Protests in Bahrain first started on February 14 as young people took to the streets in large numbers to voice the same demands for reform heard recently around the Arab world. But unrest in Bahrain has additional dimensions. While protestors in the capital, Manama, and its surrounding villages are overwhelmingly Shias—with a sprinkling of liberal Sunnis—security forces on the other side are predominantly Sunni and propping up a Sunni monarchy in a majority-Shia country.
When protests started in 2011, transition to a constitutional monarchy was at the top of the list of demands. It was endorsed by the six political associations—parties are not legal in Bahrain—that formed the National Alliance. Along with al-Wifaq, the other key member is al-Wa’ad, which includes liberal Sunnis working for reform. The national coalition called for the abolition of the 2002 constitution, the election of a constituent assembly to draft a basic law (a constitution), and the election of a parliament with full legislative powers.
The Carnegie Middle East Program combines in-depth local knowledge with incisive comparative analysis to examine economic, sociopolitical, and strategic interests in the Arab world. Through detailed country studies and the exploration of key crosscutting themes, the Carnegie Middle East Program, in coordination with the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, provides analysis and recommendations in both English and Arabic that are deeply informed by knowledge and views from the region. The program has special expertise in political reform and Islamist participation in pluralistic politics.
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