Sunday, July 22, 2007

Bahrain: Unrest in Paradise

Unrest in paradise

Crossing Continents
Thursday 26 July 2007
At 1102 BST on BBC Radio 4

Bahrain is increasingly featured in holiday brochures as a relaxing winter-sun destination for the weary north European.

The image Bahrain projects is one of a wealthy, progressive and open society - an evolving Arab democracy.

But there is a different story behind the prosperity and glitz.

This strategically positioned nation in the Gulf is wrestling with social and religious divisions that at times explode into riots.

Unlike the other Gulf states, Bahrain has a Shia majority. But its rulers, the Al Khalifa royal family, are Sunni.

Although there is a recognisable Shia middle-class, it is in the poor Shia villages where tensions are most pronounced.

Within hours of arriving in Bahrain, Bill Law finds himself in the middle of a riot in the fishing village of Malkiya.

Rubber bullets are fired and the acrid smell of tear gas lingers in the night air.
Land and coastline are at a premium in Bahrain, and the Shia villagers claim they are being denied access to fishing waters by one of the King's cousins.
Their protests are met by heavy-handed policing from a force dominated by Sunni officers imported from other countries in the region.

In Crossing Continents, Bill Law explores allegations of discrimination in Bahrain.
Do the tensions threaten to destabilise this important island nation - ally of the West and home to the US 5th Fleet?

BBC Radio 4's Crossing Continents will be broadcast on Thursday, 26 July 2007 at 1102 BST.
It will be repeated on Monday, 30 July 2007 at 2030 BST.

Presenter: Bill LawProducer: Linda PresslyEditor: Maria Balinska