops: 4.35% other: 91.3% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 50 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: periodic droughts; dust storms Environment - current issues: desertification resulting from the degradation of limited arable land, periods of drought, and dust storms; coastal degradation (damage to coastlines, coral reefs, and sea vegetation) resulting from oil spills and other discharges from large tankers, oil refineries, and distribution stations; lack of freshwater resources, groundwater and seawater are the only sources for all water needs Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements
Geography - note: close to primary Middle Eastern petroleum sources; strategic location in Persian Gulf, which much of Western world's petroleum must transit to reach open ocean People Bahrain
Population: 656,397 note: includes 228,424 non-nationals (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 29.2% (male 97,022; female 94,605) 15-64 years: 67.7% (male 261,919; female 182,727) 65 years and over: 3.1% (male 10,230; female 9,894) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.67% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 19.53 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 3.95 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 1.09 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.03 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.03 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1.43 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 1.03 male(s)/ female total population: 1.29 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 19.18 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 73.47 years female: 75.96 years (2002 est.) male: 71.05 years
Total fertility rate: 2.75 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.15% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ NA
HIV/AIDS - deaths: NA
Nationality: noun: Bahraini(s) adjective: Bahraini
Ethnic groups: Bahraini 63%, Asian 19%, other Arab 10%, Iranian 8%
Religions: Shi'a Muslim 70%, Sunni Muslim 30%
Languages: Arabic, English, Farsi, Urdu
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 88.5% male: 91.6% female: 84.2% (2002 est.) Government Bahrain
Country name: conventional long form: Kingdom of Bahrain conventional short form: Bahrain local short form: Al Bahrayn former: Dilmun local long form: Mamlakat al Bahrayn
Government type: constitutional hereditary monarchy
Capital: Manama Administrative divisions: 12 municipalities (manatiq, singular - mintaqah); Al Hadd, Al Manamah, Al Mintaqah al Gharbiyah, Al Mintaqah al Wusta, Al Mintaqah ash Shamaliyah, Al Muharraq, Ar Rifa' wa al Mintaqah al Janubiyah, Jidd Hafs, Madinat Hamad, Madinat 'Isa, Juzur Hawar, Sitrah note: all municipalities administered from Manama
Independence: 15 August 1971 (from UK)
National holiday: National Day, 16 December (1971); note - 15 August 1971 is the date of independence from the UK, 16 December 1971 is the date of independence from British protection
Constitution: adopted late December 2000; Bahrani voters approved on 13-14 February 2001 a referendum on legislative changes (revised constitution calls for a partially elected legislature, a constitutional monarchy, and an independent judiciary)
Legal system: based on Islamic law and English common law
Suffrage: none
Executive branch: chief of state: King HAMAD bin Isa Al Khalifa (since 6 March 1999); Heir Apparent Crown Prince SALMAN bin Hamad (son of the monarch, born 21 October 1969) head of government: Prime Minister KHALIFA bin Salman Al Khalifa (since NA 1971) cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the monarch elections: none; the monarchy is hereditary; prime minister appointed by the monarch
Legislative branch: unicameral National Assembly was dissolved 26 August 1975 and legislative powers were assumed by the Cabinet; appointed Advisory Council established 16 December 1992; the National Action Charter created a bicameral legislature on 23 December 2000; approved by referendum of 14 February 2001
Judicial branch: High Civil Appeals Court Political parties and leaders: political parties prohibited but politically oriented nongovernment organizations are allowed Political pressure groups and Shi'a activists fomented unrest
leaders: sporadically in 1994-97, demanding the return of an elected National Assembly and an end to unemployment; several small, clandestine leftist and Islamic fundamentalist groups are active International organization ABEDA, AFESD, AL, AMF, CCC, ESCWA,
participation: FAO, G-77, GCC, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDB, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador Khalifa bin Ali bin Rashid AL KHALIFA chancery: 3502 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008 FAX: [1] (202) 362-2192 consulate(s) general: New York telephone: [1] (202) 342-0741 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Ronald
US: E. NEUMANN embassy: Building #979, Road 3119 (next to Al-Ahli Sports Club), Block 321, Zinj District, Manama mailing address: American Embassy Manama, PSC 451, FPO AE 09834-5100; international mail: American Embassy, Box 26431, Manama telephone: [973] 273-300 FAX: [973] 272-594
Flag description: red with a white serrated band (eight white points) on the hoist side Economy Bahrain -
Economy - overview: In Bahrain, petroleum production and refining account for about 60% of export receipts, 60% of government revenues, and 30% of GDP. With its highly developed communication and transport facilities, Bahrain is home to numerous multinational firms with business in the Gulf. Bahrain is dependent on Saudi Arabia for oil revenue granted as aid. A large share of exports consists of petroleum products made from refining imported crude. Construction proceeds on several major industrial projects. Unemployment, especially among the young, and the depletion of oil and underground water resources are major long-term economic problems.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $8.4 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 4% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $13,000 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 1% industry: 35% services: 64% (2001 est.) Population below poverty line: NA% Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: NA%
percentage share: highest 10%: NA% Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.5% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 295,000 (1998 est.) note: 44% of the population in the 15-64 age group is non-national (July 1998 est.) Labor force - by occupation: industry, commerce, and service 79%, government 20%, agriculture 1% (1997 est.)
Unemployment rate: 15% (1998 est.)
Budget: revenues: $1.8 billion expenditures: $2.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $700 million (2002 est.)
Industries: petroleum processing and refining, aluminum smelting, offshore banking, ship repairing; tourism Industrial production growth rate: 2% (2000 est.) Electricity - production: 5.765 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 100% hydro: 0% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 5,361.45 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: fruit, vegetables; poultry, dairy products; shrimp, fish
Exports: $5.5 billion (f.o.b., 2001)
Exports - commodities: petroleum and petroleum products, aluminum, textiles
Exports - partners: India 8.4%, US 3.9%, Saudi Arabia 3.4%, Japan 2.8%, South Korea 2.1% (2000)
Imports: $4.5 billion (f.o.b., 2001)
Imports - commodities: crude oil, machinery, chemicals
Imports - partners: Saudi Arabia 28.7%, US 12.5%, UK 6.6%, France 6%, Japan 4% (2000)
Debt - external: $2.8 billion (2000) Economic aid - recipient: $48.4 million (1995)
Currency: Bahraini dinar (BHD)
Currency code: BHD
Exchange rates: Bahraini dinars per US dollar - 0.3760 (fixed rate pegged to the US dollar)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Bahrain Telephones - main lines in use: 152,000 (1997) Telephones - mobile cellular: 58,543 (1997)
Telephone system: general assessment: modern system domestic: modern fiber-optic integrated services; digital network with rapidly growing use of mobile cellular telephones international: tropospheric scatter to Qatar and UAE; microwave radio relay to Saudi Arabia; submarine cable to Qatar, UAE, and Saudi Arabia; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Atlantic Ocean and 1 Indian Ocean) and 1 Arabsat (1997) Radio broadcast stations: AM 2, FM 3, shortwave 0 (1998)
Radios: 338,000 (1997) Television broadcast stations: 4 (1997)
Televisions: 275,000 (1997)
Internet country code: .bh Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 1 (2000)
Internet users: 105,000 (2001) Transportation Bahrain
Railways: 0 km
Highways: 3,164 km paved: 2,433 km unpaved: 731 km note: a paved causeway links Bahrain and Saudi Arabia
Waterways: none
Pipelines: crude oil 56 km; petroleum products 16 km; natural gas 32 km
Ports and harbors: Manama, Mina' Salman, Sitrah
Merchant marine: total: 8 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 270,784 GRT/384,561 DWT ships by type: bulk 2, cargo 4, container 2, includes a foreign- owned ship registered here as a flag of convenience: Kuwait 1 (2002 est.)
Airports: 4 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 3 over 3,047 m: 2 (2001) Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 1 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 (2001)
Heliports: 1 (2001) Military Bahrain
Military branches: Bahrain Defense Forces (BDF) comprising Ground Force (includes Air Defense), Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, Police Force, Amiri Guards, National Guard Military manpower - military age: 15 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 222,572 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 121,955 (2002 est.)
service: Military manpower - reaching males: 5,926 (2002 est.)
military age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $526.2 million (FY01)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 6.7% (FY01)
GDP: Transnational Issues Bahrain Disputes - international: none

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officially Kingdom of Bahrain

Country, Middle East.

Area: 268 sq mi (694 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 672,000. It occupies an archipelago consisting of Bahrain Island and about 30 smaller islands lying along the Arabian Peninsula in the Persian Gulf. Saudi Arabia lies to the west across the Gulf of Bahrain, and the Qatar peninsula lies to the east. The capital is Manama. Most of the population is Arab. Language: Arabic (official). Religion: Islam (official), divided between Sunnite and Shīʽite. Currency: Bahraini dinar. Bahrain Island, which is 27 mi (43 km) long and 10 mi (16 km) wide, accounts for seven-eighths of the country's total area and, with the islands of Al-Muḥarraq and Sitrah off its northeastern coast, constitutes the population and economic centre of the country. Since 1986 the main island has been connected to Saudi Arabia by a 15-mi (25-km) causeway. The highest point of elevation is Al-Dukhān Hill (440 ft [132 m]). Bahrain has a developing mixed state and private-enterprise economy based largely on natural gas and petroleum refining. Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy. The chief of state is the king, and the head of government is the prime minister. The area has long been an important trading centre and is mentioned in Persian, Greek, and Roman references. It was ruled by various Arab groups from the 7th century AD but was then occupied by the Portuguese (1521–1602). Since 1783 it has been ruled by a tribal group known as the Āl Khalīfah, though (through a series of treaties) its defense long remained a British responsibility (1820–1971). After Britain withdrew its forces from the Persian Gulf (1968), Bahrain declared its independence (1971). It served as a centre for the allies in the Persian Gulf War (1990–91). Since 1994 it has experienced periods of political unrest, mainly among its large Shīʽite population. Constitutional revisions, ratified in 2002, made Bahrain a constitutional monarchy and enfranchised women; parliamentary elections (the first since 1975) were held in October 2002.

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▪ 2009

728 sq km (281 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 1,084,000
Chief of state:
King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      Sectarian tension between the Shiʿite majority (some 65% of the population) and the Sunni minority surfaced in Bahrain during 2008. Denunciations and exchanges of grievances between the two sects dominated discourse in the parliament, in the press, and among mosque preachers; the conflict spilled into the streets in political agitation, which was brutally suppressed by the police. The Shiʿites asked for greater participation in running the country—specifically less control over the cabinet by the Sunni ruling family, al-Khalifah, and increased numbers of Shiʿite ministers. On more than one occasion, King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah called for national unity, harmony, and tolerance among Bahrainis regardless of sect or religion. He declared a general amnesty on July 31 that affected most prisoners, political and nonpolitical. To demonstrate tolerance, on July 3 the king appointed Huda Nonoo, a Bahrain Jew, as ambassador to the U.S.—the first Jewish person ever appointed as ambassador by any Arab country.

      Security dominated Bahraini discussions when the heads of two powerful states, which were both jockeying for position in the Gulf region, visited Bahrain. U.S. Pres. George W. Bush arrived in January 2008, some two months after Iranian Pres. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit. Bahrain, wary of increased Iranian influence in the Gulf region, remained a staunch ally of the United States.

      Bahrain's economy benefited from the oil boom early in 2008, but by the end of the year its banking and real estate sectors had been affected by the global recession.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2008

728 sq km (281 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 749,000
Chief of state:
King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      Bahrain issued a sharp protest to Iran following the publication on July 9, 2007, of an article in Kayhan, the Iranian government's semiofficial newspaper, in which Hossein Shariat-Madari, a senior adviser to Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, the spiritual leader of Iran, renewed Tehran's claim to Bahrain. (Iran had made such claims since the 18th century, but the matter was thought to have been settled in 1970, when a popular referendum—held in Bahrain under UN auspices and with the cooperation of Iran—overwhelmingly rejected Bahrain's becoming a province of Iran. The following year Bahrain declared its independence.) In an effort to soothe tensions, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki flew to Manama on July 13 and publicly stated that Iran had no designs on Bahrain.

      In the realm of women's affairs, some progress was made. On March 28 Bahraini lawyer and diplomat Haya Rashid Al-Khalifa, president of the 61st session of the UN General Assembly, became the first woman to deliver a speech at the Arab League summit conference, which was held in conservative Saudi Arabia.

      During the year there were a number of violent protests, in which demonstrators demanded more social and political freedom as well as an increase in jobs for the unemployed. In response, the government established a labour fund to identify areas in which there was a shortage of skills and in which Bahrainis could be trained. In addition, the government encouraged workers to pursue nontraditional careers.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2007

720 sq km (278 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 727,000
Chief of state:
King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      Politically, Bahrain in 2006 was dominated by the debate between Islamic conservatives and liberals over the realm of personal freedoms. Liberal intellectuals, professional associations, and women's groups denounced efforts by Islamic conservatives in the parliament to pass legislation aimed at enforcing strict Shariʿah rules, such as the imposition on society of a “morals police” and the segregation of the sexes at the university and in commercial stores. Though Sunni Muslims maintained control of the 40-member parliament (with 22 seats) following elections in November and a runoff in December, the Shiʿite opposition, which boycotted the 2002 elections, made a strong showing, winning 18 seats.

 On July 22 the parliament approved a strict law in the fight on terrorism. Severe penalties (including execution) were imposed on persons convicted of acts of terrorism.

      Despite government efforts to stimulate job growth, unemployment remained high, reaching 16–18% among Bahrainis. Bahrain experienced some success in its efforts to solve its economic problems by becoming an economic and financial centre in the Persian Gulf, competing with Dubai and emerging Qatar. At the end of March 2006, $8.3 billion was deposited in Bahraini financial funds, an increase of 55% over the previous year. In a move similar to one made by Kuwait, the Bahraini government stated that a small amount from the sale of each barrel of oil would be set aside in a special fund to benefit future generations.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2006

720 sq km (278 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 715,000
Chief of state:
King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      The year 2005 in Bahrain was marked by social and political agitation, mainly among the Shiʿites, who composed about 70% of the Muslim population. Shiʿites were protesting the lack of political reforms and the use of force by the government against protesters and political prisoners. The Shiʿites also organized street demonstrations to demand jobs for their unemployed. (More than 16% of Shiʿite males in Bahrain were unemployed.) Though the government promised to train 8,000 unemployed annually, that number would still fall short of providing jobs for all of those having to compete with some 250,000 foreign workers who were less expensive to employ and often better trained.

      Political groups, called associations, bitterly protested a new Law of Associations that forbade such groups from receiving financial aid from abroad and raised the age of potential members from 18 to 21 years of age.

      On July 20 King Hamid ibn Isa al-Khalifah ratified a free-trade treaty, signed in 2004, between Bahrain and the U.S. The Bahraini government expected the treaty to improve its trade balance and acquire an outlet for its exports in American markets. The U.S. Congress was expected to ratify the treaty in 2006.

      After three years of discussion, the Bahraini parliament passed a law that made it a crime to prevent children from learning about respect for human rights and the need for religious tolerance. This ambitious law required changes in the school curriculum. If applied correctly, it could encourage respect for all religions and sects.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2005

718 sq km (277 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 709,000
Chief of state:
King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      In 2004 Bahrain, lacking important oil resources, continued to establish itself as a centre of trade and finance. During the year efforts were made to attract foreign investment and encourage the establishment of private companies by offering advantages such as nondiscriminatory financial regulations and more efficient procedures for investment. Relations were strained between Bahrain and the Gulf Cooperation Council after Bahrain and the U.S. signed a free-trade accord in September. At the end of 2003, construction began on a huge billion-dollar project to modernize the port of Manama.

      Many continued to suffer from an unemployment rate in excess of 10%, and an estimated 10,000 jobs would have to be created annually to meet the needs of young Bahrainis reaching employment age. Opposition groups sought modification of the constitution to give the elected lower chamber more powers than the upper chamber, which was appointed by the king.

      Bahrain and Qatar finished preliminary studies on construction of a bridge to link the two countries. In June 2004 the Bahraini government announced that it had uncovered a terrorist group allegedly linked to al-Qaeda and briefly arrested its members. This news prompted the United States to order an evacuation of most U.S. government dependents. Bahrain served as the headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, which was operating in the Persian Gulf.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2004

716 sq km (276 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 674,000
Chief of state:
King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      The Bahraini economy was continuing to show strength at the beginning of 2003. The country's gross domestic product had risen from $7.2 billion in 2001 to $7.6 billion in 2002, an increase of 5.1%. Early in the year the government announced a multimillion-dollar plan for the complete renovation of the old port of Manama to enable it to compete with modern Persian Gulf ports, notably that of Dubai.

      Constitutional changes continued to affect the country's political life. Elections to the lower house of the National Assembly were held in October 2002; they marked the first time that women in the Arab Gulf countries could vote and run for the legislature.

      A proposal to award Bahraini citizenship to Sunni Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula led to strong protests from the Shiʿite community; it accused the government of trying to change the demographic balance in Bahrain, which had a Shiʿite majority. In mid-May Iranian Pres. Mohammad Khatami made an official visit to Bahrain. Bilateral relations had been strained, in part because Bahrain accused Iran of interfering in its internal affairs and encouraging Shiʿite antigovernment activism.

      As the headquarters for the U.S. Fifth Fleet, Bahrain was one of the most important U.S. allies in the Gulf region. Before and during the military campaign that led to the occupation of Iraq in April 2003, the country suffered civilian attacks on U.S. interests.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2003

694 sq km (268 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 672,000
Chief of state:
King Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      On Feb. 14, 2002, Bahrain was officially transformed from an emirate into a kingdom as Emir Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah assumed the title of king. The new king immediately announced political reforms, calling for general elections for a municipal council and a new parliament and giving both men and women the right to vote. The government also approved a modification of its 1973 constitution; major articles of that constitution had been suspended in 1975. Under these modifications the new parliament was to be bicameral. A chamber, appointed by King Hamad, would have legislative powers on a par with the elected chamber, a matter that was criticized by the opposition.

      Municipal elections were held on May 9, but voters failed to elect any of the women candidates. Parliamentary elections were held in October, the first since the body was dissolved 27 years earlier. The Bahraini government also allowed the establishment of “political associations” but not political parties. In response to long-standing popular demand, the government granted Bahraini nationality to more than 10,000 stateless persons, some of them Shiʿites of Persian origin.

      On August 17 King Hamad made a historic two-day visit to Iran, where he met with top Iranian officials. The visit represented an improvement in relations between the two countries, which had been tense since the 1990s, when Bahrain had accused Iran of supporting the Shiʿite popular protest movement that sought reform of the Sunnite-led government.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2002

694 sq km (268 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 701,000
Chief of state:
Emir Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      In 2001 Emir Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah accelerated the constitutional and political reforms that he had begun the previous year. On February 14–15, Bahrainis approved by referendum the National Action Charter by an overwhelming majority—98.4%. The charter, proposed by the government, promised democratic reforms, including parliamentary elections and a separation of powers. Subsequently, the emir released 900 political prisoners and allowed hundreds of exiled Bahrainis and their families to return from abroad. The emir also abolished the unpopular state security law and the state security court, both of which had given “exceptional powers” to the government. The government further promised a law to allow the establishment of professionals' and workers' unions.

      Despite reforms, however, unemployment remained high—10% among men and much higher among women. It still constituted the main source of social tension in Bahrain. Political stability was essential, since Bahrain aimed to become a centre of trade and finance in the Persian Gulf.

      On March 16 the International Court of Justice in The Hague reached its verdict on the Bahrain-Qatar border dispute. Since the 1930s the two countries had disputed ownership of several territories, chief among them the Hawar Islands, which were reputed to be a rich source of natural gas. The court ruled in favour of Bahrain on the Hawar Islands but awarded Qatar some smaller islands. Both Bahrain and Qatar welcomed the decision, and relations between the two countries improved to the point where they agreed to link their countries with a 45-km (28-mi) bridge.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2001

694 sq km (268 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 691,000
Chief of state:
Emir Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      In an attempt to decrease tensions between the government and the opposition, Emir Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah announced on Dec. 16, 1999, some steps toward reform. He promised to revive the Municipal Council and to give not only Bahraini men but also women the right to vote for its members. He also assured Bahrainis of a freer press and agreed to grant Bahraini nationality to anyone “qualified” to obtain it. In February 2000 Bahraini citizenship was granted to some 650 of the over 20,000 stateless people living in Bahrain, most of them Shiʿite Muslims of Iranian origin. In the spring the Bahrain government also promised to conduct an election for the Consultative Council by the year 2004; all existing Council members had been appointed by the emir. The ongoing border dispute between Bahrain and Qatar over the Hawar Islands—which were believed to have rich reserves of natural gas—had been sent in 1991 to the International Court of Justice in The Hague; in late June the court began its final deliberations on the matter. Despite the border dispute, both Bahrain and Qatar worked to improve relations, and at the beginning of 2000 the two countries agreed to establish full diplomatic relations and exchange ambassadors for the first time in history. The two countries formed a bilateral committee, headed by the crown prince of each country, to consolidate their relationship.

Louay Bahry

▪ 2000

694 sq km (268 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 646,000
Chief of state:
Emir Isa ibn Sulman al-Khalifah and, from March 6, Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah
Head of government:
Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      On March 6, 1999, Emir Isa ibn Sulman al-Khalifah, the ruler of Bahrain for 37 years, died unexpectedly of a heart attack. (See Obituaries. (Khalifah, Sheikh Isa ibn Sulman al- )) He was immediately succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Hamad ibn Isa al-Khalifah, the commander in chief of the Bahrain Defense Force. In a move seen as a continuation of his father's policies, on May 31 the new emir reappointed his uncle, Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah—the person to whom many people looked for the stability of the country—prime minister, a post he had held since independence.

      That stability remained fragile during 1999 despite the new emir's promise of political relaxation and reform. He released some 300 prisoners in May and June, but as many as 1,000 others remained incarcerated while awaiting trial. On July 8, however, the emir pardoned and released Sheikh ʿAbd al-Amir al-Jamri, the country's religious opposition leader most revered by Bahrain's Shiʿite Muslims (who constituted some 60% of the population). The Shiʿites were not entirely satisfied and continued to press for increased human and political rights.

      Relations between Bahrain and Iran improved noticeably during the year. Iran had been accused, in the mid-1990s, of helping and supporting the Shiʿite opposition. In May while visiting Iran, the Bahraini foreign minister invited Iranian Pres. Mohammad Khatami to visit Bahrain.

Louay Bahry

▪ 1999

      Area: 694 sq km (268 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 633,000

      Capital: Manama

      Chief of state: Emir Isa ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      Head of government: Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      The political unrest that Bahrain had experienced since the end of 1994 declined noticeably at the street level in 1998, but the government continued to hold about 1,000 Muslim Shi!ite prisoners without trial on charges of antigovernment activity. The Shi!ites, who constituted 70% of the population, were calling for a full restitution of the 1975 constitution, jobs for the unemployed, and the return of political exiles from abroad. In early December Interior Minister Sheik Muhammad bin Khalifah al-Khalifah accused Lebanese living in the country of working with local citizens and Shi'ites outside Bahrain to destabilize the country.

      Political stability was important for Bahrain, as the country was trying to compete with Dubayy as a centre for offshore banking in the region. At the beginning of 1998, deposits in Bahrain's banks totaled $71.4 billion, garnered from Arab countries, Europe, and other parts of the world.

      Relations between Bahrain and Iran, which had begun to deteriorate in 1996, improved. On Nov. 11, 1997, Iran's minister of foreign affairs paid an official visit to Bahrain. In 1996 Iran had been accused of sponsoring an underground Shi!ite organization, Hezbollah Bahrain.

      Bahrain's litigation with Qatar over the ownership of the Hawar Islands (now under Bahraini control) continued throughout the year, with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates attempting to mediate the dispute. Bahrain announced plans to build a hotel and other tourist facilities on the islands, which were believed to contain important natural gas resources.


▪ 1998

      Area: 694 sq km (268 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 620,000

      Capital: Manama

      Chief of state: Emir Isa ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      Head of government: Prime Minister Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah

      Since the end of 1994, Bahrain had witnessed bouts of political unrest and violence perpetrated mainly by the Muslim Shi'ite opposition in an attempt to persuade the government to restore the parliament, which was abolished in 1975. International human rights organizations, such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, recorded cases of human rights abuses by the Bahraini authorities against those arrested or imprisoned for their political activities. In addition to their political demands, the Shiˋites were asking for economic reforms and jobs for the unemployed. In 1997 foreign workers constituted 63% of Bahrain's labour force. In late November it was reported that eight exiled opposition leaders had been sentenced in absentia to 5-15 years in prison.

      On June 12, 1996, in an attempt to bring the situation under control, Emir Isa ibn Sulman al-Khalifah published a decree dividing the country into four provinces, each with a governor responsible for the preservation of law and order in his province. Governors were also responsible for overseeing economic and educational development in their provinces.

      A decree issued by the emir in January announced the establishment of a National Guard, which was to become a military force independent of the army and a backup for it. The goal of the National Guard was to reach a force of 1,000, mostly drawn from non-Bahraini recruits; it was to be headed by the emir's son, Sheikh Muhammad ibn Isa al-Khalifah.


      This article updates Bahrain, history of (Bahrain).

▪ 1997

      The monarchy (emirate) of Bahrain consists of a group of islands in the Persian Gulf between the peninsula of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Area: 694 sq km (268 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 598,000. Cap.: Manama. Monetary unit: Bahrain dinar, with (Oct. 11, 1996) an official rate of 0.38 dinar to U.S. $1 (0.59 dinar = £ 1 sterling). Emir in 1996, Isa ibn Sulman al-Khalifah; prime minister, Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah.

      Antigovernment violence and civil unrest by Shi'ite Muslims continued to ravage Bahrain in 1996. The Shi'ites were seeking restoration of the legislature, dissolved in 1975, and jobs for their unemployed. Shi'ites comprised about 70% of Bahrain's population, while the ruling al-Khalifah family belonged to the Sunnite sect.

      Relations between Bahrain and the neighbouring country of Qatar were strained because of a dispute over ownership of the Hawar Islands, presumed to have gas reserves. Although the dispute was taken to the International Court of Justice, Bahrain indicated that it might refuse a solution by the court. Instead, it favoured mediation by friendly Gulf countries, primarily Saudi Arabia. (LOUAY BAHRY)

      This article updates Bahrain, history of (Bahrain).

▪ 1996

      The monarchy (emirate) of Bahrain consists of a group of islands in the Persian Gulf between the peninsula of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Area: 694 sq km (268 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 579,000. Cap.: Manama. Monetary unit: Bahrain dinar, with (Oct. 6, 1995) an official rate of 0.38 dinar to U.S. $1 (0.60 dinar = £ 1 sterling). Emir in 1995, Isa ibn Sulman al-Khalifah; prime minister, Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah.

      Sheikh Ali Salman Ahmad Salman, a Bahraini cleric, was arrested on Dec. 5, 1994, after signing a petition calling for the restoration of the constitution and the National Assembly, which had been dissolved in 1975. The arrest sparked the worst riots in Bahrain in decades. The country was put under martial law, and security forces arrested an estimated 2,000 protesters and exiled others. On Jan. 15, 1995, Sheikh Salman was deported to the United Arab Emirates, whence he flew to London seeking political asylum. Throughout the spring more arrests and deportations of Shi'ite clerics, as well as raids on Shi'ite mosques, took place. On April 1 another leading signatory of the petition, Sheikh 'Abd al-Amir al-Jamri, was arrested, which provoked more violent clashes with the security forces.

      On April 2 Emir Isa ibn Sulman al-Khalifah met for the first time with about 20 leading religious and opposition figures to start a dialogue aimed at ending the ongoing violence. In June the government resigned, and a new Cabinet was appointed. An agreement was reached at the end of August whereby Sheikh al-Jamri and 40 other political prisoners were released in September. A total of 250 prisoners were released between August and September.


      This updates the article Bahrain, history of (Bahrain).

▪ 1995

      The monarchy (emirate) of Bahrain consists of a group of islands in the Persian Gulf between the peninsula of Qatar and Saudi Arabia. Area: 694 sq km (268 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 552,000. Cap.: Manama. Monetary unit: Bahrain dinar, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 0.38 dinar to U.S. $1 (0.60 dinar = £ 1 sterling). Emir in 1994, Isa ibn Sulman al-Khalifah; prime minister, Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah.

      The arrest of a leading Shi'ite cleric, Sheikh Ali Salman, in early December touched off antigovernment demonstrations in which two students and one policeman were killed. The disturbances, the worst in 20 years, took place just before the Gulf Cooperation Council summit meeting in Manama on December 19. Information Minister Tariq al-Mu`ayyid said that the demonstrators arrested in the clashes on December 12-13 would be brought to trial.

      Sheikh Salman and 13 other community leaders apparently had signed a petition urging the restoration of the elected parliament, but other sources linked his arrest to inflammatory remarks made after Shi'ite villagers in northern Bahrain threw stones at women athletes taking part in a marathon in late November. On December 16 Emir Isa ibn Sulman al-Khalifah endorsed the work of the existing consultative council and appeared to rule out any early restoration of the former elected parliament.

      On January 19, 20 people were arrested in disturbances in central Manama after a ceremony to mourn the death of a leading Iranian Shi'ite ayatollah. In June 200 youths were dispersed by baton-wielding police with tear gas outside the Labour Ministry after demonstrating against high unemployment.

      As part of a drive to demonstrate Bahrain's "open door" to business, Israel's environment minister, Yossi Sarid, was officially received in Manama on October 25. This was the first public high-level contact between an Arab Gulf state and an Israeli minister. (JOHN WHELAN)

      This updates the article Bahrain, history of (Bahrain).

▪ 1994

      The monarchy (emirate) of Bahrain consists of a group of islands in the Persian Gulf between the Qatar Peninsula and Saudi Arabia. Area: 695 sq km (268 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 486,000. Cap.: Manama. Monetary unit: Bahrain dinar, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 0.37 dinar to U.S. $1 (0.57 dinar = £ 1 sterling). Emir in 1993, Isa ibn Sulman al-Khalifah; prime minister, Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah.

      The new 30-member consultative council met for the first time on Jan. 16, 1993, under its chairman, former transport minister Ibrahim Humaidan, in what was seen as a tentative step toward democracy. Among the councillors appointed by the emir, mainly from the business community, were a number of former members of the elected National Assembly that had been dissolved in 1975. Following the creation of the new council, the emir granted an amnesty to eight political prisoners and awarded pardons to 11 exiles in a gesture aimed at healing differences within the nation, which was evenly divided between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. Diplomats said that the consultative council gave further legitimacy to the monarchical regime and helped reinforce its image as a stable, tolerant centre for the Gulf region, specializing in banking, aluminum, ship repairs, oil refining, and petrochemicals.

      Ali ibn Khalifah ibn Sulman al-Khalifah, a son of the prime minister, was appointed transport and communications minister to replace Humaidan. At the end of 1993, there were seven posts held by the ruling al-Khalifah family in the 17-member Cabinet.

      Bahrain asserted its territorial claim against Qatar in regard to their long-running dispute over ownership of islands, sandbanks, and reefs by declaring in a government decree of April 20 a territorial-waters claim of 12 nautical miles. In an adjacent area of another 12 nautical miles, the government said that it "will exercise its rights to sovereignty as prescribed in international law." (JOHN WHELAN)

      This updates the article Bahrain, history of (Bahrain).

* * *

Bahrain, flag of  small Arab state situated in a bay on the southwestern coast of the Persian Gulf. It is an archipelago consisting of Bahrain Island and some 30 smaller islands. Its name is from the Arabic term al-bahrayn, meaning “two seas.”

 Located in one of the world's chief oil-producing regions, Bahrain itself has only small stores of petroleum. Instead, its economy has long relied on processing crude oil from neighbouring countries, and more recently the financial, commercial services, and communications sectors have grown markedly, as has tourism. The country's chief city, port, and capital, Manama (Al-Manāmah), is located on the northeastern tip of Bahrain Island. A strikingly modern city, Manama is relaxed and cosmopolitan and is a favourite destination for visitors from neighbouring Saudi Arabia; on weekends, crowds of Saudis converge on the city to enjoy its restaurants and bars. Yet the people of Bahrain remain conservative in their lifeways. This sentiment is enshrined in the country's constitution, which affirms that “the family is the cornerstone of society, the strength of which lies in religion, ethics, and patriotism.”

      Bahrain is renowned for its verdant groves of date palms; since ancient times it has been an entrepôt for trade and a source of natural resources for the surrounding area. Bahrain Island is widely believed to be the site of the ancient kingdom of Dilmun, a commercial centre that traded with ancient Sumer. It has been settled and colonized by various groups, including the Khalīfah family (Āl Khalīfah), a native Arab dynasty that has ruled Bahrain since the late 18th century. Recognizing the islands' strategic importance, the Khalīfah have opened Bahrain's port facilities to the naval fleets of foreign countries, including the United States.

Land (Bahrain)
      Bahrain's total land area is slightly greater than that of Singapore. Saudi Arabia lies to the west across the Gulf of Bahrain, while the Qatar peninsula lies to the east. The King Fahd Causeway, 15 miles (24 km) long, links Bahrain to Saudi Arabia.

 The state consists of two separate groups of islands, which together extend about 30 miles (50 km) from north to south and 10 miles (16 km) from east to west. The island of Bahrain accounts for seven-eighths of the country's total land area and is surrounded by smaller islands. Two of these—Al-Muḥarraq and Sitrah, both to the northeast—are joined to Bahrain Island by causeways that have facilitated residential and industrial development; other islands in the group are Nabī Ṣāliḥ, Al-Muḥammadiyyah (Umm al-Ṣabbān), Umm al-Naʿsān (linked by the King Fahd Causeway), and Jiddah. The second group consists of the Ḥawār Islands, which are situated near the coast of Qatar, about 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Bahrain Island; a dispute with Qatar over ownership of the islands was resolved in 2001, when the International Court of Justice awarded them to Bahrain. Small and rocky, they are inhabited by only a few fishermen and quarry workers, but they are believed to hold petroleum and natural gas reserves.

Relief and drainage
      While the small islands in both groups are rocky and low-lying, rising only a few feet above sea level, the main island is more varied in appearance. Geologically, the island consists of gently folded layers of sedimentary rocks: limestones, sandstones, and marls (loose clay, sand, or silt) formed during the Cretaceous (Cretaceous Period) and Tertiary (Tertiary Period) periods (i.e., up to about 145 million years old). The central region is rocky and barren, rising to 440 feet (134 metres) above sea level at Al-Dukhān Hill (Jabal Al-Dukhān), the country's highest point. The southern and western lowlands consist of a bleak sandy plain with some salt marshes, while the northern and northwestern coasts afford a striking contrast, forming a narrow belt of date palms and vegetable gardens irrigated from prolific springs and wells that tap artesian water. The source of this water is precipitation on the western mountains of Saudi Arabia. The abundance of fresh water has provided Bahrain with fertile land, from which it gained importance historically as a harbour and trading centre in the Persian Gulf. Economic developments and population growth have outstripped the available artesian water in the country, and some three-fifths of the water used now comes from seawater desalinization (desalination) plants powered by natural gas.

      Summer in Bahrain is unpleasant, as high temperatures frequently coincide with high humidity. Midday temperatures from May to October exceed 90 °F (32 °C), often reaching 95 °F (35 °C) or higher; summer nights are sultry and humid. Winters are cooler and more pleasant, with mean temperatures from December to March dipping to 70 °F (21 °C). Rainfall is confined to the winter months and averages only 3 inches (75 mm) per year, but this may vary from almost nothing to double that amount. On average, rain falls only about 10 days a year. Sunshine is abundant year-round. The predominant wind is the damp, northwesterly shamāl (shamal); the qaws, a hot, dry south wind, is less frequent and brings sand, dust, and low humidity.

Plant and animal life
      Some 200 different species of desert plants grow in the bare, arid portions of the archipelago, while the irrigated and cultivated areas of the islands support fruit trees, fodder crops, and vegetables. The variety of animals is limited by the desert conditions. Gazelle and hares are not yet extinct, and lizards and jerboas (desert rodents) are common; the mongoose—probably imported from India—is found in the irrigated areas. Birdlife is sparse except in spring and autumn, when many varieties of migratory birds rest temporarily in Bahrain while traveling to and from higher temperate latitudes.

People (Bahrain)

Ethnic groups
      Roughly two-thirds of the population is Arab, and most are native-born Bahrainis, but some are Palestinians, Omanis, or Saudis. Foreign-born inhabitants, comprising more than one-third of the population, are mostly from Iran, India, Pakistan, Britain, and the United States. About three-fifths of the labour force is foreign.

      Arabic (Arabic language) is the official language of Bahrain. English is widely used, however, and is a compulsory second language at all schools. Persian is also common, although it is spoken mostly in the home. A number of other languages are spoken among expatriates in Bahrain, including Urdu, Hindi, and Tagalog.

 The population is more than four-fifths Muslim and includes both the Sunni (Sunnite) and Shīʿite sects, with the latter in the majority. The ruling family and many of the wealthier and more influential Bahrainis are Sunni, and this difference has been an underlying cause of local tension, particularly during and after the Iran-Iraq War (1980–88). Christians constitute about half of the remaining one-fifth of the population, with the rest consisting of Jews, Hindus, and Bahāʾīs.

Settlement patterns
      The majority of the population now dwells in towns, but in the north and northwest of the main island, where irrigation has long been carried out using artesian water, there are numerous small villages and isolated dwellings where horticulture is the way of life. This area has an aspect of great fertility, which contrasts starkly with the bare desert appearance of much of the country. Villages consist, for the most part, of substantial flat-roofed houses built of stone or concrete. Some of the temporary settlements of fishermen and the poor are still constructed of barasti (branches of the date palm). There is little permanent settlement either in the southern half of Bahrain Island or on the smaller islands.

      More than one-third of the population lives in the two principal cities, Manama and Al-Muḥarraq (Muḥarraq, Al-). Manama, with its port of Mīnāʾ Salmān, is the largest city and contains the main government offices, the business and financial district, many large hotels, Western-style shops, and a traditional Arab souk (market). It has a distinctly modern appearance as compared with Al-Muḥarraq, which is densely settled and has many narrow, winding streets. Other major settlements are Awālīʿ, near the centre of Bahrain Island, built largely for expatriate employees of the Bahrain Petroleum Company B.S.C. (Bapco); Madīnat ʿĪsā (Madīnah ʿĪsā) (Isa Town), a community established by the government in 1968; the sizable settlements of Al-Rifāʿ al-Shamālī (North Rifāʿ), Al-Rifāʿ al-Sharqī (East Rifāʿ), and Al-Rifāʿ al-Gharbī (West Rifāʿ); and Madīnat Ḥamad, completed in 1984.

Demographic trends
      The population of Bahrain has been steadily growing, increasing almost 2 percent a year. Life expectancy is high, with males living on average to about 71 and females to 76. The death rate is well below the world average, and the major causes of death are diseases of the circulatory or respiratory system and cancer. More than one-fourth of the population is under the age of 15.

 Though it was the first emirate where oil (petroleum) was discovered (1932), Bahrain will most likely be the first to exhaust its reserves. Consequently, Bahrain has developed one of the most diversified economies in the Persian Gulf region. Bahrain's economic activity, like that of other Arab states in the Persian Gulf, has largely centred on the production of crude oil and natural gas and on refining petroleum products, making the country sensitive to fluctuations in the world oil market. Bahrain has built on its long tradition of shipping and commerce, however, and has been more successful than some other states in the gulf in developing manufacturing and commercial and financial services. The non-oil sector includes petrochemicals, ship repair, aluminum refining, and light manufacturing. The government-owned Aluminum Bahrain B.S.C. (Alba), one of the world's largest aluminum smelters, and Bapco have been profitable, but this has provided less incentive for privatization. Bahrain has remained the most important commercial and financial centre in the gulf, although it has faced growing competition from the United Arab Emirates.

Agriculture and fishing
      Less than 3 percent of Bahrain is arable, and agriculture contributes only a marginal proportion of the gross national product. The majority of Bahrain's food is imported, but agricultural production meets some local needs, including a large portion of vegetables and dairy products. Tomatoes, dates, bananas, citrus fruits, mangoes, pomegranates, and alfalfa (lucerne) are among the main crops. Cattle breeding and poultry farming are also encouraged by the government, while camels and horses are bred for racing. The increasingly polluted waters of the gulf, mainly caused by spillages from Kuwaiti oil installations during the Persian Gulf War, have killed off economically valuable marine life (notably shrimp) that were important to the fishing industry. Fisheries have remained largely unexploited despite some government attempts to privatize and modernize the industry.

Resources and power
      Bahrain's oil production has always been small by Middle Eastern standards, and refining crude oil imported from Saudi Arabia has been of much greater importance since vast oil fields were discovered on the mainland; in 1998 Bapco began a major modernization project for its refinery. Bahrain's only oil field, Al-Baḥrayn (also known as Awali), is rapidly depleting. Several oil companies, however, have been granted exploration rights by the government. The country's offshore natural gas supplies are somewhat more substantial. Petroleum and natural gas resources and production are nationalized, but in the 1990s the government began encouraging foreign investment in the sector.

      The traditional industries of Bahrain were building dhows (lateen-rigged sailing vessels), fishing, pearling, and the manufacture of reed mats. These activities are now carried out on only a small scale.

      Ship repair is handled at Mīnāʾ Salmān, near Manama, and at a large yard operated on Al-ʿAzl Island. Light industries include the production of building materials, furniture, soft drinks, plastics, and a wide range of consumer goods. The government has a significant financial stake in all these modern industries. In addition to the aluminum smelter operated by Alba, an aluminum rolling mill was opened in 1986 that manufactures such products as door and window frames.

      The government has encouraged the growth of banking, insurance, and other financial services, and consequently Bahrain has become an important financial centre, notably of offshore banking. These activities have increasingly contributed to the country's balance of payments. Bahrain has also been able to benefit from its long tradition as a commercial centre. The country's central bank is the Bahrain Monetary Agency, which also issues the Bahraini dinar, the national currency. In addition to offshore banking units, there are local and foreign commercial banks, as well as investment banks. The Bahrain Stock Exchange opened in 1989.

      Bahrain's main import is the crude petroleum brought in by underwater pipeline from Saudi Arabia to be refined. Other major imports are machinery, food, and chemicals. The primary exports are refined petroleum products and aluminum goods. Saudi Arabia is the principal trading partner, and the United States and Japan are also important.

      Services, including public administration, defense, and retail sales, employ some three-fifths of Bahrain's workforce and also account for about three-fifths of the gross domestic product (GDP). The service sector, particularly tourism, is the fastest growing area of the economy.

      Tourism is actively promoted by the government, and, with its balmy climate and scenic location, the country is a growing tourist destination. Travelers from other, more conservative Persian Gulf countries—who comprise the largest number of visitors—are attracted to Bahrain's more liberal society. Visitors from outside the region come for the country's climate and to experience its unique cultural wealth.

Labour and taxation
      The majority of the workforce is men, with women constituting about one-fifth of the total. Women, however, are encouraged to work by the government, especially as a means of increasing indigenous employment. Beginning in the 1970s, non-Bahrainis have comprised a large portion of the country's workforce; by the end of the 20th century, two-thirds of those working were foreigners. There are no unions in Bahrain, which, although legal, are discouraged by the government. The standard work week is Saturday through Wednesday.

      Bahrain has no individual income tax, and its only corporate tax is levied on oil, petroleum, and gas companies. Taxes account for less than one-third of the country's revenue.

Transportation and telecommunications
      Bahrain Island has an excellent system of paved roads, and its causeway connections to Al-Muḥarraq and Sitrah islands and to Saudi Arabia facilitate travel. There are no railroads, but the principal towns and villages are well served by bus and taxi services; a large proportion of residents also own motor vehicles. Bahrain International Airport on Al-Muḥarraq Island is one of the busiest airports in the Middle East and is served by most major international airlines. Manama is the headquarters of Gulf Air, owned by the governments of Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Steamers run scheduled service from Bahrain to other gulf ports and to Pakistan and India.

      Bahrain Telecommunications Company (Batelco), established in 1981, serves the country's telephone, wireless telephone, data communications, and Internet needs, either directly or through its subsidiaries. Through Batelco, Bahrain has promoted itself as a regional telecommunications centre, connecting the countries of the gulf region with the broader world. In 1998 Batelco opened an underwater fibre-optic cable network linking Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
      Since the 18th century, the head of the Āl Khalīfah, the country's ruling family, has taken the title emir. A constitution promulgated in 2002 established Bahrain as a constitutional hereditary monarchy whose head of state is now titled king. Under the new constitution the executive is composed of a prime minister, who is head of government, and a Council of Ministers, all of whom are appointed by the king. The legislative branch consists of two houses: a 40-member Consultative Council that is also appointed by the king and a 40-member Chamber of Deputies that is elected by universal adult suffrage. The voting age is 20 years. Members of both deliberative bodies serve terms of four years. Women, in addition to voting, may stand for local and national elections. An earlier constitution (1973) created a National Assembly composed of appointed members and others elected by popular vote, but after a period of labour unrest and political agitation the assembly was dissolved by the emir in 1975. Public representation thereupon reverted to the traditional Arab and Islamic system of a majlis (council), through which citizens and other residents presented petitions directly to the emir. In 1993 the emir created the Consultative Council, to which the first women were appointed in 2000.

      Bahrain's legal system is based on Islamic law (Sharīʿah) and English common law. The highest court in the country is the High Civil Appeals Court, and there are separate courts for members of Sunni and Shīʿite sects. When the royal family faced growing unrest in the 1990s from protesters, predominantly Shīʿite Muslims calling for a restoration of the constitution, a special court was established to prosecute dissenters.

Political process
      In light of the political unrest of the 1990s, Ḥamad ibn ʿĪsā Āl Khalīfah, after succeeding his father to the throne in 1999, promised political reforms. In 2001 a national referendum approved a new document, the National Action Charter (NAC), and the new constitution appeared the following year.

      Participation in the military is voluntary, and males can enter service at age 15. The country maintains a large military and police force relative to its population, but it is one of the smallest in the region. In 1991, following the Persian Gulf War, Bahrain signed a defense cooperation agreement with the United States. Bahrain is the headquarters for the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. The United Kingdom maintains a small military presence.

Health and welfare
      Medical care is extensive and free, and there is provision for most forms of social security: pensions, sick pay, compensation for industrial injury, unemployment benefits, and maternity and family allowance payments. The government also sponsors public housing projects that are partially funded by its gulf neighbours.

      Bahrain's constitution requires the government to help provide housing for any citizens unable to obtain adequate shelter through their own resources. Nearly three-fifths of all Bahrainis have benefited from government housing assistance in some way, and the government has likewise expended significant resources in recent decades to develop associated infrastructure. In 2001 the government inaugurated a new program to extend housing assistance to rural towns and villages.

      Bahrain's public education system, founded in 1932, is the oldest in the Arabian Peninsula. Public education is free for both boys and girls at the primary, intermediate, and secondary levels and is mandatory for all children aged 6 to 14. Private and religious schools are available as well. The University of Bahrain, Arabian Gulf University, and the College of Health Sciences are institutions of higher learning. The vast majority of the population is literate, and Bahrain has the highest female literacy rate in the Persian Gulf.

Cultural life
      Bahrain's island location has made it unique among Persian Gulf states. With greater access to ocean travel and broader exposure to outside influences, Bahrain traditionally has been home to a more ethnically and religiously diverse and cosmopolitan population than have other, more insular gulf states. This openness is reflected in Bahrain's social customs, which—although still conservative—are much more moderate and relaxed than those of its neighbours, particularly conservative Saudi Arabia. Thus, although Bahrain is still at heart an Arab-Islamic country, it has been more accepting of modernization and Westernization than many of its neighbours.

Daily life and social customs
      The official holidays in Bahrain are generally the same as those observed in most Muslim countries. These include the two ʿīds (festivals), Īd al-Fiṭrʿ and Īd al-Aḍḥāʿ, the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, and, more recently, the celebration of ʿĀshūrā (Āshūrāʾʿ) among the country's Shīʿites.

      Western-style clothing is common in Bahrain, though some men still wear the traditional thawb (full-length tunic) and the kaffiyeh (white head cloth), bound in place by a black, camel-hair cord known as an ʿiqāl—the latter often more ornate, particularly among the political elite. The dress rules for women are relaxed compared to the more conservative, regional standards, although women in rural areas, and those in conservative communities in cities, still wear the veil (ḥijāb) and a traditional long cloak known as an ʿabāyah.

      Coffee is an important part of social life. Coffee shops are popular meeting places, and coffee is offered as a sign of hospitality. It is often flavoured with cardamom and saffron. Bahraini cuisine typically features fish, shrimp, meat, rice, and dates. Machbous is a popular traditional dish of fish or meat served with rice. Other typical food includes muḥammar, sweet brown rice with sugar or dates, and shāwarmah, spit-roasted lamb, beef, or chicken.

The arts
 Traditional handicraft industries receive state and popular support, and most villages practice specialized traditions; ʿĀlī, for example, is well known for its ceramics, while artists in Karbābād weave baskets from date-palm leaves. Throughout the country artisans engage in gold working, tinsmithing, and textile making and sell their wares at small shops or the Souk al-Arabaʿāʾ (“Wednesday Market”) in Manama. Shipyards at Manama and Al-Muḥarraq are sites of dhow building, a highly respected art form. The museum in Manama contains local artifacts dating from antiquity, such as ivory figurines, pottery, copper articles, and gold rings, many of which reflect various cultural influences from outside Bahrain. There is also a small but flourishing avant-garde art community.

      Music is an important part of Bahraini life. There is a rich folk music culture, and fidjeri, songs once sung by pearl divers, are still heard. Since 1991 the country has held an annual music festival. Although the country does not have a film industry, moviegoing is a popular activity, and some of Bahrain's cinema theatres screen English-language films. In the early 21st century the government undertook a program to encourage the development of theatre.

Cultural institutions
      Bahrain has several museums, including the Bahrain National Museum and Beit al-Qurʾān, which houses a large collection of Qurʾāns, some dating to the 7th century. There are also museums devoted to the history of petroleum production and to pearl diving as well as several art galleries. The Bahraini Ministry of Education maintains a network of public libraries, the oldest of which, in Manama, opened in 1946. The emirate also maintains one of the principal wildlife conservation areas in the Persian Gulf region, Al-Areen Park, which harbours such indigenous mammals as the oryx and gazelle and is visited by many waterfowl species.

Sports and recreation
      Football (soccer) is the most popular modern sport, while horse racing remains a national pastime. More than 20 types of Arabian horses are bred on the islands, and races are held weekly on Bahrain island's large racecourse, which seats some 10,000 spectators. Traditional sports such as falconry and gazelle and hare hunting are still practiced by wealthier Bahrainis, and camel racing is a popular public entertainment. The country first competed in the Summer Olympic Games in 1984; it has not participated in the Winter Games.

Media and publishing
      Several weekly and daily papers are published in Arabic, and a small number appear in English. Most of the press is privately owned and is not subject to censorship as long as it refrains from criticizing the ruling family. The state television and radio stations broadcast most programs in Arabic, although there are channels in English.

      This discussion focuses on Bahrain since the 19th century. For a treatment of earlier periods and of the country in its regional context, see Arabia, history of.

      Bahrain has been inhabited since prehistoric times, and several thousand burial mounds (burial mound) in the northern part of the main island probably date from the Sumerian period of the 3rd millennium BC. It was the seat of ancient Dilmun (Telmun), a prosperous trading centre linking Sumeria with the Indus Valley about 2000 BC. The archipelago was mentioned by Persian, Greek, and Roman geographers and historians. It has been Arab and Muslim since the Muslim conquest of the 7th century AD, though it was ruled by the Portuguese from 1521 to 1602 and by the Persians from 1602 to 1783. Since 1783 it has been ruled by sheikhs of the Khalīfah family (Āl Khalīfah), which originated in the Al-Ḥasā province of Arabia.

The British protectorate
      Several times during the 19th century, the British intervened to suppress war and piracy and to prevent the establishment of Egyptian, Persian, German, or Russian spheres of influence. The first Bahraini-British treaty was signed in 1820, although the country's British-protected status dates from 1861, with the completion of a treaty by which the sheikh agreed to refrain from “the prosecution of war, piracy, or slavery.” Thus, Britain assumed responsibility for the defense of Bahrain and for the conduct of its relations with other major powers. In 1947 this protection briefly became the responsibility of the government of British India, which had both commercial and strategic interests in the Persian Gulf, but it reverted to Britain following India's independence. Until 1970 the government of Iran periodically advanced claims to sovereignty over Bahrain, but these were repudiated.

      Britain's decision to withdraw all of its forces from the gulf in 1968 led Sheikh ʿIsā ibn Sulmān Āl Khalīfah to proclaim Bahrain's independence in August 1971. A treaty of friendship was signed with the United Kingdom, terminating Bahrain's status as a British protectorate, and Sheikh ʿĪsā was designated the emir. Bahrain then became a member of the United Nations and the Arab League.

Domestic and foreign relations since independence
      After independence, tensions mounted between the predominantly Shīʿite population and Sunni leadership—especially following the 1979 revolution in Iran. The political unrest was fueled by economic and social grievances related to the fall in oil prices and production, cutbacks in public spending, and continued discrimination against the majority Shīʿite population.

      In 1981 Bahrain joined with five other Arab gulf states in forming the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), which has led to freer trading and closer economic and defense ties. During the Persian Gulf War (1990–91), Bahrain made its port and airfields available to the coalition forces that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait. Although more moderate than Saudi Arabia, Bahrain has generally followed that country's lead in most foreign policy decisions. The construction of the causeway linking Bahrain with Saudi Arabia has strengthened bilateral relations and regional defense and has helped both countries economically and politically. Bahrain has maintained relatively good relations with the United States and has continued to house the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet. Iran's ties to the country's Shīʿite community, its territorial claims to the island, and its displeasure with the American presence in Bahrain have helped to strain relations between it and Bahrain. Resolution in 2001 of the dispute between Bahrain and Qatar over the Ḥawār Islands improved their already warming relations.

      Sheikh Ḥamad ibn ʿIsā Āl Khalīfah, who assumed power on the death of his father in March 1999, released a number of imprisoned Shīʿite dissidents and other individuals later that year in a bid to ease tensions. These changes led in 2001 to a referendum—overwhelmingly supported by Bahrainis—that ratified the National Action Charter. The charter was followed in 2002 with the promulgation of a new constitution that established a constitutional monarchy in Bahrain, called for equality between Sunnis and Shīʿites, and guaranteed civil and property rights to all citizens.

Charles Gordon Smith Jill Ann Crystal

Additional Reading
Comparative coverage of the Persian Gulf region is provided by Helen Chapin Metz (ed.), Persian Gulf States: Country Studies, 3rd ed. (1994); John Bulloch, The Persian Gulf Unveiled (also published as The Gulf, 1984); Alvin J. Cottrell (ed.), The Persian Gulf States: A General Survey (1980); Michael Herb, All in the Family: Absolutism, Revolution, and Democracy in the Middle Eastern Monarchies (1999); Anthony Cordesman, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE (1997); and F. Gregory Gause, III, Oil Monarchies: Domestic and Security Challenges in the Arab Gulf States (1994). Good general accounts of Bahrain include John Whelan (ed.), Bahrain (1983); Angela Clarke, The Islands of Bahrain: An Illustrated Guide to Their Heritage (1981); and James H.D. Belgrave, Welcome to Bahrain, 9th ed. (1975), a detailed guidebook that includes the geography, history, and customs of Bahrain, together with a bibliography of works in Arabic, English, and French. Discussions of early regional history include Ahmad Mustafa Abu-Hakima, History of Eastern Arabia, 1750–1800: The Rise and Development of Bahrain and Kuwait (1965); and J.B. Kelly, Britain and the Persian Gulf, 1795–1880 (1968). More specific studies of the islands' history include Curtis E. Larsen, Life and Land Use on the Bahrain Islands: The Geoarcheology of an Ancient Society (1983); Abbas Faroughy, The Bahrein Islands, 750–1951: A Contribution to the Study of Power Politics in the Persian Gulf: An Historical, Economic, and Geographical Survey (1951); and M.G. Rumaihi, Bahrain: Social and Political Change Since the First World War (1976). Economic, political, and social conditions are addressed in Jeffrey B. Nugent and Theodore Thomas (eds.), Bahrain and the Gulf: Past Perspectives and Alternative Futures (1985), which has a good account of resources and economic development; Fuad I. Khuri, Tribe and State in Bahrain: The Transformation of Social and Political Authority in an Arab State (1980); and Mahdi Abdalla Al-Tajir, Bahrain, 1920–1945: Britain, the Shaikh, and the Administration (1987). Further bibliographic information can be found in P.T.H. Unwin (compiler), Bahrain (1984). Jill Ann Crystal

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Universalium. 2010.

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