1. An island country in the Persian Gulf; oil revenues have funded some of the most progressive programs in the Arabian nations; Also called: Bahrein.
2. An island in the Persian Gulf; Also called: Bahrain Island, Bahrein, Bahrein Island.
Country comprising a group of islands in the Persian Gulf, between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
The 1973 constitution provided for an elected national assembly of 30 members, but was dissolved 1975 after the prime minister refused to work with it. The emir now governs Bahrain by decree, through a cabinet chosen by him. There are no recognizable political parties.
Traditionally an Arab monarchy, Bahrain was under Portuguese rule during the 16th century and from 1602 was dominated by Persia (now Iran). Bahrain became a sheikdom 1783 under the control of the Khalifa dynasty. British assistance was sought to preserve the country's independence against claims of sovereignty made by Persia and the Ottoman Empire. It became a British protectorate 1861, with government shared between the ruling sheik and a British adviser. Iran (Persia) claimed sovereignty 1928 but accepted a United Nations report 1970 showing that the inhabitants of Bahrain preferred independence.
Britain announced the withdrawal of its forces 1968, and Bahrain joined two other territories under British protection, Qatar and the Trucial States (now the United Arab Emirates), to form the Federation of Arab Emirates. Qatar and the Trucial States left the federation 1971, and Bahrain became an independent state. A new constitution 1973 provided for an elected national assembly, but two years later the prime minister, Sheik al-Khalifa (1933– ), complained of obstruction by the assembly, which was then dissolved.
Since 1975 the emir and his family have ruled with virtually absolute power. Bahrain has become a focal point on the Gulf, being the site of the Gulf University (1986) and an international airport, the center of Gulf aviation. A causeway linking Bahrain with mainland Saudi Arabia was constructed 1986 (at 25 km/15.5 mi it is the longest in the world). In 1994 there were public protests by Shiite Muslims opposed to the monarchy. The royal family belonged to the Sunni Muslim sect.
relations with Iran
Since the Iranian revolution of 1979, relations between the two countries have been uncertain, with fears of Iranian attempts to disturb Bahrain's stability. During the 1991 Gulf War, Bahrain opposed Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.