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Bahrain Country Information

Travel Advice with Country Information from the CIA.

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Bahrain Map

Introduction

Background

In 1783, the Sunni Al-Khalifa family took power in Bahrain. 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. A steady decline in oil production and reserves since 1970 prompted Bahrain to take steps to diversify its economy, in the process developing petroleum processing and refining, aluminum production, and hospitality and retail sectors. It has also endeavored to become a leading regional banking center, especially with respect to Islamic finance. Bahrain's small size, central location among Gulf countries, economic dependence on Saudi Arabia, and proximity to Iran require it to play a delicate balancing act in foreign affairs among its larger neighbors. Its foreign policy activities usually fall in line with Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

The Sunni royal family has long struggled to manage relations with its large Shia-majority population. In early 2011, amid Arab uprisings elsewhere in the region, the Bahraini Government confronted similar pro-democracy and reform protests at home with police and military action, including deploying Gulf Cooperation Council security forces to Bahrain. Failed political talks prompted opposition political societies to boycott 2014 legislative and municipal council elections. In 2018, a law preventing members of political societies dissolved by the courts from participating in elections effectively sidelined the majority of opposition figures from taking part in national elections. As a result, most members of parliament are independents. Ongoing dissatisfaction with the political status quo continues to factor into sporadic clashes between demonstrators and security forces. On 15 September 2020, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates signed peace agreements (the Abraham Accords) with Israel – brokered by the US – in Washington DC. Bahrain and the UAE thus became the third and fourth Middle Eastern countries, along with Egypt and Jordan, to recognize Israel.

Geography

Location

Middle East, archipelago in the Persian Gulf, east of Saudi Arabia

Geographic coordinates

26 00 N, 50 33 E

Map references

Middle East

Area

total: 760 sq km

land: 760 sq km

water: 0 sq km

country comparison to the world: 187

Area - comparative

3.5 times the size of Washington, DC

Land boundaries

total: 0 km

Coastline

161 km

Maritime claims

territorial sea: 12 nm

contiguous zone: 24 nm

continental shelf: extending to boundaries to be determined

Climate

arid; mild, pleasant winters; very hot, humid summers

Terrain

mostly low desert plain rising gently to low central escarpment

Elevation

lowest point: Persian Gulf 0 m

highest point: Jabal ad Dukhan 135 m

Natural resources

oil, associated and nonassociated natural gas, fish, pearls

Land use

agricultural land: 11.3% (2018 est.)

arable land: 2.1% (2018 est.)

permanent crops: 3.9% (2018 est.)

permanent pasture: 5.3% (2018 est.)

forest: 0.7% (2018 est.)

other: 88% (2018 est.)

Irrigated land

40 sq km (2012)

Population distribution

smallest population of the Gulf States, but urbanization rate exceeds 90%; largest settlement concentration is found on the far northern end of the island in and around Manamah and Al Muharraq

Natural hazards

periodic droughts; dust storms

Geography - note

close to primary Middle Eastern petroleum sources; strategic location in Persian Gulf, through which much of the Western world's petroleum must transit to reach open ocean

People and Society

Population

1,526,929 (July 2021 est.)

note: immigrants make up approximately 45% of the total population, according to UN data (2019)

country comparison to the world: 154

Nationality

noun: Bahraini(s)

adjective: Bahraini

Ethnic groups

Bahraini 46%, Asian 45.5%, other Arab 4.7%, African 1.6%, European 1%, other 1.2% (includes Gulf Co-operative country nationals, North and South Americans, and Oceanians) (2010 est.)

Languages

Arabic (official), English, Farsi, Urdu

Religions

Muslim 73.7%, Christian 9.3%, Jewish 0.1%, other 16.9% (2017 est.)

Government

Country name

conventional long form: Kingdom of Bahrain

conventional short form: Bahrain

local long form: Mamlakat al Bahrayn

local short form: Al Bahrayn

former: Dilmun, Tylos, Awal, Mishmahig, Bahrayn, State of Bahrain

etymology: the name means "the two seas" in Arabic and refers to the water bodies surrounding the archipelago

Government type

constitutional monarchy

Capital

name: Manama

geographic coordinates: 26 14 N, 50 34 E

time difference: UTC+3 (8 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)

etymology: name derives from the Arabic "al-manama" meaning "place of rest" or "place of dreams"

Administrative divisions

4 governorates (muhafazat, singular - muhafazah); Asimah (Capital), Janubiyah (Southern), Muharraq, Shamaliyah (Northern)

note: each governorate administered by an appointed governor

Independence

15 August 1971 (from the UK)

National holiday

National Day, 16 December (1971); note - 15 August 1971 was the date of independence from the UK, 16 December 1971 was the date of independence from British protection

Constitution

history: adopted 14 February 2002

amendments: proposed by the king or by at least 15 members of either chamber of the National Assembly followed by submission to an Assembly committee for review and, if approved, submitted to the government for restatement as drafts; passage requires a two-thirds majority vote by the membership of both chambers and validation by the king; constitutional articles on the state religion (Islam), state language (Arabic), and the monarchy and "inherited rule" cannot be amended; amended 2012, 2017

Legal system

mixed legal system of Islamic (sharia) law, English common law, Egyptian civil, criminal, and commercial codes; customary law

International law organization participation

has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; non-party state to the ICCt

Citizenship

citizenship by birth: no

citizenship by descent only: the father must be a citizen of Bahrain

dual citizenship recognized: no

residency requirement for naturalization: 25 years; 15 years for Arab nationals

Suffrage

20 years of age; universal

Executive branch

chief of state: King HAMAD bin Isa Al-Khalifa (since 6 March 1999)

head of government: Prime minister SALMAN bin Hamad Al-Khalifa (since 11 November 2020); first deputy prime minister (vacant); Deputy Prime Ministers MUHAMMAD bin Mubarak Al-Khalifa (since September 2005), Jawad bin Salim al-ARAIDH, ALI bin Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa (since 11 December 2006), KHALID bin Abdallah Al-Khalifa (since November 2010); note - KHALIFA ibn Salman Al Khalifa, who served as prime minister since Bahrain's independence in 1971, died on 11 November 2020

cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the monarch

elections/appointments: the monarchy is hereditary; prime minister appointed by the monarch

Legislative branch

description: bicameral National Assembly consists of:
Consultative Council or Majlis al-Shura (40 seats; members appointed by the king)
Council of Representatives or Majlis al-Nuwab (40 seats; members directly elected in single-seat constituencies by absolute majority vote in 2 rounds if needed; members serve 4-year renewable terms)

elections: 
Consultative Council - last appointments on 12 December 2018 (next NA)
Council of Representatives - first round for 9 members held on 24 November 2018; second round for remaining 31 members held on 1 December 2018 (next to be held in 2022)

election results: 
Consultative Council - composition - men 31, women 9, percent of women 22.5%

Council of Representatives (for 2018 election)  - percent of vote by society - NA; seats by society - Islamic Al-Asalah (Sunni Salafi) 3, Minbar al-Taqadumi (Communist) 2, National Unity Gathering (Sunni progovernment) 1, National Islamic Minbar (Sunni Muslim Brotherhood) 1, independent 33; composition - men 34, women 6, percent of women 15%; note - total National Assembly percent of women 19%

Judicial branch

highest courts: Court of Cassation (consists of the chairman and 3 judges); Supreme Court of Appeal (consists of the chairman and 3 judges); Constitutional Court (consists of the president and 6 members); High Sharia Court of Appeal (court sittings include the president and at least one judge)

judge selection and term of office: Court of Cassation judges appointed by royal decree and serve for a specified tenure; Constitutional Court president and members appointed by the Higher Judicial Council, a body chaired by the monarch and includes judges from the Court of Cassation, sharia law courts, and Civil High Courts of Appeal; members serve 9-year terms; High Sharia Court of Appeal member appointments by royal decree for a specified tenure

subordinate courts: Civil High Courts of Appeal; middle and lower civil courts; High Sharia Court of Appeal; Senior Sharia Court; Administrative Courts of Appeal; military courts

note: the judiciary of Bahrain is divided into civil law courts and sharia law courts; sharia courts (involving personal status and family law) are further divided into Sunni Muslim and Shia Muslim; the Courts are supervised by the Supreme Judicial Council.

Political parties and leaders

note: political parties are prohibited, but political societies were legalized under a July 2005 law

International organization participation

ABEDA, AFESD, AMF, CAEU, CICA, FAO, G-77, GCC, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC (national committees), ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, IMSO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), IPU, ISO, ITSO, ITU, ITUC (NGOs), LAS, MIGA, NAM, OAPEC, OIC, OPCW, PCA, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, WCO, WFTU (NGOs), WHO, WIPO, WMO, WTO

Diplomatic representation in the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Abdulla bin Rashid AL KHALIFA (since 21 July 2017)

chancery: 3502 International Drive NW, Washington, DC 20008

telephone: [1] (202) 342-1111

FAX: [1] (202) 362-2192

consulate(s) general: New York

Diplomatic representation from the US

chief of mission: Ambassador Justin H. SIBERELL (since November 2017)

telephone: [973] 1724-2700

embassy: Building #979, Road 3119 (next to Al-Ahli Sports Club), Block 331, Zinj District, Manama

mailing address: PSC 451, Box 660, FPO AE 09834-5100 
international mail: American Embassy, Box 26431, Manama

FAX: [973] 1727-2594

Flag description

red, the traditional color for flags of Persian Gulf states, with a white serrated band (five white points) on the hoist side; the five points represent the five pillars of Islam

note: until 2002, the flag had eight white points, but this was reduced to five to avoid confusion with the Qatari flag

National symbol(s)

a red field surmounted by a white serrated band with five white points; national colors: red, white

National anthem

name: "Bahrainona" (Our Bahrain)

lyrics/music: unknown

note: adopted 1971; although Mohamed Sudqi AYYASH wrote the original lyrics, they were changed in 2002 following the transformation of Bahrain from an emirate to a kingdom

Economy

Economic overview

Oil and natural gas play a dominant role in Bahrain’s economy. Despite the Government’s past efforts to diversify the economy, oil still comprises 85% of Bahraini budget revenues. In the last few years lower world energy prices have generated sizable budget deficits - about 10% of GDP in 2017 alone. Bahrain has few options for covering these deficits, with low foreign assets and fewer oil resources compared to its GCC neighbors. The three major US credit agencies downgraded Bahrain’s sovereign debt rating to "junk" status in 2016, citing persistently low oil prices and the government’s high debt levels. Nevertheless, Bahrain was able to raise about $4 billion by issuing foreign currency denominated debt in 2017.

Other major economic activities are production of aluminum - Bahrain's second biggest export after oil and gas –finance, and construction. Bahrain continues to seek new natural gas supplies as feedstock to support its expanding petrochemical and aluminum industries. In April 2018 Bahrain announced it had found a significant oil field off the country’s west coast, but is still assessing how much of the oil can be extracted profitably.

In addition to addressing its current fiscal woes, Bahraini authorities face the long-term challenge of boosting Bahrain’s regional competitiveness — especially regarding industry, finance, and tourism — and reconciling revenue constraints with popular pressure to maintain generous state subsidies and a large public sector. Since 2015, the government lifted subsidies on meat, diesel, kerosene, and gasoline and has begun to phase in higher prices for electricity and water. As part of its diversification plans, Bahrain implemented a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US in August 2006, the first FTA between the US and a Gulf state. It plans to introduce a Value Added Tax (VAT) by the end of 2018.

Communications

Telephones - fixed lines

total subscriptions: 246,603

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 16.73 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 118

Telephones - mobile cellular

total subscriptions: 1,706,763

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 115.79 (2019 est.)

country comparison to the world: 156

Telecommunication systems

general assessment: well-developed LTE networks, 5G trials tested and deployment in the near future; mobile penetration is high compared to the region; development of its own national broadband network; competition is good and telecoms are regulated; telecom contributes 4% to the GDP (2020)

domestic: 17 per 100 fixed-line, 116 per 100 mobile-cellular; modern fiber-optic integrated services; digital network with rapidly expanding mobile-cellular telephones (2019)

international: country code - 973; landing points for the FALCON, Tata TGN-Gulf, GBICS/MENA, and FOG submarine cable network that provides links to Asia, the Middle East, and Africa; tropospheric scatter to Qatar and UAE; microwave radio relay to Saudi Arabia; satellite earth station - 1 (2019)

note: the COVID-19 outbreak is negatively impacting telecommunications production and supply chains globally; consumer spending on telecom devices and services has also slowed due to the pandemic's effect on economies worldwide; overall progress towards improvements in all facets of the telecom industry - mobile, fixed-line, broadband, submarine cable and satellite - has moderated

Broadcast media

state-run Bahrain Radio and Television Corporation (BRTC) operates 5 terrestrial TV networks and several radio stations; satellite TV systems provide access to international broadcasts; 1 private FM station directs broadcasts to Indian listeners; radio and TV broadcasts from countries in the region are available (2019)

Internet country code

.bh

Internet users

total: 1,423,039

percent of population: 98.64% (July 2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 132

Broadband - fixed subscriptions

total: 184,603

subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 13 (2018 est.)

country comparison to the world: 111

Transportation

National air transport system

number of registered air carriers: 6 (2020)

inventory of registered aircraft operated by air carriers: 42

annual passenger traffic on registered air carriers: 5,877,003 (2018)

annual freight traffic on registered air carriers: 420.98 million mt-km (2018)

Civil aircraft registration country code prefix

A9C (2016)

Airports

total: 4 (2013)

country comparison to the world: 183

Airports - with paved runways

total: 4 (2017)

over 3,047 m: 3 (2017)

914 to 1,523 m: 1 (2017)

Heliports

1 (2013)

Pipelines

20 km gas, 54 km oil (2013)

Roadways

total: 4,122 km (2010)

paved: 3,392 km (2010)

unpaved: 730 km (2010)

country comparison to the world: 153

Merchant marine

total: 234

by type: general cargo 11, oil tanker 4, other 219 (2020)

country comparison to the world: 62

Ports and terminals

major seaport(s): Mina' Salman, Sitrah

Military and Security

Military and security forces

Bahrain Defense Force (BDF): Royal Bahraini Army (includes the Royal Guard), Royal Bahraini Navy, Royal Bahraini Air Force; Ministry of Interior: National Guard, Special Security Forces Command (SSFC), Coast Guard
(2021)

note: the Royal Guard is officially under the command of the Army, but exercises considerable autonomy

Military expenditures

3.7% of GDP (2019)

4.1% of GDP (2018)

4.3% of GDP (2017)

4.7% of GDP (2016)

4.6% of GDP (2015)

country comparison to the world: 20

Military and security service personnel strengths

size assessments for the Bahrain Defense Force vary; approximately 10,000 active personnel (7,500 Army; 1,000 Navy; 1,500 Air Force); est. 3,000 National Guard (2020)

Military equipment inventories and acquisitions

the inventory of the Bahrain Defense force is comprised mostly of equipment acquired from the US along with a smaller quantity of material from European suppliers; since 2010, the US is the leading supplier of arms to Bahrain (2020)

Military service age and obligation

18 years of age for voluntary military service; 15 years of age for NCOs, technicians, and cadets; no conscription (2019)

Terrorism

Terrorist group(s)

al-Ashtar Brigades; Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps/Qods Force (2020)

note: details about the history, aims, leadership, organization, areas of operation, tactics, targets, weapons, size, and sources of support of the group(s) appear(s) in Appendix-T

Transnational Issues

Disputes - international

none

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