Bahrain. The year was marked by escalated contradictions between the Sunni Muslim clan ruling the country and the Shiite opposition, which represents a large portion of the country’s Shiite Muslim population. In the months before the October 23 parliamentary elections, about twenty Shi’ite Muslim activists were arrested, according to softwareleverage, many of them members of the Haq Movement for Freedom and Democracy, who believe the Shiites are being discriminated against. The arrested were charged with terrorist activities, treason and plans for a coup d’etat. In the election, with a supplementary election round on October 30, the Shi’a-based movement al-Wifaq took home 18 out of 40 seats, which was more than before.
According to COUNTRYAAH, Bahrain has a population of 1.569 million (2018). The Qatar-based TV channel al-Jazira’s broadcasts in Bahrain was halted in May after several programs addressing the widespread poverty in Bahrain and the difficult situation of the guest workers.
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HUMAN AND ECONOMIC GEOGRAPHY
The demographic trend is characterized by a high annual growth rate (33 ‰ in the period 1991-96) with consequent economic and organizational problems. At a 1998 estimate, the population was 595. 000 residents. Ethnically heterogeneous, but with a prevalence of Arabs, it is concentrated for over four fifths in the cities and enjoys a high level of social services (education and health care are free). Since 1986 the island of Bahrain has been connected to Saudi Arabia by a 30 long bridgekm. The capital, al-Manāma, which accommodates more than a quarter of the total population, has preserved its ancient aspect and attracts a consistent tourist flow. Another important city is al-Muharraq (74. 200 residents In 1991), equipped with a large airport.
The first Arab country in the Gulf to produce oil (since 1932), the State of Bahrain now has modest reserves, destined to run out in the near future. As part of a conservation policy for this resource, mining activity has been progressively reduced since the 1980s, while, as part of a diversification of the economy, greater impetus has been given to other productive sectors, in particularly to industry and financial activities. The latter, stimulated in 1975 by the decision to allow them to be carried out in an off-shore regime, have allowed the emirate to become one of the major channels for the investment of Arab petrodollars in the international market, even if, following the Gulf War, the financial center of al-Manāma has lost its importance.
Agriculture is irrelevant and contributes to the formation of GDP in a percentage equal to about 1 % (the only products of some importance are dates, tomatoes and melons), and the agricultural balance is clearly in deficit. A wide availability of cheap electric energy, produced by natural gas (5250 million m ³ extracted in 1995 and sufficient reserves to maintain until 2050 a daily output of 25, 9 million m ³), has favored the development of industrial activities, dominated by a few large capital-intensive companies: the most active branches are the chemical, petrochemical, metallurgical and shipbuilding sectors. Overall, the economic conditions of the emirate are good and the average per capita income ($ 7,820 in 1997), although lower than that of other oil-producing countries in the area, is still close to the level of many industrialized countries.