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August 1995, Volume 2, Number 8

Riots in Bahrain

Bahrain is a small island off the coast of Saudi Arabia with 350,000 native-born and 250,000 foreign residents. Over the past three months, the Bahraini government has deported 1,269 illegal immigrants, and 1,033 were deported between January and March 1995.

Shiite youth have been rioting in Bahrain to protest the lack of democracy in a land ruled by the al Khalifas, who are Sunni Moslems.

As oil revenues fall, there are concerns in Bahrain and elsewhere that local rulers conspired with outsiders to divvy up oil wealth. Ambitious members of the middle class resent the need to pay bribes to ruling family members to do business, and poorer Bahrainis who live near camps housing Asian migrant workers reportedly blame the Asians for the lack of jobs.

Unemployment ranges as high as 40 percent, and the Shiites, who are 60 to 70 percent of the population, experience the most joblessness.

The Bahraini government has promised to substitute Bahrainis for Asian migrant workers. However, the ruling family reportedly sells visas to employ foreigners for $1,350 each even when work visas are not to be issued.

"Immigrants deported," Moneyclips, July 11, 1995. Craig Turner, "Clampdown Dents Bahrain's Image as Stable Eden," Los Angeles Times, June 26, 1995. Roger Waldman, "Riots in Bahrain arouse ire of feared monarchy as the US stands by," Wall Street Journal, June 12, 1995, A1.