While in the capital Manama there is a
modern, international metropolitan culture, other parts
of Bahrain have a more traditional Arabic feel.
English-language entertainment is increasingly spread
through radio and TV. Traditional Arabic crafts are
still practiced in some quarters: fishing boats built by
hand, home-woven fabrics or ceramics. The goldsmith, who
was a Bahrainian specialty, has now largely moved to
other countries. In wealthy circles, traditional
upper-class fun still exists as falconry.
Latest population statistics of Bahrain, including religious profiles and major languages spoken as well as population growth rates in next three decades.
The capital Manama was chosen as “Arab Capital of
Culture” in 2012 under UNESCO's Capital of Culture
Program. On UNESCO's World Heritage List there are three
attractions in Bahrain: a citadel, a traditional pearl
fishing spot and burial mounds from an approximately
4,000 year old culture when Bahrain became a center of
Activist drops in HD
Nabil Rajab, a Shiite leader who led popular protests against the Sunni
Muslim royal house during the Arab Spring of 2011, loses in the Supreme Court
where he appealed against a five-year prison sentence. Rajab, who is accused of
spreading false information about the regime via social media, is already
serving a two-year sentence punished on other charges (see February 21).
Among other things, he has criticized Saudi Arabia and its war in Yemen.
Contested choices are made
Parliamentary elections are held. Sympathizers to the opposition parties, who
are not allowed to stand, have called for boycotts. 293 people, including 41
women, are allowed to run for office. Municipal elections take place
simultaneously. The Minister of Justice has tentatively stated voter turnout at
67 percent, but banned al-Wifaq claims it has been achieved through coercion in
that case. The election confirms almost all previously elected members - they
are allowed to stay in their seats - and the government's composition changes
only on one point: the finance minister is replaced.
Elections with politically active in prison
Five people are arrested, accused of disrupting the order for the
parliamentary elections to be held on November 24. The largest opposition
parties - Shi'a Muslim al-Wifaq and secular Waad - are banned and hundreds of
democracy activists are imprisoned, some of whom have even been deprived of
their citizenship. The Sunni Muslim house accuses Iran of inciting Bahrain's
Shi'a population against the governing body.
US signs arms deal with Bahrain
The US Congress Senate votes down a request to stop arms sales to Bahrain.
Senator Rand Paul wants to stop arms deals as Bahrain participates in the
Saudi-led warfare that is ongoing in Yemen. But the majority of the Senate says
yes: the country is an important ally to the United States. 7,800 U.S. military
personnel are stationed at a naval base in Bahrain, where the United States
wants to be in place because the country is strategically located between Saudi
Arabia and Iran.
Lifetime of opposition leaders
Opposition leader Ali Salman, imprisoned since 2015, is sentenced to life
imprisonment by a court that believes he has been guilty of spying for Qatar.
Amnesty International claims that Salman has only made use of his freedom of
expression and describes the trial as "a parody of justice". Ali Salman has led
the now banned al-Wifaq party. Two other political leaders, Hasan Sultan and Ali
al-Aswad, also received lifetime sentences. Since the Arab Spring of 2011,
authorities have claimed that the opposition, with Qatar in the back, has
incited popular protests against the Al Khalifa royal house.
The US is settling with Bahrain to release designated IS fighters
A Saudi American, arrested in Iraq as a suspected IS warrior, is released 13
months after being surrendered to US forces. As the man is an American citizen,
he is not allowed to be released to Saudi Arabia, according to the US court. But
the US government also does not want him to be returned to the United States and
have a judicial review there. It could also have legal consequences for military
American activity in the war in Syria. So now the man has been released instead
in Bahrain after a secret settlement between the countries.
Severe punishment for oil sabotage
Seven people are sentenced to prison sentence accused of blowing up an oil
pipeline (see November 10, 2017). Five of them get life, six
lose their citizenship. The possibility of depriving some of the citizenship has
been introduced after the protests that began during the Arab Spring of 2011 and
it is mainly Shia Muslims who are punished. Bahrain's Sunni royal house sees
Iranian involvement in both demonstrations and violent events classified as
Support packages from neighboring countries
Bahrain receives budget support from neighboring Saudi Arabia, the United
Arab Emirates and Kuwait - a $ 10 billion aid package - and thus hopes to
achieve balance in the city budget in 2022. Falling oil prices have weakened
Bahrain's economy. A lot of measures will now be implemented to reduce public
spending, including voluntary retirement benefits for government employees.
Choices advertised for toothless lower house
King Hamad announces parliamentary elections until November 24. It will be a
choice for the lower house without regime critics, as opposition movements -
both Shiite and secular - have been banned with the support of decrees and many
members have been imprisoned. Some have even been deprived of their citizenship.
The election does not apply to members of Parliament's upper house, which, like
the lower house, has 40 seats: the representatives of the upper house are
appointed directly by the royal house (see June 11, 2018).
Call for imprisoned protest leaders
Frige Nabil Rajab immediately, calls for 127 organizations to protect a
Shiite leader imprisoned for government-critical statements. Rajab was one of
the leaders of popular protests against the Sunni Muslim royal house in 2011,
when activists demanded that the country be led by a democratically elected
government. He has also criticized the Saudi-led Alliance of Sunni states for
waging war in Yemen.
Regime critics are excluded from elections
This autumn, Parliament will have new members. But members of the now banned
al-Wifaq political movements, which are Shiite, and Waad, who are secular, will
not be allowed to stand in elections. This applies - after a decision by the
Regent announced through the BNA news agency - to all who were members of
parties dissolved by the authorities. The Sunni Muslim House is particularly
suspicious of Shi'a groups and is accusing Iran of trying to raise concerns in
Bahrain by Shi'ite Muslims.
British naval base opens
Britain opens new fleet base south of Manama. Around 300 British military
will be stationed on what will be the first permanent base established by
Britain in the Middle East in decades.
Over 100 arrested for ties to Iran
Authorities say 116 people have been arrested on suspicion of belonging to a
"terrorist cell" with ties to the Revolutionary Guard in Iran.
Well-known activist gets new prison sentence
Nabil Rajab, who is already serving a prison sentence (see July 2017),
is sentenced to a further five years in prison. Rajab is convicted of tweeting
about torture in Bahrain's prisons and of civilians being killed by the
Saudi-led alliance in Yemen.
Mass arrest of suspected terrorists
Police say 47 people have been arrested for terrorist crimes, including
murder plans against "public figures". In addition, the Prosecutor's Office has
received information on 290 other persons suspected of similar crimes.