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 Prophet Mohammed.
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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.
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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 parliament.
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.