Bahrain is one of the autocratic monarchies in West Asia, that has strong ties to the United States due to multiple military bases stationed on its territory.
The large-scale protests, which first broke out on February 14, 2011 in Bahrain, were met with harsh response by the Bahraini security forces.
On March 13, King Hamad asked for the support of GCC military troops under the joint “Peninsula Shield Force” command to violently squash the peaceful protestors.
Indeed, the regional dimension of authoritarian resilience suggests how absolute regimes like Bahrain have highly benefited during the 2011 political turmoil from the engagement of the Persian Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The 6 member states of the GCC are run as dynastic monarchies with vast oil reserves, that base their legitimacy on traditional Sunni-monarchical identity.
To the Persian Gulf regimes, the 2011 pro-democracy peaceful uprising has represented a substantial threat.
During that time, the GCC emerged as a critical actor in support of the Bahraini regime especially providing military support.
The extra-ordinary meeting of GCC foreign ministers on February 17th, 2011, framed the peaceful national opposition as Iranian-led insurgencies, and during the later regular summit, framed Iran’s alleged meddling as “flagrant intervention” and a “violation of their sovereignty, independence and principles of good-neighborliness.”
Consequently, the Manama regime’s resentment agenda against the Shi’a citizens dangerously propagated; pro-regime citizens boycott Shi’a-owned business, as well as growing vandalism in Shi’a religious places and mosques were staged.
In the following months, GCC security cooperation was updated to allow for more effective cross-border persecution of the opposition groups, particularly those with Shiite background like the leading political societies Al-Wefaq, despite its now-detained SG, Sheikh Ali Salman, stressing the logo: “No Sunni, No Shi‘a, Just Bahraini”.
As far as they are concerned, calls for a constitutional monarchy would severely limit or even remove those monarchies’ power especially strong in Bahrain’s highly polarized society, where the Shiite population has long been marginalized by the Al Khalifa ruling royal family.
While bureaucratic jobs are well-paid in the Gulf monarchies, they are effectively not available to the Bahraini Shiite population, which has long been systematically marginalized from the public service.
One decade later, these ongoing protests simply demand establishing a fully elected parliament with enhanced authority, redrawing voting districts to allow a fairer representation of Shiite population, and addressing sectarian polarization.