Bahrain protests: the world tunes into small country
The small Middle Eastern nation of Bahrain is the latest country in the region to be engulfed in anti-government demonstrations inspired by uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. But where, exactly, is Bahrain? And what should you know about the country?
The first protests started Monday, Feb. 14, fueled by complaints from the majority Shiite population of discrimination by the ruling Sunni al-Khalifa family for years. The revolts in Tunisia and Egypt helped galvanize the protests to demand more concessions from the ruling family. The family has already agreed to some changes. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said he would give 1,000 dinars ($2,650) to every local family. The government also hinted that it might release some minors who were arrested during a security crackdown in 2010. Here are a few more key facts:
- Bahrain is a very small island nation (only about 100 square miles larger than New York City), sitting just of the coast off Saudi Arabia in the Persian Gulf.
- Bahrain is a key U.S. ally in the region, houses U.S. Navy's 5th fleet, and is home to a large U.S. military base.
- The country's population is just over 1 million, with a literacy rate of 91 percent.
- Bahrain's economy relies heavily on petroleum processing and refining. It's also become an international banking center.
- The country is run by a constitutional monarchy.
- The median age is 30.
- Eighty-one percent of the country is Muslim. Of that figure, Shiites make up 70 percent, and Sunnis make up 30 percent. Though the ruling family in the country is Sunni, Shiites make up about two-thirds of Bahrain's population.
- Extra fun fact: The Bahrain Grand Prix was once given the "Best Organised Grand Prix" award by the FIA.
Here's a list of Twitter users following the protests in Bahrain.
The Post's Janine Zacharia reported the following today about the country and its protests:
"Police used tear gas, clubs and rubber bullets Thursday to break up a swelling anti-government demonstration in the heart of this country's financial district. At least four people were killed in the pre-dawn police assault on an encampment of protesters, and dozens of others were injured, news agencies reported. Hundreds of police officers surrounded a makeshift encampment -- where many protesters, including women and children, were asleep in tents -- and launched tear gas and rubber bullets. ... Bahrain's national security council met and declared a state of emergency. The military issued a statement advising people to avoid the center of Manama and not to gather in groups."
Check out our map with details on all the Middle East protests, country by country.
Though Bahrain has not suffered an Internet shutdown, there are signs that traffic has slowed significantly, as this chart via Boing Boing shows:
Sam Sanders and Anup Kaphle
| February 17, 2011; 2:55 PM ET
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