The Kingdom of Bahrain is situated on a number of islands in the Persian Gulf and has the first post-oil economy in the Gulf.
Since the late 20th century, Bahrain has invested in the banking and tourism sectors and the country’s capital, Manama, is home to many large financial structures.
Power is ultimately controlled by the Sunni royal family Khalifa, even though a majority of the population is Shiite. Many feel discriminated, and the Sunni regime has periodically used harsh methods to keep the Shiite Muslim-dominated opposition under control.
Inspired by the regional Arab Spring, Bahrain’s Shia majority started large protests against the regime in early 2011.
A month into the protests the regime requested security assistance from Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries and declared a three-month state of emergency.
The government then launched a crackdown on the opposition that included conducting thousands of arrests and systematic torture.
Almost daily clashes between protesters and security forces led to dozens of deaths. Protests, sometimes staged by opposition parties, are ongoing.