The Sleeping Giants of Tiny
By Juan Cole
Truthdig: March 31, 2011
Risking the radicalization of
After a month of rallies and protests at the Pearl Roundabout in downtown
Among the Middle East protest movements, that in tiny
The current king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, came to power as emir in 1999 and declared himself monarch in 2002. He promulgated a constitution that created a toothless legislature. He appoints the 40 members of the upper house, while the 40 seats in the lower house are filled on the basis of elections. Electoral districts are gerrymandered, however, to prevent the Shiites from gaining their rightful majority there. In the current lower house, the Shiite Wifaq Party held 18 seats before its members resigned en masse after the crackdown in early March. The lower house can be overruled by the upper house, and the legislation of both can be struck down at will by the king, so the Shiite majority remains effectively powerless.
Many of the discontents of Bahraini Shiites have to do with employment discrimination. They maintain that they are underrepresented in government jobs because of a regime preference for Sunnis. Many Shiites are from rural villages, and they find it difficult to compete for private-sector jobs with expatriate Sunnis, who often have skills and a knowledge of English that give them an edge with corporations.
Most Shiite clerics in
Shiite moderation in
Those who compare the crackdown in
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