Bahrain Protests: Five Key Facts

Article excerpt

Bahrain (officially the Kingdom of Bahrain) doesn't usually receive much international attention. But the uprising sweeping through the Middle East reached Bahrain's central Pearl Square this week, as thousands turned out to protest for reforms. Below are some key facts about this small cluster of islands off Saudi Arabia's coast that has suddenly moved into the limelight.

Bahrain (officially the Kingdom of Bahrain) doesn't usually receive much international attention. But the uprising sweeping through the Middle East reached Bahrain's central Pearl Square this week, as thousands turned out to protest for reforms. Below are some key facts about this small cluster of islands off Saudi Arabia's coast that has suddenly moved into the limelight.

#5 Why does Bahrain matter to the US?

Bahrain is certainly on the radar of the US military as a critical part of its operations in the Persian Gulf and beyond. Bahrain has allowed the US Navy to maintain a base there and has also allowed American troops, aircraft, and command headquarters to be housed on its soil. As a politically and religiously moderate country, Bahrain has also been a crucial ally for the US in its efforts to fight terrorism in the region and counter Iran's growing influence.

IN PICTURES: Bahrain protests

#4 What kind of government does it have?

Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy that has been led by the Al Khalifah family since 1783. It gained independence from Britain in 1971, and in 1999 its leader decided to transform the country from an emirate to a kingdom. In 2001, King Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifah supported a transition from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional one.

Parliament, first elected in 2002, has two houses. The upper house is appointed by the king, while the lower house is elected by the people. The king remains the chief of state, and the prime minister, the other key leader, is appointed by the king. Both are members of the Al Khalifah family. …