Arab and Persian domination
From around 2000 BC. was the main island of the
Emirate of Bahrain today, an important stopover for the
seafaring people of the Sumerians on their trade route
to India. The land was called Tilmun in Sumerian
sources, roughly: Land of Paradise. The Greeks who
immigrated in antiquity followed around 300 AD. the
Sassanids (Persians) who ruled the island until the 7th
century before it was occupied by Muslim Arabs. Bahrain
became part of a large, unified state that spanned
almost the entire Arabian Peninsula and was under the
rule of the caliph Abu Bakr, the successor of the
At the end of the 9th century Bahrain was conquered
by Shiite Karmatians, again in the 11th century by the
Persians. Arab and Persian rulers took turns until the
Portuguese also wanted to participate in lucrative pearl
fishing in 1515 and conquered the island. They had to
give way again to the Persian Safavids around 1602.
In 1782/83, members of the Sunni Islamic Al-Khalifah
dynasty who fled the Qatar peninsula took control of
Bahrain (and still hold it).
Against the Persian and Ottoman Empire threats, the
Sheikh of Bahrain signed the first of a series of
protection treaties with Great Britain, the European
superpower, in 1820, which had increased increasing
influence in the Gulf region since the beginning of the
19th century. According to AbbreviationFinder, Bahrain became an official protectorate
area without affecting the internal autonomy of the
incumbent Emir. The island became an important naval
base for the British.
The pearl trade was an important economic factor for
Bahrain until the early 1930s. With the advent of
cultured pearls, this sector lost its importance and was
replaced by the extraction and sale of oil that had been
discovered in Bahrain since the mid-1920s. This made the
country the first Gulf country to produce oil. The
proceeds from the oil business have expanded the
education, health care and infrastructure in Bahrain
over the next few decades.
Against the influence and presence of Great Britain
(Bahrain was one of the most important military bases of
the great European power) there have been repeated
protests and civil unrest since the 1940s. At the same
time, religious conflicts broke out between the majority
of Shiites and the minority of Sunnis, who were the
country's leading class. In 1971, Emir Isa Ibn Sulman
Al-Khalifah proclaimed the country's independence.
Shortly afterwards, the country joined the Arab League,
an organization founded in Cairo in 1945 to improve
economic, political and military cooperation between the
Arab states. At the same time, friendship contracts were
concluded with Great Britain and the United States.
In the 1973 parliamentary elections, which were
provided for in the constitution, 30 people were elected
by the people, but these had only an advisory function.
The Emir was the sole owner of political power. Due to
domestic political unrest (the Emir's refusal to admit
unions; the price of oil fell), Emir Isa Ibn Sulman
Al-Khalifa dissolved the elected parliament in 1975,
overruled the 1973 constitution and reigned as
monarchical ruler from then on.
At the end of the 1970s, the flaring conflict with
Iran intensified, which repeatedly claimed territorial
claims against Bahrain. Similar conflicts with Qatar led
to brief military conflicts in 1986 (from 1997 this
conflict was resolved with diplomatic talks). In the
second Gulf War (1990/91), Bahrain participated in the
anti-Iraqi coalition, mostly with financial resources.
The base for American troops on the island, which was
closed in 1977, was re-established.
In 1993, Emir Isa Ibn Sulman Al-Khalifah set up a
consultative council (Madjlis al-Shura) with an advisory
function, thereby meeting the massive demands for more
democracy, which were primarily borne by the Shiite
population, who was disadvantaged both politically and
socially. The discontent of the Shiite population
continued to show itself over the next few years through
demonstrations and bombings. Numerous shiites have been
sentenced and detained. Emir Hamad Ibn Isa Al-Khalifah
(from March 1999) issued an amnesty for political
prisoners and announced the reinstatement of an elected
(if still only advisory) National Assembly for 2004. In
February 2001, 98% of Bahraini voters voted to adopt a
new constitution, which a commission appointed by the
Emir had drawn up. The constitution provided for the
transformation of the emirate into a constitutional
monarchy, an elected bicameral parliament, the
independence of the judiciary and political equality
between men and women (making Bahrain the first country
in the Gulf region to grant women the right to vote).
The new constitution entered into force on February 14,
2002. In the 2006 parliamentary elections, 23 candidates
ran, one of whom was the first woman to enter
In January 2008, George W. Bush became the first
incumbent US President to visit Bahrain, which the
United States considers to be an important ally. In
March 2008, the two countries signed a cooperation
agreement in the nuclear sector.
In the 2006 and 2010 parliamentary elections, the
Shia opposition group INAA won the most mandates. During
the Arab Spring in the spring of 2011, tens of
thousands, mostly Shiite demonstrators also took to the
streets in Bahrain and demanded reforms (the king is
Sunni). There were several fatalities in clashes with
the security forces. Violent clashes between security
forces and Shia protesters continue.