The site of the ancient Bronze Age civilization of Dilmun, Bahrain was an important center linking trade routes between Mesopotamia and the Indus Valley as early as 5,000 years ago. The Dilmun civilization began to decline about 2,000 B.C. as trade from India was cut off. From 750 B.C. on, Assyrian kings repeatedly claimed sovereignty over the islands. Shortly after 600 B.C., Dilmun was formally incorporated into the new Babylonian empire. There are no historical references to Bahrain until Alexander the Greats arrival in the Gulf in the 4th century B.C. Although Bahrain was ruled variously by the Arab tribes of Bani Wael and Persian governors, Bahrain continued to be known by its Greek name Tylos until the 7th century, when many of its inhabitants converted to Islam. A regional pearling and trade center, Bahrain came under the control of the Ummayad Caliphs of Syria, the Abbasid Caliphs of Baghdad, Persian, Omani and Portuguese forces at various times from the 7th century until the Al Khalifa family, a branch of the Bani Utbah tribe that have ruled Bahrain since the 18th century, succeeded in capturing Bahrain from a Persian garrison controlling the islands in 1783.
In the 1830s the Al Khalifa signed the first of many treaties establishing Bahrain as a British Protectorate. Similar to the binding treaties of protection entered into by other Persian Gulf principalities, the agreements entered into by the Al Khalifa prohibited them from disposing of territory and entering into relationships with any foreign government without British consent in exchange for British protection against the threat of military attack from Ottoman Turkey. The main British naval base in the region was moved to Bahrain in 1935 shortly after the start of large-scale oil production. from all aggression by sea and to lend support in case of land attack.
In 1968, when the British Government announced its decision (reaffirmed in March 1971) to end the treaty relationships with the Persian Gulf sheikdoms, Bahrain initially joined the other eight states (Qatar and the seven Trucial Sheikhdoms now the United Arab Emirates) under British protection in an effort to form a union of Arab emirates. The nine sheikhdoms still had not agreed on terms of union by 1971, however, prompting. Bahrain to declare itself fully independent on August 15, 1971.
Bahrain promulgated a constitution and elected its first parliament in 1973, but just two years later, in August 1975, the Amir disbanded the National Assembly after it attempted to legislate the end of Al-Khalifa rule and the expulsion of the U.S. Navy from Bahrain. In the 1990s, Bahrain suffered from repeated incidents of political violence stemming from the disaffection of the Shia majority. In response, , the Amir instituted the first Bahraini cabinet change in 20 years in 1995 and also and increased the membership of the Consultative Council, which he had created in 1993 to provide advice and opinion on legislation proposed by the cabinet and, in certain cases, suggest new laws on its own, from 30 to 40 the following year. . These steps led to an initial decline in violent incidents, but in early 1996 a number of hotels and restaurants were bombed, resulting in several fatalities. Over 1,000 people were arrested and held in detention without trial in connection with these disturbances. The government has since released these individuals.
Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa succeeded the throne in March 1999, after the death of his father Shaikh Isa bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Bahrains ruler since 1961. He championed a program of democratic reform shortly after his succession. . In November 2000, Shaikh Hamad established a committee to create a blueprint transform Bahrain from a hereditary emirate to a constitutional monarchy within 2 years. The resulting National Action Charter was presented to the Bahraini public in a referendum in February 2001. The first public vote in Bahrain since the 1970s, held by universal suffrage, the charter was overwhelmingly endorsed by 94.8% of voters. That same month, Shaikh Hamad pardoned all political prisoners and detainees, including those who had been imprisoned, exiled or detained on security charges. He also abolished the State Security Law and the State Security Court, which had permitted the government to detain individuals without trial for up to 3 years.
On February 14, 2002, one year after the referendum endorsing his National Action Charter, Shaikh Hamad pronounced Bahrain a monarchy and changed his constitutional status from Amir to King. He simultaneously announced that the first municipal elections since 1957 would be held in May 2002, and that a bicameral parliament, with a representative lower house, would be reconstituted with parliamentary elections in October 2002. As part of these constitutional reforms, the government also created an independent financial watchdog empowered to investigate cases of embezzlement and violations of state expenditure in July 2002.
Turnout for the May 2002 municipal elections was 51%, with female voters making up 52 % percent of voters. Turnout for the 2002 parliamentary elections--the first in almost three decades--was 53% in the first round and 43% in the second round, despite the fact that the four-largest Shia political societies organized a boycott to protest constitutional amendments enacted by the King that gave the appointed upper chamber of parliament voting rights equal to the elected lower chamber. Sunni Islamists won 19 of the 40 seats. Despite strong participation by female voters, none of the female candidates standing in these elections were returned. The new parliament held its first joint sitting in December 2002.
On March 16, 2001, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced its judgment on the long-standing maritime delimitation and territorial dispute between Bahrain and Qatar. The binding judgment awarded sovereignty over the Hawar Islands and Qitat Jaradah to Bahrain and sovereignty over Zubarah (part of the Qatar Peninsula), Janan Island and Fasht ad Dibal to Qatar. The peaceful settlement of this dispute has allowed for renewed co-operation.
Bahrains strategic partnership with the U.S. has intensified since 1991. Bahraini pilots flew strikes in Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War, and the island was used as a base for military operations in the Gulf. Bahrain also provided logistical and basing support to international Maritime Interdiction efforts to enforce UN sanctions and prevent illegal smuggling of oil from Iraq in the 1990s.
Bahrain also provided extensive basing and over flight clearances for a multitude of U.S. aircraft operating in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. Bahrain is currently offering humanitarian support and technical training to support the reconstruction of the Iraqi banking sector. Bahrain has also cooperated effectively on criminal investigation issues in support of the
campaign on terrorism; the Bahrain Monetary Agency moved quickly to restrict terrorists' ability to transfer funds through Bahrain's financial system.
More To Explore