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Posted at 2:55 PM ET, 02/17/2011

Bahrain protests: the world tunes into small country

By Sam Sanders and Anup Kaphle


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:


Women demonstrators shout anti-goverment slogans after riot police drove demonstrators from a main square in Manama, Bahrain, early Thursday morning. (Hassan Ammar/AP)
bahrain map
Women demonstrators shout anti-goverment slogans after riot police drove demonstrators from a main square in Manama, Bahrain, early Thursday morning. (Hassan Ammar/AP)

By Sam Sanders and Anup Kaphle  | February 17, 2011; 2:55 PM ET
Categories:  The Daily Catch  
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From US Dept of State website on Bahrain

With the help of the U.S. and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Bahrain has made significant efforts to upgrade its defense systems and modernize its armed forces over the last 20 years. In 1982, the GCC gave Bahrain $1.7 billion for this purpose. Since the 1991 Gulf War, the U.S. has provided military and defense technical assistance and training to Bahrain from Foreign Military Sales (FMS), commercial sources, excess defense article sales (EDA) and under the International Military and Education Training (IMET) program. The U.S. Office of Military Cooperation in Bahrain is attached to the U.S. Embassy and manages the security assistance mission. U.S. military sales to Bahrain since 2000 total $1.4 billion. Principal U.S. military systems acquired by the BDF include eight Apache helicopters, 54 M60A3 tanks, 22 F-16C/D aircraft, 51 Cobra helicopters, 9 MLRS Launchers (with ATACMS), 20 M109A5 Howitzers, 1 Avenger AD system, and the TPS-59 radar system. Bahrain has received $195 million in FMF and $410 million in U.S. EDA acquisition value delivered since the U.S.-Bahraini program began in 1993. The Bahrain Defense Force also placed orders for 9 UH-60M Blackhawk helicopters and 2 Mk-V Fast Patrol Boats. Delivery of both systems was planned for 2009.

Posted by: Doctor_Evil | February 17, 2011 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Nice summary, thanks. Small typo, it's "off" the coast of Saudi Arabia, not "of" the coast.

Posted by: edgeonyou | February 17, 2011 11:07 PM | Report abuse

This is excellent and deserves all the visibility it can get.

Posted by: RD_Padouk | February 18, 2011 8:50 AM | Report abuse

It is very strange to note that Obama and Hillary got cold footed when the entire middle-east erupted and cried loudly for freedom and democracy. Obama found to be paper tiger, only talking but has no guts to act. He is supporting whole heartily the thugs, dictators, kings and puppets, who can accept our hegemony but has no courage to come out openly in favor of masses who have been oppressed for decades and are ready to sacrifice their lives for freedom and democracy. It is shameful to say that being Shias we can not help, because they may support Iran and Mullahs, But it is wrong, basically America and the west has paid enough by Sunnis fanaticism including Bin Laden's 9/11 and other terrorists attacks but shias have not done any thing like that to the American or western interest. America has to note that not only in Bahrain, shias are in majority but around all the gulf oil wells areas, shias are in majority and they have been mercilessly kept under iron fist by the dictators and kings. If Bahrain revolt is not resolved peacefully, other shias areas around the middle east including Saudi Arabia, Oman, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait will erupt more fiercely.

Posted by: citysoilverizonnet | February 18, 2011 5:05 PM | Report abuse

Edgeonyou, thank you!

Posted by: bellabell | February 19, 2011 12:29 AM | Report abuse

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