Fandom

Bahrain

The Socioeconomic Foundations of the Shiite Opposition in Bahrain

73pages on
this wiki
Add New Page
Talk0 Share

Ad blocker interference detected!


Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.

Mediterranean Quarterly 11.3 (2000) 129-143

The Socioeconomic Foundations of the Shiite Opposition in Bahrain

Louay Bahry

Bahrain plays a special role among the six countries composing the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Its civil society is the council's most complex and advanced, and it has a long history of popular demands for political and economic reforms. These come from segments of society ranging from the extreme left to the ultraconservative Islamic right. Thus it is a bellwether for the political climate of the region and influences the population in the rest of the Arab states of the Persian Gulf. It is particularly significant since Bahrain is located in the center of the gulf and serves as the headquarters of the United States Fifth Fleet, now playing an important role with respect to Iraq, Iran, and the rest of the gulf.

Between 1994 and 1996, Bahrain witnessed a massive Shiite uprising, which was met with extensive use of force by the Bahraini government. This uprising was the expression of a new political phenomenon in Bahrain--that of a distinct Shiite political identity, expressing itself as a self-conscious, organized segment of society and as a genuine mass movement. Although a surface quiet has subsequently been achieved, it is not clear how long this will last. This essay explains why such a movement developed, the implications for Bahrain's future, and the steps the new amir needs to take to deal with it.

Historical Background

Since the beginning of the 1920s, there have been repeated popular demands for reform in Bahrain. These have taken diverse forms: petitions [End Page 129] to the ruler, strikes, street demonstrations, and other manifestations. For the most part, the goals of these efforts have been the establishment of a parliament, the election of municipal councils, and permission for labor unions. In almost all of these events, Bahraini Shiites and Sunnis have participated together.

In August 1971, when Bahrain became fully independent from Great Britain, the amir, at that time Isa bin Salman al-Khalifah, expressed a desire for constitutional reforms similar to those that then existed in Kuwait, and in 1972 he held a general election for a constituent assembly, which drafted a new constitution for Bahrain. This constitution came into effect in December 1973. Elections were then held for a forty-four-member national assembly. Thirty of these members were elected by all-male suffrage; the remaining fourteen were chosen by the government. The current unrest finds its origins in the subsequent history of this assembly.

From the start, relations between the assembly and the government were contentious. The assembly wanted to exercise full legislative powers. It asked for accountability on government finances, moved to investigate cases of corruption among high officials, and tried to exercise some control over government actions. The government, on the other hand, wanted--and probably had expected--a weak assembly that it could control. A complete rupture between the government and the assembly finally came when the latter refused to ratify a government-sponsored bill that would have allowed--among other things--the arrest and detention of people for up to three years without trial, the so-called State Security Bill. On 25 August 1975, the amir dissolved the assembly and suspended the articles in the constitution dealing with its legislative powers but brought the bill in question into effect by decree. Ever since, restoration of the national assembly and the constitution of 1973 has been the rallying cry and focal point of the opposition movement.

The Opposition Movement

This opposition movement is composed of a number of different groups. Some, like the leftists, Nasserites, and the Bathists, are secular in identity and are composed of both Shiites and Sunnis. They work mainly through political [End Page 130] means--writing books and articles, issuing statements, and signing petitions. Such groups appeal mainly to students, professionals, and intellectuals.

Until the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, this secular opposition led the drive for political reforms in Bahrain, but the success of the Iranian revolution introduced an entirely new concept into opposition dynamics in Bahrain--the use of religious symbols as a political tool. A new generation of Bahraini clerics, trained in Iran, brought back ideas on how to influence and mobilize the masses through sermons and speeches that dealt with not only religion but politics. For the first time, they used the pulpit to introduce issues such as social justice, the rights of women, the need for employment, and the restoration of the constitution and human rights. As a result, the traditional opposition in Bahrain increasingly lost its leadership in the movement. Opposition has been overtaken by a new, more populist movement that is, at its core, Shiite in composition and inspiration.

Since December 1994, the Shiites have repeatedly taken to the streets of Bahrain to protest various actions of the government and to formulate demands for change. While some of these demands overlap with those of the secular opposition, not all do. In many cases, the Shiites go beyond the earlier demands for constitutional reform to address social and economic concerns that are particularly relevant to the Shiite community. This expanded agenda has contributed to the development of a specific Shiite identity. In general, the secular leadership has welcomed the new religious opposition, but, not surprisingly, there are some who fear that Shiite domination of the reform movement will result in Bahrain, a country known for its religious tolerance, ending up with a regime like that in Tehran.

The use of religious symbolism as a political tool and the mobilization of large numbers of people are the characteristics of this new movement. This new Shiite dynamic is not without antecedents, however. Street demonstrations by the Shiites were a common phenomenon during the 1980s, with Shiites asking mainly for two things: jobs and constitutional reforms. The Shiites also formed charity funds to help their poor and increased the numbers of their meeting places (matams). All this helped form a political bond among Shiite members and increase Shiite identity.

However, it was only in the 1990s that the Shiites emerged as a unified political force. This unification became complete in November 1994 in a [End Page 131] massive Shiite-sponsored drive for signatures on a popular petition signed by some twenty-five thousand people, including some Sunnis. Behind this drive were some young Shiite clerics who had studied in revolutionary Iran. The drive for the petition came to an end in December 1994, when some leaders of the petition movement were arrested and others exiled. As a result, the Shiites went to the streets to demand the release of the prisoners, the return of the exiled, the restitution of the parliament, and jobs for the employed. By the end of 1996, after some two years of street protests, thirty-seven people were dead. In February 2000, three years after the end of the uprising, some one thousand Bahrainis were still in prison on charges related to the protest. The result of these events has been the development of a Shiite movement that, while it overlaps with Sunni efforts in demanding constitutional reform, has created a specifically Shiite identity and organization based on broader social, political, and economic grievances.

Implications of the Shiite Movement for Bahrain

The implications of this new movement for Bahrain are serious for several reasons. The first is demographic. Unlike the rest of the Arab states of the gulf, Bahrain has a majority Shiite population. Estimates vary, but some put the Shiites as high as 70 percent among a population of 440,000 native Bahrainis; others put the figure at 60 percent. There seems little doubt that the percentage has grown over time. In the early 1950s, the Sunni and Shiite populations were almost evenly divided, with a slight Shiite majority. Since that time, the number of Shiites has steadily increased, probably due to several factors. One is the continuation among Shiites of traditional practices such as early marriage and multiple wives. Another is the importance of a large, extended family for economic and social survival. Lastly, Shiites are more often rural, with lower levels of education and skills. Sunnis tend to be more urban and have more modern ideas about the nuclear family and birth control.

Second, there are political implications resulting from the Shiite movement. The Shiites consider themselves to be the real natives of the island. These native Arab inhabitants (or Baharna, as they are sometimes called) adopted Shiism from the first days of the schism in the Islamic community, following Imam Ali bin Abi Talib, the prophet's cousin, as the leader of the Islamic community [End Page 132] in the seventh century. Thus the native Arab population was Shiite centuries before the island was conquered in 1783 by the ruling Sunni family of al-Khalifah, which came from Qatar with some Arab Sunni tribes. As a result of this conquest, the family of the al-Khalifah came to control politics, and with them came the dominant class of their Sunni tribal followers.

The outcome has been Shiite exclusion from power, which has, not surprisingly, alienated the majority Shiite population and created demands for greater political participation. The Shiites do not have sufficient representation either in the formal ruling institutions of the country (the cabinet and the advisory consultative council) or in administrative positions, especially those involving security, such as the Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) and the police force. The consultative council (Majlis al-shura) was established in 1992. At that time it had thirty members--fifteen Shiites and fifteen Sunnis. In 1996 it was expanded to forty members, of whom twenty-one were Shiites and nineteen were Sunnis. However, this advisory body has no legislative powers. The BDF consists of 11,500 men, the police force 9,500, and the National Guard 1,000, a total security service of some 22,000, of which a high percentage are foreign--Sunni Pakistanis, Syrians, Yemenis, and Jordanians. The Shiite exclusion has led to bitterness among the Shiites who ask whether their loyalty as Bahrainis is being put in doubt. In the cabinet, Shiites are not only a minority of ministers but are given the less important, or even marginal, ministries. Out of eighteen ministers, including the prime minister, seven are members of the ruling family of al-Khalifah. Of the other eleven ministers, five are Sunni and six are Shiite. Shiites claim that they are usually given secondary cabinet posts, called service ministries, that are less sensitive than others and have less responsibility, such as the ministries of labor, commerce, and health. Of the six cabinet posts reserved for Shiites, two are ministers of state that have little, if any, power.

As the Bahraini Shiites see it, political exclusion does not stop at their underrepresentation in the council of ministers or the consultative council. The problem is more fundamental, encompassing positions at lower and intermediate levels of the bureaucracy and the kinds of jobs they are permitted to hold. Certain ministries are informally off-limits to Shiite employment. Among these is the ministry of defense, except for small numbers of clerical positions. [End Page 133]

Third, the Shiite movement has implications for employment and social unrest among the poor and lower classes. Exclusion from certain jobs means a reduction of privileges and benefits for Shiites. This has fueled their demands for employment from the top to the bottom of the administrative hierarchy. Bahrain's Shiites also resent the fact that while unemployment is high, especially among their community, newcomers in key security jobs are given legal residency, good salaries, and suitable housing. In 1998 the Bahraini government conferred citizenship on between eight thousand and ten thousand Sunni families from Jordan, Syria, Pakistan, and Yemen. In fact, many Shiites think that the ultimate goal of importing Sunnis for the security establishment and awarding them Bahraini citizenship is to change the demographic composition of the population and the balance between Shiites and Sunnis. 1

Shiites claim that the employment process in Bahrain is politicized, and not only in sensitive security positions. The Bahraini government discourages Shiites from applying for certain jobs by requiring applicants to "sensitive" positions to produce a certificate of "good behavior and conduct" (Shihadat Husn al-Siluk wal Sira). These certificates, issued by the police, attest that the applicant has no previous police record or any arrest for political reasons. Many Shiites have such a record for participation in street demonstrations during the past two decades. Once such a record exists, it is difficult to find a government job. And as protests have intensified, so have arrests.

The Biduns

These three issues have now spilled over into another, related social and demographic problem that is exacerbating the Shiite problem--that of the biduns. These people are descended from immigrants who came to Bahrain at various times since the beginning of the twentieth century and who have not obtained citizenship. The status of these stateless people, most of whom [End Page 134] are Shiite, alienates the Bahraini Shiites. The biduns are denied political and social rights and are refused integration into the society, even though some are third-generation residents. The biduns in Bahrain are mainly Shiites of Persian origin (a few were originally Pakistani). Their exact number is not known, but it is estimated at 20,000 to 30,000. This number, which could constitute 7 percent of the native population of 440,000, is burdensome for a small country like Bahrain.

Although most of the biduns were born in Bahrain, they do not have legal residency and cannot hold Bahraini passports. Thus, they have no right to travel abroad, to buy houses under government-sponsored programs, or to hold government jobs. Recently, the Bahraini government issued regulations preventing them from sending their children to public schools or receiving free medical care. However, the most important problem is that they are considered foreign and can be deported at any time. Since the beginning of the 1980s, the Bahraini government has deported hundreds of biduns to Iran. 2

Shiite Organization and Symbols: The Matams and the Charity Fund

Since 1980, Shiite organization has grown in Bahrain. Two institutions, the matams and the charity funds, have played an important role in bringing the Shiites together. The charity funds help the Shiites financially and the matams provide a meeting place. In the past two decades, these institutions have strengthened the sense of Shiite identity and helped form an increasingly strong bond among members of the community.

As a religious symbol of the Shiite community, the matams are an old and well-established institution, going back hundreds of years. There may be as many as four hundred of them in the country. Matams are meeting places where Shiites gather to mourn the death of a family member, for example, and to meet prior to or at the end of a religious procession. They are the sites of Shiite religious commemorations and social and even political gatherings. [End Page 135] They also have an educational function; religious classes are sometimes held in matams, and some have their own libraries. Each matam has its own charter and each holds elections for a board of directors. Sometimes real election battles take place for these offices.

Not surprisingly, the activities of matams are closely watched by the Bahraini government for fear that they may be the focus of antigovernment political activities. In the last two decades, the government has cracked down on several matams, in some cases searching them and in others closing them down temporarily or permanently.

Each matam also has its own trust fund. Money is collected from donors and distributed to the needy members of the Shiite community. The money goes to a charity fund (sanduq khairi), and led by young Bahraini Shiite ulama (religious leaders), the number of these funds has greatly increased in the last decade. One opposition leader has pointed to the civic role of the charity funds as

an excellent example of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] in Bahrain. The government failed to support the poorer sections of the society due to the lack of a welfare system. The affected sections of society turned to each other for solidarity and support. Their numbers rose from 6 in 1993 to 41 at the end of 1994. The mushrooming of their number reflects the strength of social solidarity among the people and their speedy response to the failure of the state. 3

In 1998, the Bahraini government issued regulations aimed at controlling the activities of the charity funds and putting them under government control. (The Shiites have called these government actions "nationalization" of the funds.) The regulations require each fund to have an accountant and to disclose the amount of donations received, the names of donors, the expenditures of the fund, and the names of people who have received charity. The Shiites claim that the real objective of these regulations is political--to control the money collected for families with members killed during the 1994-96 uprising or those whose members are still detained, imprisoned, or engaged in opposition activities. [End Page 136]

Unemployment

The most serious spillover of the Shiite problem has been felt in the realm of unemployment. Bahrain has little more oil to export; its oil fields, which have been operating since 1934, are almost depleted. Its most important source of income derives from a jointly owned Saudi-Bahraini offshore oil field, Abu Safa. Bahrain has tried to diversify its income by creating financial institutions, establishing companies, and encouraging foreign investors to settle in Bahrain. It is also attempting to encourage tourism and offshore banking, but these have had only a marginal impact on unemployment. 4 During the 1970s, Bahrain did well as a financial center for the Persian Gulf. However, political unrest in Bahrain during the 1980s and 1990s, along with the Iran-Iraq War and the rise of Dubai as a competing financial center, hurt the Bahraini economy. The economy is also constrained by competition from other countries in the area, notably Oman, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, which are also looking for foreign investments and welcoming foreign banks and financial institutions into their countries. Bahrain needs political stability as a condition to attract and keep foreign investment.

It is not known exactly how many Bahrainis are unemployed. Official government figures tend to present low figures while Shiite and other academic sources present higher numbers. According to official figures, unemployment is less than 2 percent. Abd al-Nabi al-Shu'ala, the Bahraini minister of labor and social affairs, claimed that in 1998 there were 5,318 Bahrainis without jobs and seeking work, which he claimed represented 1.87 percent of the work force. In reality, it is probably safe to estimate the number of unemployed in Bahrain at anywhere from 16 to 30 percent of Bahraini males. Almost all of these are poor Shiites, and the figures are higher among Shiite women.

It is clear that unemployment has disproportionately impacted the Shiite community, which did not benefit from the economic boom Bahrain enjoyed in the 1970s and 1980s, when oil production was at its peak. The reasons for this are varied. Some of this relative deprivation may be due to the more traditional life-style of the Shiite community and to their larger families. The bulk of the Shiite population consists of villagers, many engaged in traditional [End Page 137] rather than modern occupations. They have not benefited as much as Sunnis from modern education and skills training--and the life-styles that go with them--and hence are not as well able to compete in the global economy. The Shiites claim that they do not have as much access to modern education and good schools as the Sunnis. While there are wealthy Shiite merchants and Shiite middle class professionals, it is also true that the majority of the poor and unskilled population of Bahrain is Shiite.

At the upper and middle levels of the country, Shiite businessmen claim that there is discrimination, that the administration favors Sunni merchants by awarding them more government contracts and public works projects than the Shiites. At the same time, Bahraini unskilled workers cannot compete easily with the skilled foreign workers who are employed in the public and private sectors. Even in the battle for menial and manual labor, Bahraini Shiite workers are losing ground to foreign workers. In Bahrain, these foreign workers (estimated at more than two hundred thousand) are mainly Asians, including Pakistanis, Indians, Bengalis, Sri Lankans, and Filipinos. There is also a large community of Egyptian workers in Bahrain.

These foreign laborers work cheaper and are more willing to work under harsher conditions than the Bahrainis and so can afford cheap accommodations. Foreign labor keeps flooding into Bahrain because there is no law establishing minimum wages or working hours. Even more important is the corruption connected with importing foreign labor under the so-called free visa system. According to this system, the government awards certain people (mainly the well-to-do and influential) the right to import foreign labor by the hundreds. Once the laborers are in Bahrain, they are allowed to seek jobs on their own. In return, the imported laborer pays his sponsor a monthly sum, normally around one hundred Bahraini dinars ($265), whether or not he works. This system allows high officials and influential people to make huge profits at the expense of the foreign laborer in Bahrain. This competition between cheap foreign labor and native (mainly Shiite) Bahrains has forced the latter to undertake menial jobs. It is not uncommon in Bahrain (unlike in many other gulf countries) to find natives working as car washers, porters, and even beggars. [End Page 138]

Government Efforts

The government has taken some steps to deal with this problem, but it has not been easy and the results have not been entirely satisfactory. It has made efforts, for example, to promote Bahrain as a tourist destination and to encourage Bahrainis to work in the tourist industry. These attempts to increase employment might benefit Shiites, but some conservative Shiites have problems with some aspects of this tourist industry, complaining about nightclubs, dancing, and mixed-sex beaches, which are an important element of Bahrain's attraction as a tourist destination. While conservative Bahraini Shiites welcome "innocent tourism," this is not likely to encourage a thriving tourist industry or increase jobs.

To satisfy some of the unemployment complaints, the Bahraini government is putting pressure on private companies to employ more Bahrainis by increasing fees on companies who employ non-Bahrainis, by putting some public employees on early retirement in order to allow younger, less expensive Bahrainis to fill their slots, and by creating the Bahrain Center for Training to educate Bahrainis for the modern sector. But more effort is needed. The private sector has resisted these efforts, claiming they want less, not more, government interference and that Bahraini nationals cost them more money than foreign workers, thus reducing their profitability. Some try to get around the regulations by fraudulent means. In fact, the private sector rightly worries that compliance could mean that needed foreign investment will move toward other, more competitive places with fewer restrictions on employment, such as Dubai.

One solution advocated by many Bahraini Shiites is the replacement of some twenty thousand foreigners employed in the police and the BDF with Bahrainis. But this is politically sensitive. From 1985 to 1996, Bahrain had seen street demonstrations and protest movements by the unemployed, who are constantly confronted by the authorities with force. The fact that this force has been mainly foreign has increased Shiite alienation and contributed to Shiite opposition. But for the administration, a Shiite military and police force could signal the beginning of the end of the entire regime. Hence, it has dug in its heels on this issue. [End Page 139]

The New Amir

The entire picture may be changed by the new amir in Bahrain. On 6 March 1999, Amir Isa bin Salman al-Khalifah died unexpectedly from a heart attack after thirty-seven years of rule. The council of the Bahraini ruling al-Khalifah family (including senior members of the family) met the same day and pledged allegiance to the deceased amir's son, Crown Prince Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, as the new ruler of Bahrain. The arrival of the relatively young (forty-nine-year-old) amir brought hopes that he might implement the kind of reforms needed in Bahrain--social and economic reforms to improve the economy and alleviate the unemployment problem.

One question at the time of his succession was whether he was going to retain as prime minister his uncle, Shaikh Khalifah bin Salman al-Khalifa, a man known for his hard line toward the opposition. According to some experts, the new amir has had differences with Shaikh Khalifah, who has been prime minister since independence in 1971. Although the new amir did keep his uncle as prime minister when he formed a new cabinet on 31 May 1999, there are several signs that point to a desire for change. One was an address to the Bahraini people on 12 March 1999, in which the amir said, "I am going to follow the path of my father that does not make a distinction between the people of the country based on origin and sect." 5 Other signals followed. On 16 December 1999, the amir announced his intention to revive municipal elections, with the vote to be given to both men and women; to allow a freer press in Bahrain; and to give Bahraini nationality to anyone "qualified" to obtain it. Indeed, by February 2000 some 650 people had obtained Bahraini citizenship.

Even the conservative Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifah came out with a relatively encouraging statement:

The government will continue to develop and strengthen the political institutions. In order to achieve more participation in decision making and building the future for coming generations . . . development in any field will not be exclusive to the existing ones, but it will include creating and building new institutions. 6 [End Page 140]

Meanwhile, columnists in local newspapers were encouraged to involve themselves in discussion on matters such as the constitution, elections, and women's rights. This came at a time when winds of change were blowing over the gulf. 7

With respect to the Shiites, the new amir took steps to ease political tensions by releasing some Shiite political prisoners or detainees in May and June 1999. (There were about 320, according to official government figures). He also pardoned 60 dissidents who live in exile abroad and were barred from returning to Bahrain. (As a condition for their pardon, they had to promise good behavior). He also released from prison Shaikh Abd al-Amir al-Jamri, the most revered Shiite opposition figure in Bahrain. Although the shaikh is officially free, in reality he remains under house arrest.

At the same time, the new amir sought to improve relations between Bahrain and Iran. In the past, Iran had been accused of helping Bahraini Shiites to rise against their government. In June 1999 the Bahraini government invited Muhammad Khatimi, the Iranian president, to pay an official visit to Bahrain. This certainly helped calm street activities.

What Is to Be Done?

While these activities have helped restore political calm, more needs to be done. Bahrain has existed for almost a quarter of a century in a state bordering on martial law. It is necessary to end this abnormal situation by bringing the country back to normalcy. The amir could undertake several reforms to achieve such a goal. One would be to abolish the State Security Law and the unpopular State Security Court. The latter is a court of exception whose judgments are final and cannot be appealed and where lawyers have only limited authority to defend the accused. Abolishing this institution would allow the normal criminal courts to resume overseeing offenses and crimes against the state. At the same time, it would allow defendants the full use of lawyers and would safeguard their rights of appeal. [End Page 141]

Second, the new march toward democratic institutions should be encouraged and strengthened. Free elections for the projected municipal council could be a first step in such a direction. The proposed municipal council (or councils) should be given adequate powers to deal with local situations, such as local budgets and educational, health, and other public services. This would improve community standards and increase Shiite control over some affairs, thus helping to diffuse some Shiite tensions. Women should be allowed not only to vote, as the amir promised in his speech, but to run as candidates. It would also be commendable to include women in the Consultative Council, which is appointed by the amir and is now composed of men only.

A further step could be taken to expand the powers of the Consultative Council, strengthening its ability to oversee government acts. While these steps would stop short of the reinstitution of parliament and the constitution, as demanded, it would provide greater experience in self-government and move the country toward a more liberal political system.

The government should also move to satisfy other of the main demands of the Shiite population by reviewing its nationality laws, enacting regulations to legalize the situation of the biduns, and giving the biduns the right to appeal Ministry of the Interior decisions on their cases in public courts.

In the past few months, the Bahraini press has become more vocal and open to debate on public issues. Such a trend should be both tolerated and encouraged as a means of giving the Bahraini population greater rights of expression.

These are modest steps and emphasize a gradual process. This is the direction the Shiite opposition itself is asking for. One of its leaders, Shaikh Ali Salman, has been very clear on this point: "We are proposing gradual change, which we hope will eventually lead to the development of the political system. . . . I am not calling for a Shiite state in Bahrain. I am calling for an Arab Islamic state." 8

Unless steps such as the ones outlined here are taken, the problems of instability in Bahrain will remain. While unemployment may or may not be [End Page 142] ameliorated, the fundamental difficulty is political. Without addressing some of these political issues, Bahrain may see renewed difficulties in the future, including political instability. On a positive note, on 29 May 2000, Bahrain's prime minister announced that the country plans to allow its appointed consultative shura to be chosen by popular vote in about five years and to let women join the assembly starting by the end of 2000.

Louay Bahry, a specialist on Persian Gulf affairs, is currently adjunct professor of political science at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Notes

1. Mansur al-Jamri has written that "such a large number of families implies 40,000 to 50,000 additional population, or about 13 percent of the native population. There is no doubt that many Syrian bedouins can be seen in Bahrain now, and most of them are working for the security forces." Al-Jamri concluded, however, that no one can be absolutely certain of their number. See Mansur al-Jamri, "State and Civil Society in Bahrain" (paper presented at the annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association, Chicago, 1998), 7.

2. According to one Bahraini magazine, the government decided in mid-1999 to deny children of biduns free education and health care. Moreover, parents of newly born biduns must pay one hundred Bahraini dinars ($265) to the Bahraini government as a "birth tax." Akhbar al-Khalij (Manama), 9 June 1999.

3. Al-Jamri, 5.

4. In 1998, foreign investment in Bahraini offshore banks was estimated at $71.4 billion. Encyclopedia Britannica, Britannica Book of the Year (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1999), 405.

5. Al-Ayyam (Manama), 14 March 1999.

6. Al-Quds al-Arabi (London), 5 August 1999.

7. On 8 March 1999, Qatar took the unprecedented step of holding general elections for an advisory municipal council. It was the first time in the GCC that male and female voters voted together in any general election. For more details, see Louay Bahry, "Elections in Qatar," Middle East Policy 6, no. 4 (June 1999).

8. Ali Salman, interview in Al-Mushahid al-Siyasi (London), reprinted in Middle East Mirror (London), 14 October 1997.

Also on Fandom

Random Wiki