In 1783, the Sunni Al-Khalifa family captured Bahrain from the Persians. In order to secure these holdings, it entered into a series of treaties with the UK during the 19th century that made Bahrain a British protectorate. The archipelago attained its independence in 1971. Facing declining oil reserves, Bahrain has turned to petroleum processing and refining and has become an international banking center. Bahrain's small size and central location among Persian Gulf countries require it to play a delicate balancing act in foreign affairs among its larger neighbors. The Sunni-led government has struggled to manage relations with its large Shia-majority population. In early 2011, amid Arab uprisings elsewhere in the region, the Bahraini Government confronted similar protests at home with police and military action. The aftermath led to modest reforms, though continued dissatisfaction by Bahraini oppositionists with the extent of the reforms, has led to a broader dialogue between government officials, political societies, and legislators.
desertification resulting from the degradation of limited arable land, periods of drought, and dust storms; coastal degradation (damage to coastlines, coral reefs, and sea vegetation) resulting from oil spills and other discharges from large tankers, oil refineries, and distribution stations; lack of freshwater resources (groundwater and seawater are the only sources for all water needs)
chief of state: King HAMAD bin Isa Al-Khalifa (since 6 March 1999); Crown Prince SALMAN bin Hamad Al-Khalifa (son of the monarch, born 21 October 1969)
head of government:
Prime Minister KHALIFA bin Salman Al-Khalifa (since 1971); First Deputy Prime Minister SALMAN bin Hamad Al Khalifa (since 11 March 2013); Deputy Prime Ministers ALI bin Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, Jawad bin Salim al-ARAIDH, KHALID bin Abdallah Al Khalifa, MUHAMMAD bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa
bicameral National Assembly consists of the Shura Council or Consultative Council (40 members appointed by the King) and the Council of Representatives or Chamber of Deputies (40 seats; members directly elected to serve four-year terms)
Council of Representatives - last held in two rounds on 23 and 30 October 2010 (next election to be held in 2014); byelections to fill 18 vacated seats held in two rounds on 24 September and 1 October 2011
Council of Representatives (2010) - percent of vote by society - NA; seats by society - Wifaq (Shia) 18, Asalah (Sunni Salafi) 3, Minbar (Sunni Muslim Brotherhood) 2, independents 17; Council of Representatives byelection for 18 seats vacated by Wifaq (2011) - seats by society - independent Sunni 8, independent Shia 8, other 2; note - Bahrain has societies rather than parties
Bahrain has taken great strides in diversifying its economy and its highly developed communication and transport facilities make Bahrain home to numerous multinational firms with business in the Gulf. As part of its diversification plans, Bahrain implemented a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US in August 2006, the first FTA between the US and a Gulf state. Bahrain's economy, however, continues to depend heavily on oil. Petroleum production and refining account for more than 60% of Bahrain's export receipts, 70% of government revenues, and 11% of GDP. Other major economic activities are production of aluminum - Bahrain's second biggest export after oil - finance, and construction. Bahrain competes with Malaysia as a worldwide center for Islamic banking and continues to seek new natural gas supplies as feedstock to support its expanding petrochemical and aluminum industries. In 2011 and 2012, Bahrain experienced economic setbacks as a result of domestic unrest, however, several factors indicate that the economy is beginning to recover, such as the return of the formula one race and tourist cruise ships to Bahrain. Economic policies aimed at restoring confidence in Bahrain's economy, such as the suspension of an expatriate labor tax and frequent bailouts of Gulf Air, will make Bahrain's foremost long-term economic challenges - youth unemployment and the growth of government debt - more difficult to address.
modern fiber-optic integrated services; digital network with rapidly growing use of mobile-cellular telephones
country code - 973; landing point for the Fiber-Optic Link Around the Globe (FLAG) submarine cable network that provides links to Asia, Middle East, Europe, and US; tropospheric scatter to Qatar and UAE; microwave radio relay to Saudi Arabia; satellite earth station - 1 (2007)
state-run Bahrain Radio and Television Corporation (BRTC) operates 5 terrestrial TV networks and several radio stations; satellite TV systems provide access to international broadcasts; 1 private FM station directs broadcasts to Indian listeners; radio and TV broadcasts from countries in the region are available (2007)
current situation: Bahrain is a destination country for men and women subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking; unskilled and domestic workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Eritrea migrate willingly to Bahrain, but some face conditions of forced labor through the withholding of passports, restrictions on movement, nonpayment, threats, and abuse; many Bahraini labor recruitment agencies and some employers charge foreign workers exorbitant fees that make them vulnerable to forced labor and debt bondage; domestic workers are particularly vulnerable to forced labor and sexual exploitation because they are not protected under labor laws; women from Thailand, the Philippines, Morocco, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, China, Vietnam, Russia, Ukraine, and Eastern European countries are forced into prostitution in Bahrain
Tier 2 Watch List - Bahrain does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so; the government has made few discernible efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict trafficking offenses; cases of unpaid or withheld wages, passport retention, and other abuses - common indicators of trafficking - are treated as labor disputes and taken to civil court rather than criminal court; the government has made no indication of taking steps to institute a formal trafficking victim identification procedure and referral mechanism, resulting in the majority of victims seeking shelter at their embassies or the NGO-operated trafficking shelter; most victims have not filed lawsuits against employers because of a distrust of the legal system or a fear of reprisals (2013)