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Population: 1,592,918 Visit Worldometers
Area: 765,3 km²
Capital City: Manama

Bahrain, is an island country in the Persian Gulf. The sovereign state comprises a small archipelago centered around Bahrain Island, situated between the Qatar peninsula and the north eastern coast of Saudi Arabia, to which it is connected by the 25-kilometre (16 mi) King Fahd Causeway. Bahrain’s population is 1,234,571 (c. 2010), including 666,172 non-nationals.It is 765.3 square kilometres (295.5 sq mi) in size, making it the third-smallest nation in Asia after the Maldives and Singapore. Bahrain is the site of the ancient Dilmun civilisation. It has been famed since antiquity for its pearl fisheries, which were considered the best in the world into the 19th century. Bahrain was one of the earliest areas to convert to Islam, in 628 CE. Following a period of Arab rule, Bahrain was occupied by the Portuguese in 1521, who in turn were expelled in 1602 by Shah Abbas I of the Safavid dynasty under the Persian Empire. In 1783, the Bani Utbah clan captured Bahrain from Nasr Al-Madhkur and it has since been ruled by the Al Khalifa royal family, with Ahmed al Fateh as Bahrain’s first hakim. In the late 1800s, following successive treaties with the British, Bahrain became a protectorate of the United Kingdom. In 1971, Bahrain declared independence. Formerly an emirate, the Arabconstitutional monarchy of Bahrain was declared a kingdom in 2002. In 2011, the country experienced protests inspired by the regional Arab Spring. Bahrain’s ruling al-Khalifa royal family has been accused and criticized for human rights abuses, including imprisonment, torture and execution of dissidents, political opposition figures and its Shia Muslim population. Bahrain had the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf. Since the late 20th century, Bahrain has invested in the banking and tourism sectors. Many large financial institutions have a presence in Manama, the country’s capital. It has a high Human Development Index and is recognised by the World Bank as a high-income economy. Bahrain is a member of the United Nations, Non-Aligned Movement, Arab League, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Gulf Cooperation Council.


Currency

Climate

The Zagros Mountains across the Persian Gulf in Iran cause low-level winds to be directed toward Bahrain. Dust storms from Iraq and Saudi Arabia transported by northwesterly winds, locally called shamal wind, causing reduced visibility in the months of June and July. Summers are very hot. The seas around Bahrain are very shallow, heating up quickly in the summer to produce very high humidity, especially at night. Summer temperatures may reach up to 50 °C (122 °F) under the right conditions. Rainfall in Bahrain is minimal and irregular. Rainfalls mostly occur in winter, with a recorded maximum of 71.8 mm (2.83 in).

 

Economy

According to a January 2006 report by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, Bahrain has the fastest-growing economy in the Arab world. Bahrain also has the freest economy in the Middle East and is twelfth-freest overall in the world based on the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom published by the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal. In 2008, Bahrain was named the world’s fastest-growing financial center by the City of London’s Global Financial Centres Index. Bahrain’s banking and financial services sector, particularly Islamic banking, have benefited from the regional boom driven by demand for oil. Petroleum production and processing is Bahrain’s most exported product, accounting for 60% of export receipts, 70% of government revenues, and 11% of GDP. Aluminium production is the second-most exported product, followed by finance and construction materials.

 

 

Foreign relations

Bahrain established bilateral relations with 190 countries worldwide. As of 2012, Bahrain maintains a network of 25 embassies, 3 consulates and 4 permanent missions to the Arab League, United Nations and European Union respectively. Bahrain also hosts 36 embassies. Bahrain plays a modest, moderating role in regional politics and adheres to the views of the Arab League on Middle East peace and Palestinian rights by supporting the two state solution. Bahrain is also one of the founding members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Relations with Iran tend to be tense as a result of a failed coup in 1981 which Bahrain blames Iran for and occasional claims of Iranian sovereignty over Bahrain by ultra-conservative elements in the Iranian public.

 

 

Governorates

The first municipality in Bahrain was the 8-member Manama municipality which was established in July 1919. Members of the municipality were elected annually; the municipality was said to have been the first municipality to be established in the Arab world. The municipality was in charge of cleaning roads and renting buildings to tenants and shops. By 1929, it undertook road expansions as well as opening markets and slaughterhouses. In 1958, the municipality started water purification projects. In 1960, Bahrain comprised four municipalities: Manama, Hidd, Al Muharraq, and Riffa. Over the next 30 years, the 4 municipalities were divided into 12 municipalities as settlements such as Hamad Town and Isa Town grew. These municipalities were administered from Manama under a central municipal council whose members are appointed by the king.

 

 

Health

Bahrain has a universal health care system, dating back to 1960. Government-provided health care is free to Bahraini citizens and heavily subsidised for non-Bahrainis. Healthcare expenditure accounted for 4.5% of Bahrain’s GDP, according to the World Health Organization. Bahraini physicians and nurses form a majority of the country’s workforce in the health sector, unlike neighbouring Gulf states. The first hospital in Bahrain was the American Mission Hospital, which opened in 1893 as a dispensary. The first public hospital, and also tertiary hospital, to open in Bahrain was the Salmaniya Medical Complex, in the Salmaniya district of Manama, in 1957. Private hospitals are also present throughout the country, such as the International Hospital of Bahrain. The life expectancy in Bahrain is 73 for males and 76 for females. Compared to many countries in the region, the prevalence of AIDS and HIV is relatively low. Malaria and tuberculosis (TB) do not constitute major problems in Bahrain as neither disease is indigenous to the country. As a result, cases of malaria and TB have declined in recent decades with cases of contractions amongst Bahraini nationals becoming rare. The Ministry of Health sponsors regular vaccination campaigns against TB and other diseases such as hepatitis B. Bahrain is currently suffering from an obesity epidemic as 28.9% of all males and 38.2% of all females are classified as obese. Bahrain also has one of the highest prevalence of diabetes in the world (5th place), with more than 15% of the Bahraini population suffering from the disease, and accounting for 5% of deaths in the country. Cardiovascular diseases account for 32% of all deaths in Bahrain, being the number one cause of death in the country (the second being cancer). Sickle-cell anaemia and thalassaemia are prevalent in the country, with a study concluding that 18% of Bahrainis are carriers of sickle-cell anaemia while 24% are carriers of thalassaemia.

 

 

Languages

Arabic is the official language of Bahrain, though English is widely used Bahrani Arabic is the most widely spoken dialect of the Arabic language, though it differs widely from standard Arabic, like all Arabic dialects. Arabic plays an important role in political life, as, according to article 57 (c) of Bahrain’s constitution, an MP must be fluent in Arabic to stand for parliament Among the Bahraini and non-Bahraini population, many people speak Persian, the official language of Iran, or Urdu, an official language in Pakistan and a regional language in India. Nepali is also widely spoken in the Nepalese workers and Gurkha Soldiers community. Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi are spoken among significant Indian communities. All commercial institutions and road signs are bilingual, displaying both English and Arabic.

 

 

Media

Bahraini journalists risk prosecution for offenses which include “undermining” the government and religion. Self-censorship is widespread. Journalists were targeted by officials during anti-government protests in 2011. Three editors from opposition daily Al-Wasat were sacked and later fined for publishing “false” news. Several foreign correspondents were expelled. Most domestic broadcasters are state-run. An independent commission, set up to look into the unrest, found that state media coverage was at times inflammatory. It said opposition groups suffered from lack of access to mainstream media, and recommended that the government “consider relaxing censorship”. Bahrain will host the Saudi-financed Alarab News Channel, expected to launch in December 2012. It will be based at a planned “Media City”. An opposition satellite station, Lualua TV, operates from London but has found its signals blocked. By June 2012, Bahrain had 961,000 internet users.  The platform “provides a welcome free space for journalists, although one that is increasingly monitored”, according to Reporters Without Borders. Rigorous filtering targets political, human rights, religious material and content deemed obscene. Bloggers and other netizens were among those detained during protests in 2011.

 

 

Human rights

The period between 1975 and 1999 known as the “State Security Law Era”, saw wide range of human rights violations including arbitrary arrests, detention without trial, torture and forced exile. After the Emir Hamad Al Khalifa (now king) succeeded his father Isa Al Khalifa in 1999, he introduced wide reforms and human rights improved significantly. These moves were described by Amnesty International as representing a “historic period of human rights”. Human rights conditions started to decline by 2007 when torture began to be employed again.  In 2011, Human Rights Watch described the country’s human rights situation as “dismal”. Due to this, Bahrain lost some of the high International rankings it had gained before. In 2011, Bahrain was criticised for its crackdown on the Arab spring uprising. In September, a government appointed commission confirmed reports of grave human rights violations including systematic torture. The government promised to introduce reforms and avoid repeating the “painful events”. However, reports by human rights organisations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch issued in April 2012 said the same violations were still happening. The documentary TV film Bahrain: Shouting in the Dark which was produced by the Qatari channel Al Jazeera, talks about the Bahraini protests during 2011. This TV film showed all the violations that have been taken against the rights of Bahraini citizens during the uprising. It also caused some problems between the Bahraini and the Qatari governments. Relations between Bahrain and Qatar improved following a meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council in November 2014 in which it was announced Bahrain diplomats would return to Qatar.

 

 

Investment in education and research

In 2012, the government devoted 2.6% of GDP to education, one of the lowest ratios in the Arab world. This ratio was on a par with investment in education in Lebanon and higher only than that in Qatar (2.4% in 2008) and Sudan (2.2% in 2009). Bahrain invests little in research and development. In 2009 and 2013, this investment reportedly amounted to 0.04% of GDP, although the data were incomplete, covering only the higher education sector. The lack of comprehensive data on research and development poses a challenge for policy-makers, as data inform evidence-based policy-making. The available data for researchers in 2013 only cover the higher education sector. Here, the number of researchers is equivalent to 50 per million inhabitants, compared to a global average for all employment sectors of 1,083 per million. The University of Bahrain had over 20,000 students in 2014, 65% of whom are women, and around 900 faculty members, 40% of whom are women. From 1986 to 2014, university staff published 5 500 papers and books. The university spent about US$11 million per year on research in 2014, which was conducted by a contingent of 172 men and 128 women. Women thus made up 43% of researchers at the University of Bahrain in 2014. Bahrain was one of 11 Arab states which counted a majority of female university graduates in science and engineering in 2014. Women accounted for 66% of graduates in natural sciences, 28% of those in engineering and 77% of those in health and welfare. It is harder to judge the contribution of women to research, as the data for 2013 only cover the higher education sector.

 

 

Politics

Bahrain under the Al-Khalifa is a constitutional monarchy headed by the King, Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. King Hamad enjoys wide executive powers which include appointing the Prime Minister and his ministers, commanding the army, chairing the Higher Judicial Council, appointing the parliament’s upper house and dissolving its elected lower house.(p15) The head of government is the unelected prime minister, Shaikh Khalīfa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the uncle of the current king who has served in this position since 1971, making him the longest-serving prime minister in the world. In 2010, about half of the government was composed of the Al Khalifa family. Bahrain has a bicameral National Assembly (al-Jam’iyyah al-Watani) consisting of the Shura Council (Majlis Al-Shura) with 40 seats and the Council of Representatives (Majlis Al-Nuwab) with 40 seats. The forty members of the Shura are appointed by the king. In the Council of Representatives, 40 members are elected by absolute majority vote in single-member constituencies to serve four-year terms. The appointed council “exercises a de facto veto” over the elected, because draft acts must be approved so they may pass into law. After approval, the king may ratify and issue the act or return it within six months to the National Assembly where it may only pass into law if approved by two thirds of both councils.

 

 

Tourism

As a tourist destination, Bahrain received over eight million visitors in 2008, though the exact number varies yearly. Most of these are from the surrounding Arab states although an increasing number hail from outside the region due to growing awareness of the kingdom’s heritage and its higher profile as a result of the Bahrain International F1 Circuit. The kingdom combines modern Arab culture and the archaeological legacy of five thousand years of civilisation. The island is home to forts including Qalat Al Bahrain which has been listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. The Bahrain National Museum has artefacts from the country’s history dating back to the island’s first human inhabitants some 9000 years ago and the Beit Al Quran (Arabic: بيت القرآن, meaning: the House of Qur’an) is a museum that holds Islamic artefacts of the Qur’an. Some of the popular historical tourist attractions in the kingdom are the Al Khamis Mosque, which is one of the oldest mosques in the region, the Arad fort in Muharraq, Barbar temple, which is an ancient temple from the Dilmunite period of Bahrain, as well as the A’ali Burial Mounds and the Saar temple. The Tree of Life, a 400-year-old tree that grows in the Sakhir desert with no nearby water, is also a popular tourist attraction. Bird watching (primarily in the Hawar Islands), scuba diving, and horse riding are popular tourist activities in Bahrain. Many tourists from nearby Saudi Arabia and across the region visit Manama primarily for the shopping malls in the capital Manama, such as the Bahrain City Centre and Seef Mall in the Seef district of Manama. The Manama Souq and Gold Souq in the old district of Manama are also popular with tourists. Since 2005, Bahrain hosts an annual festival in March, titled Spring of Culture, which features internationally renowned musicians and artists performing in concerts. Manama was named the Arab Capital of Culture for 2012 and Capital of Arab Tourism for 2013 by the Arab League. The 2012 festival featured concerts starring Andrea Bocelli, Julio Iglesiasand other musicians.

 

 

Women’s rights

Women’s political rights in Bahrain increased when women were granted the right to vote and stand in national elections for the first time in the 2002 election. However, no women were elected to office in that year’s polls. In response to the failure of women candidates, six were appointed to the Shura Council, which also includes representatives of the Kingdom’s indigenous Jewish and Christian communities. Dr. Nada Haffadh became the country’s first female cabinet minister on her appointment as Minister of Health in 2004. The quasi-governmental women’s group, the Supreme Council for Women, trained female candidates to take part in the 2006 general election. When Bahrain was elected to head the United Nations General Assembly in 2006 it appointed lawyer and women’s rights activist Haya bint Rashid Al Khalifa President of the United Nations General Assembly, only the third woman in history to head the world body. Female activist Ghada Jamsheer said “The government used women’s rights as a decorative tool on the international level.” She referred to the reforms as “artificial and marginal” and accused the government of “hinder[ing] non-governmental women societies”. In 2006, Lateefa Al Gaood became the first female MP after winning by default. The number rose to four after the 2011 by-elections. In 2008, Houda Nonoo was appointed ambassador to the United States making her the first Jewish ambassador of any Arab country. In 2011, Alice Samaan, a Christian woman was appointed ambassador to the UK.

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