A great deal of poverty in Bahrain stems from a systematic discrimination of Shias by the Sunni leaders. Bahrainis were one of the first to begin protesting in the Arab Spring of 2011 but were also one of the first to be shut down. The discrimination of the Shias still exists today in Bahrain. To better understand Bahrain, here are four facts that you need to know:
- Bahrain is run by a monarchy that has been in power since their occupation of the island during the 1700s. The monarchy works within itself, through a private council that resolves familial disputes and financial issues. Today, Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy with an elected legislature.
- The monarchy consists of Sunnis, but the majority of the population of Bahrain is Shia. This encourages systematic discrimination throughout Bahrain, which sparked multiple protests by Shia Bahrainis in 2011. Shias claimed that privileges and opportunities were given out more freely to the Sunnis within Bahrain. Mainly these protestors argued for a new constitution and an equal society in terms of job opportunities for Shia Bahrainis, but the protests were shut down quickly. The monarchy called the protesters traitors and used troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to end the protests.
- There is a large wealth disparity between Shias and Sunnis throughout Bahrain. The capital city of Manama is full of beautiful buildings and skyscrapers, but the villages surrounding the city show the disparity. However, figures do not suggest that Bahrain has any citizens living in extreme poverty (under one U.S. dollar a day) according to the United Nations Development Programme. But, 12.2 percent of the population lives under five U.S. dollars a day, therefore poverty in Bahrain still exists.
- Most of the unemployed Bahrainis are between the ages of 15 and 24. Unemployed females within that age group have an unemployment rate of 16.8 percent in 2014, and unemployed males are at 8.5 percent, according to the International Labour Organization. There is a clear disparity between females and males who are able to acquire jobs, as well as the disparity between the Shias and Sunnis that is still prevalent today.
Poor Shias living in Bahrain without any connections to wealthier Shias or Sunnis will most likely stay in that caste. Bahrain is very committed to its traditions including its monarchy. While extreme poverty in Bahrain is not the country’s biggest issue, the disparity that is rampant leads more into poverty every day.
– Meagan Foy