Background: In 1783, the 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. 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. Facing declining oil reserves, Bahrain has turned to petroleum processing and refining and has transformed itself into an international banking center. King HAMAD bin Isa al-Khalifa, after coming to power in 1999, pushed economic and political reforms to improve relations with the Shia community. Shia political societies participated in 2010 parliamentary and municipal elections. Al Wifaq, the largest Shia political society, won the largest number of seats in the elected chamber of the legislature. However, Shia discontent has resurfaced in recent years with street demonstrations and occasional low-level violence.
Location: Middle East, archipelago in the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia
Area land: 760 sq km
Area water: 0 sq km
Coastline: 161 km
Country name conventional long form: Kingdom of Bahrain
Country name conventional short form: Bahrain
Country name former: Dilmun, State of Bahrain
Age structure: 0-14 years: 20.5% (male 126,313/female 122,359); 15-64 years: 77% (male 595,244/female 339,635); 65 years and over: 2.6% (male 14,791/female 16,363) (2011 est.);
Population growth rate: 2.814% (2011 est.)
Birth rate: 14.64 births/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Death rate: 2.61 deaths/1,000 population (July 2011 est.)
Net migration rate: 16.1 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2011 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.028 male(s)/female; under 15 years: 1.02 male(s)/female; 15-64 years: 1.33 male(s)/female; 65 years and over: 1.13 male(s)/female; total population: 1.24 male(s)/female (2011 est.);
Infant mortality rate: total: 10.43 deaths/1,000 live births; male: 11.68 deaths/1,000 live births; female: 9.14 deaths/1,000 live births (2011 est.);
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 78.15 years; male: 76.03 years; female: 80.33 years (2011 est.);
Total fertility rate: 1.88 children born/woman (2011 est.);
HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.2% (2001 est.);
HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS: fewer than 600 (2007 est.);
HIV/AIDS - deaths: fewer than 200 (2003 est.);
Nationality: noun: Bahraini(s); adjective: Bahraini;
Ethnic groups: Bahraini 62.4%, non-Bahraini 37.6% (2001 census);
Religions: Muslim (Shia and Sunni) 81.2%, Christian 9%, other 9.8% (2001 census);
Languages: Arabic (official), English, Farsi, Urdu;
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write; total population: 86.5%; male: 88.6%; female: 83.6% (2001 census);
GDP (purchasing power parity): $29.82 billion (2010 est.); $28.7 billion (2009 est.); $27.83 billion (2008 est.);
GDP (official exchange rate): $21.73 billion (2010 est.);
GDP - real growth rate: 3.9% (2010 est.); 3.1% (2009 est.); 6.3% (2008 est.);
GDP - per capita (PPP): $40,400 (2010 est.); $39,400 (2009 est.); $38,700 (2008 est.);
GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 0.5%; industry: 56.6%; services: 42.9% (2010 est.);
Population below poverty line: NA%;
Household income or consumption by percentage share: lowest 10%: NA%; highest 10%: NA%;
Labor force: 611,000;
Labor force - by occupation: agriculture: 1%; industry: 79%; services: 20% (1997 est.);
Unemployment rate: 15% (2005 est.);
Budget: revenues: $5.933 billion; expenditures: $5.948 billion (2010 est.);
Industries: petroleum processing and refining, aluminum smelting, iron pelletization, fertilizers, Islamic and offshore banking, insurance, ship repairing, tourism;
Industrial production growth rate: 1.5% (2010 est.);
Electricity - production: 10.25 billion kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - consumption: 10.1 billion kWh (2007 est.);
Electricity - exports: 0 kWh (2008 est.);
Electricity - imports: 0 kWh (2008 est.);
Statistics: CIA World Factbook.
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(Daily Arabic Newspaper),
(Daily Arabic Newspaper),
(Monthly Life Style English Magazine),
(Government-supported English-language), Manama
(Monthly Life Style Arabic Magazine),
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Bahrain's Shi'ite majority is fighting an uphill battle against the Sunni ruling family. With a little help from the Sunni citizenry, they could accomplish more.
Bahrain saw its revolution brutally crushed last year. Now the country's citizenry must begin the push for incremental governmental reforms.
The United States is in a limited position to push the Bahraini government towards peaceful resolution of the unrest and violent crackdown happening in Bahrain.
Many citizens of Bahrain lack even basic needs, while the ruling Khalifah family enjoys a guarded life of grandeur. As protestors call for removal of the king, they risk their lives.