The demographics in Bahrain are the flip-side of Syria: the monarchy and business class make up a Sunni minority that rules over the small island nation’s Shiite majority. Obviously this type of social exclusion and oppression is not going to fly at a time when pro-democracy movements are flourishing across the region, and Bahrainis have taken to to the streets despite full-blown resistance from the government.
King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s crackdown on the opposition has been severe. He even called in 2,000 troops from Saudi Arabia this March to battle the youth his government claims has been drugged and stoked by foreign agents like Iranian Shiites. Mass arrest, rushed trials, the destruction of mosques, and torture have proved useful tools in keeping the opposition under control, but smaller protests have continued.
Summer in Bahrain promises a mix of sunshine, police brutality, and race cars. No, seriously. Bahrain’s government wants to reassure foreign markets by giving the impression of a return to normalcy in the capital Manama, even though protests have moved to the villages. King Khalifa announced that the formal state of emergency will end on June 1. But perhaps the question on the minds of many elite Bahrainis is what will happen with the Bahrain Grand Prix? Bahrain’s most famous annual party, its scheduled date in March was indefinitely pushed back by the political unrest.