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King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa and his family has maintained a firm grip on power in Bahrain, where a Sunni minority rules over a Shi’ite majority. Al Khalifa’s uncle has been prime minister for over 40 years. Protests began in earnest on February 14, when thousands took to Pearl Square in the capital, Manama. In the early hours of the morning of February 17, security forces launched a crackdown on the makeshift protest camp in the square, firing tear gas, rubber bullets and, it has been widely reported, live rounds. At least five people were killed and more than 230 wounded. At subsequent funerals the following day, violence erupts again. Protesters occupy Pearl Square once again, after the authorities told the army to retreat and promised dialogue with opposition groups.

Political system: monarchy
King: Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa – 1999 / …

Capital: Manama
Population: 1.2 million
Human Development Index1: 39th
Unemployment: 3.6%

1 HDI is calculated according to factors such as schooling, life expectancy and gross national income and is used by the UN’s Development Programme for its Human development reports.

back to our news file: Unrest in the Arab world