Bahrain. The regime continued to push a hard line against government opponents. The Shiite Muslim movement al-Wefaq, the country’s largest opposition group, unexpectedly got its assets frozen in June and then the group was completely banned. al-Wefaq’s leader Ali Salman received his prison sentence from last year extended to nine years.
According to countryaah, the current population of Bahrain is 1,701,586. According to thereligionfaqs, Bahrain’s highest Shiite leader, Isa Qassim, was deprived of his citizenship in June after being accused of being under foreign influence and causing divisions through an extremely religious environment. It sparked protests among supporters and criticism from human rights organizations and the UN, which reported that up to 250 people had been deprived of their citizenship in Bahrain in recent years. Threatening noises were also heard from Iran, which sees itself as a defender of the Shi’ite Muslim majority in Bahrain, where the ruling family is Sunni Muslim. At the beginning of the year, Bahrain had severed diplomatic relations with Iran, following a conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia.
In June, the well-known human rights activist Nabil Rajab, who was convicted several times earlier, was arrested. Rajab was now accused of insulting the state and Saudi Arabia through statements in social media.
Another human rights activist, Zainab al-Khawaja, was jailed in March with his 1-year-old son for serving a one-year sentence. However, she was released after just over two months.
According to 1988 estimates, the population amounted to 421,000 residents; on the same date, the capital al-Manāma had 146,994 residents. Compared to the previous decade, there have been no significant changes in the composition of the urban population: about 4/5 of the total population live in cities; 85% are Muslim.
The demographic growth rate remained at high levels (2.3% of the annual average calculated in the 1983-88 interval) and is the cause of numerous and complex economic and organizational problems. The need for water for civil uses has significantly increased, and due to the impossibility of increasing water supplies, the treatment capacities of the two desalination plants located in Sitrah are being strengthened.
During the 1980s, due to the progressive disengagement of Western economies from oil, the economic situation of the archipelago underwent some deterioration. According to World Bank estimates, Bahrain’s per capita income is lower than that of other Middle Eastern oil countries, and is roughly in line with European averages. The basis of the economy remains anchored to the export of oil and its derivatives. The small size of the reserves, however, led the rulers to accentuate the policy of productive diversification of the industrial sector.
Agriculture contributes 1% to the formation of the GDP, but the productive potential of the fertile islands of the Arabian Gulf is limited by the particular climatic conditions. Where present, irrigation allows obtaining good harvests; the progressive salinization of the soil, however, is the origin of new problems for agricultural exploitation. Fishing, and with it the conservation and processing phases of the catch, has suffered some decline: 7800 tons of fish landed in 1987. New initiatives have been launched to relaunch pearl fishing.
Oil production has significantly contracted and a little less than 2 million tonnes per year are currently being extracted; the crude is conveyed to Sitrah and Awali for refining. New prospecting is underway in an attempt to strengthen the now thin reserves. Natural gas is also extracted from the subsoil, which is used exclusively to power the country’s industries.
Primary aluminum production is around 225,000 t per year (1988); a rolling mill (40,000 t) went into operation in 1986. The iron pelletizing plant has also been completed: the fall in demand for steel on international markets, however, hinders its processing. In 1985 a factory for the production of ammonia was inaugurated.