the visit to Manama by Israeli Middle East Minister Yossi
Sarid in October 1994 - the first contact at this level
between Israel and a Gulf country - was a clear
demonstration of the liberal, economic policy the regime in
Manama was in charge of.
A Shiite leader, Sheik Ali Sulman, was arrested in
December 1994 after signing a petition for reinstatement of
the Constitution and a re-establishment of the parliament
that had been dissolved in 1975. His arrest led to
demonstrations facing the government, where 2 students and a
valet. In April 1995, Emir Isa ibn-Sulman Al-Khalifah met
with 20 opposition leaders to try to stop the escalating
violence. In August of that year, an agreement was reached
that led to the release of 250 political prisoners.
Al-Jamri and six other opposition leaders lamented in
June, the government's unwillingness to fulfill the
agreement and a hunger strike, culminating on November 1. A
giant demonstration was answered by the government with the
closure of the mosques; a reprisal that merely helped to
make the situation worse.
In 1996, the demonstrations were repeated across the
country and some of these demonstrations developed into
violent clashes with the police. The government decided to
reinstate the death penalty in order to sanction those
responsible, which was approved by an appeals court. A UN
working party tasked with controlling arbitrary and illegal
detentions and convictions issued September 3 statements on
the conditions of prisoners in Bahrain's prisons. The group
was not authorized to visit the prisoners, who had not
usually been through a trial. Amnesty International declared
in July that large groups of women and children were being
subjected to grave violations in Bahraini prisons.
Due to the social conflicts, a number of companies have
decided to leave the country and instead establish
themselves in Dubai. Bahrain and the other 5 member
countries of the Cooperation Council - Saudi Arabia, Oman,
Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates - have looked at
ways to make their currency independent of the dollar in
order to better hedge against the currency turmoil and to
Avoid major decline in oil revenues.
In October 1999, US Secretary of Defense William Cohen
arrived in Bahrain with the very clear purpose of continuing
the country's support for the US blockade against Iraq. But
no details were subsequently released about the meeting.
On Independence Day in December 1999, the emir Sheik
Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifah spoke about democratic opening and
promised to restore the municipal councils.
On January 12, 2000, Bahrain's Foreign Minister declared
that the country would resume diplomatic relations with the
Vatican. This move had probably been decided already 2
months earlier when the emir of Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifah
met with Pope John Paul II in Rome. In February, the trial
of Abdul Wahab Hussain, the deputy chairman of the
opposition movement Bahrain's Freedom Movement, began.
Hussain had been arrested in 1996 for signing a call for the
reinstatement of democracy in the country.
In February 2001, by a referendum, the people strongly
supported a political reform package put forward by the
royal family. The proposals would only be implemented in
2004, and foresaw the transformation of the state into a
constitutional monarchy. At the same time, more than 900
political prisoners and exiles are pardoned, and the State
Security Act and the State Security Court, both introduced
after the 1995 riots, are also repealed.
In December, the Ministry of Information filed a lawsuit
against journalist Hafez al-Shaikh for publishing critical
articles on Shiite society. He was charged with violating
press and media laws. Al-Shaikh claimed that the charges
were instead due to critical comments from his side,
published in a Lebanese newspaper, about Bahrain's
cooperation with the United States in the October invasion
of Afghanistan. Following the terrorist attacks in New York
in September 2001, the United States has intensified its
cooperation with Bahrain - especially in the military field.