(Al Bahrayn, Mamlakat al Bahrayn). State of Southwest Asia (757.5 km²). Capital: Manama. Population: 1,168,000 residents (2009 estimate). Language: Arabic (official), English. Religion: Muslims (Shiites 60.9%, Sunnis 20.3%), Christians 9%, others 9.8%. Currency unit: Bahraini dinar (1000 fils). Human Development Index: 0.895 (39th place). Borders: Persian Gulf. Member of: GCC, Arab League, OCI, UN and WTO.
In 1507, according to aceinland, the Portuguese occupied the islands, which a century later fell into the Persian sphere of influence. In 1783 the current ruling family took possession of Bahrain with the help of Arab tribes from the Arabian Peninsula. From 1820 to 1970 Bahrain was an English protectorate, but Iran continued to make claims and in 1957 proclaimed Bahrain the fourteenth Iranian province: it was only in 1970 that the government of Tehran, after a United Nations mission had ascertained that the majority of the residents of Bahrain was in favor of independence, renounced all plans of annexation. Having achieved complete independence in 1971, Bahrain joined the Arab League and the UN. After the promulgation of a Constitution, elections were held (December 1973) for the Legislative assembly which, however, was dissolved in August 1975 by Emir ʽĪsa ibn Salmān al-Khalīfah. In 1981 Bahrain was one of the founding countries of Gulf Cooperation Council, a body having both economic and military purposes. In fact, during the 1980s the small emirate carried on a process of economic and military integration with the moderate Arab countries of the region, but it also opened up to greater relations with the United States to which, on the occasion of the Gulf War (1991), allowed the use of military bases. In the country, which similarly to Saudi Arabia, started a cautious process of political modernization in 1992 with the establishment of an advisory council of sovereign nomination, the opposition of a Shiite minority active since the times of the Iranian revolution was expressed. Precisely in the nineties this minority became more and more visible also in relation to the decidedly pro-Western position of Bahrain which in 1994, together with the other countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, it reduced the boycott of Israel. In particular, the Shiites demanded the restoration of the Legislative Assembly dissolved in 1975 and, at the end of 1994, they gave way to protests in some centers of the country. But the police of Emir ʽĪsa ibn Salmān al-Khalīfah reacted harshly by firing on the demonstrators without this being able to curb the activity of the opponents. Not even the resignation (June 1995) of the government in office, twenty years after the authoritarian turnaround, induced the Shiite opposition to withdraw from the request to convene the Parliament.
The emir refused, however, to accept the request and in the face of the heightening of the tension, relaunched in the first months of 1996 by the execution of a young Shiite, he accused Iran of fomenting the opposition in order to destabilize the country. In 1997, following these tensions, the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities accused Bahrain of systematic abuses in the field of human rights (torture of prisoners, summary executions and excessive use of prison for women). In 1999, after the death of the sovereign, the emir ʽĪsa ibn Salmān al-Khalīfah, his son Ḥamad bin ʽĪsa al-Khalīfah ascended the throne, who undertook to maintain the political line undertaken by his father and, in particular, not to compromise relations with the West. In July of the same year, however, the new ruler, as the first act of his reign, decreed the release of the opposition leader, Shaikh ‘Abd al-Amīr al-Jamri, veiled sign of openness to democracy. In the 2006 parliamentary elections, movements influenced by clerics won 29 seats out of 40 (17 Shiites, 12 Sunnis); same result in 2010 with an extra seat won by the Shiites. In February 2011, in the wake of the popular demonstrations of Maghreb, the Shiite opposition organized a series of violent protests, calling for a democratic change and the release of political prisoners. A month later Saudi Arabia sent a military contingent of a thousand men to restore order to the country, where demonstrations had been going on for more than a month. In addition to political and economic protests, the protests also had sectarian reasons, becoming the scene of the clash between Sunnis and Shiites. The attempt to find a shared solution between the two factions proved unsuccessful and between 2016 and 2017 the main Shiite parties were dissolved. In 2017 there was a new revision of the Constitution (granted in 2002 and revised for the first time in 2012).