Alwaght- The wave of popular uprisings in West Asia has engulfed many countries of the region including Bahrain. Though a majority of Bahraini population is Shiite Muslims, they are traditionally ruled by a Sunni minority. In the first look, the issue of differences between Shiite and Sunni Muslims is the major reason of Bahrain’s domestic crisis. But to understand the main roots of the prevailing Bahraini crisis and the Bahraini people’s protests, the following factors could be taken into account:
In fact, an array of factors has contributed to the emergence of such situation in Bahrain. To be short, the oppression and discrimination are the major factors fueling the popular protests in Bahrain. While a majority of the Bahraini people is Shiite, most of the vital occupations are seized by the Sunnis or non-nationals. The non-national people’s number has gone so high that they would present risks even for the regime.
But the government does not feel the threat, and pays no attention to it, and it continues citizenship granting policy just to stand up against the Shiite population and increase the Sunni population in Bahrain. It is necessary to speak about the role played by the social networks as well as the other websites in the Arab world. The conditions were transformed wonderfully in the Arab world, in which the young people account for %60 of the population. With the growth of the public media, new communication devices and the launching of the news channels like Aljazeera, as well as resorting to the social networking websites, the Arab world’s youths have decided to set themselves free from the dictatorships’ restrictions and the Arab patriarchy.
Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the Bahraini King, in 2002 has converted Bahrain’s political system from a heredity emirate to a monarchy. Weak political structure and monopoly power and political repression in the country also increased the range of grievances. For example, in the parliamentary elections the regime has accused 23 of the opposition leaders as well as hundreds of the political activists of such actions as terrorism and attempting to overthrow Al Khalifa regime.
Discrimination and political illegitimacy
The Al Khalifa regime’s political legitimacy is doubted by many of Bahraini people. The Al Khalifa dynasty is not originally Bahraini. They are an emigrant Sunni minority who came from Kuwait, entered Bahrain at the time of rule of Sheikh Nasrallah Khan as a result of a religious dispute with Bani Kaab tribe.
Many of the country’s political and financial occupations have been under the ruling family’s control as a result of domination over the country by Al Khalifa family. The ruling family is granted special privileges which include lifetime monthly pays for all of the royal family members and public service charges and tax exemption. Additionally, being autocratic, the political system in Bahrain has a tribal and authoritarian nature. The country’s leaders have powers which go beyond the law, and they are not obliged to be responsible to people or members of parliament due to their authorities and powers.
The economy element
Unlike other Persian Gulf region’s oil-rich states, Bahrain does not have huge oil reserves. Beside the Saudi oil rewarded to Bahrain, other countries’ financial supports, specifically those of Saudi Arabia, are presented to the ruling family. Therefore, the Bahraini people are not enjoying favorable economic conditions. The high unemployment rate [about %30] in Bahrain is another economic element leading to people’s protests and discontent in the country.
It has two reasons. The first is low job creation rate and the second is the presence of the cheap foreign workers in the country. Based on what has been said so far, it seems that Bahrain’s Shiites, despite holding a majority in the country, have always been subjected to discrimination. They had limited political and economic opportunities and suffered from a variety of religious discriminations.
Ban on employment in state sectors, specifically police forces, the armed forces, as well as the country’s important ministries, are part of the restrictions imposed on Shiite population there. Beside all of the discriminations against the Shiite Muslims for a long time, the Bahraini regime has proven that it had no positive vision of the Shiite community and it has always tried to isolate them. In return, it can be said that Bahrain’s regime has no popular base among the majority of people, especially the Shiites.
Minority rules over majority
Al Khalifa family, who are ruling over Bahrain, are about 3,000 in number, seizing all of the government posts. The Sunnis are in control in Bahrain and put heavy pressures on the Shiites.
Baring the political participation followers of Ahlul Bayt
Due to minority’s ruling over the majority, the Shiites are not appointed to state posts. The interesting thing is that the government uses different tricks to stymie the pressure coming from the majority.
Demographic changes in Bahrain
In a bid to transform the country’s demographic texture in favor of Sunni population, the Bahraini government has granted Bahraini citizenship to immigrants from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Jordan, most of them hold no expertise, headed to Bahrain with the hope of receiving pieces of lands. Additionally, the Bahrain government uses them in police and military forces, an obvious sign of severe religious discrimination in the country.
Unfair distribution of wealth and deep social inequality have been other factors influencing the rise of the recent uprising in Bahrain. The wealth is seized by a small group in Bahrain and most of the community is living under poverty line. The average income of every Bahraini citizen is $500 a month. This is while the UN-drawn standard poverty threshold for every Bahraini is $1000 a month.
It should be acknowledged that at the beginning the Bahraini protestors have insisted on a set of demands including political reforms, implementation of a constitutional monarchy and removal of the prime minister. But following the police forces’ attacks on the sit-inners in the Pearl Roundabout in Manama the uprising grow bigger and a majority of Shiite population has joined it. It seemed that the Bahraini revolution’s demands were mixed; some demanded a constitutional monarchy while others wanted downfall of the regime.