Tag Archives: Bahrain
Justin Gengler, who recently completed his PhD dissertation on Bahrain, presented a keen analysis of the social and political dynamics driving the conflict in the country during a presentation at the Brookings Institute in Doha at the end of November. These dynamics shape and help explain what each actor or group is doing and what they are likely to do next. According to Justin, Bahrain is more than divided between a government and an opposition (as often interpreted). Rather, it is facing three mutually reinforcing conflicts, each of which is working to preclude resolution of the others and making the overall political crisis intractable.
Although Justin emphasizes the sectarian element, the picture he presents is much more complicated. The Sunni government is divided, the Shiite opposition is divided, and the Sunni population is divided. Each contain moderates and extremists. Action by extremists in one group empowers extremists in another, creating a vicious cycle with no obvious way out. (more…)
What is the religious makeup of Middle Eastern countries? How does this affect the fragility of countries?
As Bernard Lewis wrote in The Multiple Identities of the Middle East, the region is made up of “old and deep-rooted identities” and that
not nationality, not citizenship, not descent, but religion, or more precisely membership of a religious community, is the ultimate determinant of identity.
Knowing the strength and geographical spread of these identities is crucial for identifying potential fault lines and devising measures to reduce their saliency. Stability in many places depends on ensuring political settlements are inclusive. Syria, Libya, Bahrain, Iraq, and Yemen are all struggling to find a proper balance in their deeply divided states.
This map shows detail from Egypt to Afghanistan and everything in between.
Bahrain is again in the news this week. The country and Saudi Arabia are discussing a closer political union—with the obvious aim of safeguarding Sunni control in a Shiite majority country. Meanwhile, Shiite activists burned tires and blocked roads in a protest against detention policies.
Bahrain’s crisis has many causes: the Middle East’s wider Shiite-Sunni rivalry; the region’s longstanding Persian-Arab rivalry; ideas released during the Arab Spring; rising political aspirations from years of watching satellite television.
But the key driver is the horizontal inequities (i.e. inequalities between culturally formed groups) that exacerbate the fault line between the Shiites and Sunnis within the kingdom. Shiite demands may not all be reasonable, but their relative disadvantage in economic, social, and political spheres feed dissatisfaction, and promote instability. Reducing at least some of these inequities is crucial to reducing the instability, which otherwise is likely to fester for years to come. (more…)