State and politics
Bahrain is ruled by the Sunni Muslim royal family of
Khalifa, who by the constitution has the power over
virtually all political bodies. Political parties are banned
and representatives of the Shiite majority who try to shake
the balance of power are accused of trying to overthrow the
monarchy. See ABBREVIATIONFINDER for how BA can stand for Bahrain.
Among the Gulf states, Bahrain became the country where
the Arab Spring of 2011 had its biggest impact. Above all,
Shiite groups objected to the social order that gathered
virtually all power in the hands of the Sunni Muslim
leadership, which was accused of widespread human rights
There has been constitutional monarchy since 2002 with an
elected parliament and independent judiciary. The Emir, who
is a Sunni Muslim, has since carried the title of king.
The National Assembly has two chambers, one of which, the
House of Representatives (majlis al-nuwab), is
elected in direct elections, while the other, the
consultative council (majlis al-shura), is
appointed by the king.
The chambers have 40 members each with a term of office
of four years. All laws must be approved by the king. It is
the king who appoints both the prime minister and other
There are few women in prominent political positions,
although women have the right to run for election. Female
suffrage was put into practice in 2002.
The dissatisfaction within the Shiite population with the
prevailing constitution and the king's virtually unlimited
power is recurring through demonstrations. Long prison
sentences have been punished for those designated as leaders
of various protest actions and the regime has accused Shiite
representatives of trying to overthrow the monarchy.
Large demonstrations were held during the Arab Spring of
2011 at the Pearl Square in Manama, which can be said to be
the country's equivalent of the Tahrir Square in Cairo.
The regime was alarmed by the protests and asked within
the framework of the security policy cooperation within the
Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) for Saudi assistance. This
appeal was approved and Saudi troops were sent to Bahrain to
quell the unrest. A three-month state of emergency was
proclaimed and thousands of protesters arrested.
The fact that torture was systematically used in the
detention centers was confirmed by the commission of inquiry
that the king appointed after the disturbances. According to
the Commission, 35 people, including five police officers,
were killed in the clashes between protesters and security
forces. The opposition indicates higher numbers.
Following the unrest, the 18 members of the
Shiite-dominated opposition, al-Wefaq, left their
seats in parliament. The next election in 2014 was boycotted
by the opposition, which led to a situation where the Sunni
Muslim minority in practice alone stands for official
political life in a country where nearly half of the
residents are foreign nationals who are completely foreign.
Ahead of the November 2018 elections, the political
divide in the country was further deepened. Opposition was
banned and three of its leaders were charged with terrorism.
They were sentenced to life imprisonment following a trial
sentenced by Amnesty International, among others.
The 2014 and 2018 elections were conducted without
Criminal law is codified and is based on English role
models. In private law, Egyptian (and thus also French) law
has served as a model for new legislation. Islamic law plays
a major role in, among other things, criminal and family
law. The death penalty is punished for some serious crimes.
The legal system, which is based on Sharia law and
customary law, is characterized by a lack of respect for
political rights and legal security is low. Following the
violent demonstrations in 2011, the government made a
decision banning public demonstrations. The arbitrary
detention of protesters is extensive and has in many cases
been accompanied by torture and abuse in detention and
The death penalty is applied in Bahrain. Despite protests
from a number of human rights organizations, on July 27,
2019, three prisoners were executed, two of them Shia
activists accused of terrorism. According to a. Amnesty
International had been using torture to enforce confessions
in the mass trial that underpinned the judges.
Other significant problems include violations of privacy
and restrictions on civil rights such as freedom of speech,
press and assembly. All radio and television stations are
owned and operated by the government, which also restricts
and monitors the activities of citizens on the Internet. The
majority of the press is privately owned and is not subject
to censorship as long as it refrains from criticizing the
ruling family. However, threats, beatings and arrests of
journalists occur. In Reporters Without Borders Press
Freedom Index for 2019, Bahrain was ranked 167 out of 180
Some women's representation is found in the country's
governing body and several women have been appointed to
internationally visible positions. Women can inherit
property and travel without the company of male guardians.
The dress code is also less strict than elsewhere in the
Gulf states, but at the same time the Islamist influence is
strong and family affairs are regulated in accordance with
Domestic violence is not particularly addressed in the
Criminal Code, and rape in marriage is not considered a
crime. There are reports that employers have raped female
domestic workers, but since guilt cannot be proven in court
without testimony from witnesses to the crime, victims
usually miss out on judicial review. In general, the
enrollment rate is considered low, as women fear social
reprisals or stigmatization.
LGBTQ people are not socially accepted and discrimination
based on sexual orientation or gender identity is common.
As far as economic and social rights are concerned, the
situation is much brighter. In the UN agency UNDP's Human
Development Index, which measures quality of life and
development opportunities, Bahrain in 2017 was ranked 43,
between Portugal and Chile. Health care is comprehensive and
free of charge, and most forms of social security are
available, to some extent even for foreign nationals who
make up nearly half of the population (see Social
Heads of State
||Shaykh Isa ibn Salman Al Khalifa
||Shaykh Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa
||Shaykh Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa