I photographed this billboard during our holiday in Bahrain. It is one of literally hundreds showing the king on all of the streets and highways in the island. Any government that has that many pictures of its leaders on billboards is trying to say something and trying to stay in control of a situation they are not. The royal family named Khalifa, came from Saudi Arabia in the 18th century and are Sunni Moslem. Most of the Bahrain people are Shiite, probably because Bahrain was a Persian (Iran) island for many years before the Khalifas took over. Iran is prominently Shiite. Driving around Bahrain, one sees in the poorer neighborhoods all kinds of Shiite flags and signs. Driving home from the city during our stay, we always saw the police stationed outside of these areas on a permanent patrol.
The Kahlifa family has a tight grip on power on the island. The main three are pictured below. They are the king in the middle (Hamad), his uncle the Prime Minister (Khalifa ibn Salman), and the King’s eldest son, Salman bin Hamad, as the Defense Minister. Nadia jokingly referred to the three as “Los Tres Ridiculos.”
During the month we were there, all of the Shiite areas had black flags and banners posted everywhere. If one of my Arabic readers could translate for me, I would appreciate it.
I don’t think it is just about power sharing and a Shiite versus Sunni conflict that is going on in Bahrain and the other countries in the Middle East. I think it is bad economies with a poor education system that is not creating enough jobs and allowing companies to compete in the global market place. Plus, a big portion of the brain power, women, doesn’t have the same access to helping these nations. They will have to figure out a way to keep their young people engaged and making a contribution to society and the economy. I hope “Prosperous Days are Yet to Come” but it will take a complete make over and time to do so.
I’ll be closely monitoring the situation in Bahrain. Today’s Wall Street Journal has an excellent analysis of the situation.