Term Paper Sample on Sectarianism and Bahrain Uprising In Bahrain from 2011 to Present



This research proposal is an initial venture into the life of Shia community during Bahrain Uprising and the forecast socio-economic impact at the end of sectarianism which is currently prevalent and consuming every sector of development. Significantly, the study will reveal the forces behind Bahrain Uprising and the role played by international community in the mitigation process.[1] On the same stance, the study will concentrate more on the theoretical models presented by different scholars explaining the historical perspectives and current issues surrounding prodemocracy struggle in Bahrain.[2] Specific areas considered are the strategic plans of nonviolent movements and the impact of foreign policies, more specifically the dynastic role USA and Soviet Union play in putting to an the observed conflicts. The historical focus considers the progression and the encrypted behavior of pluralism of the Shia dynasty and how the period of democratic transition in Arab States might have influenced Bahrain government to become more ruthless and uncompromising to a section of its citizens. Therefore, failure of the monarchy to establish democratic environment is tentatively an answer to the birth of Bahrain Uprising.

Thesis statement and the research question

Will the Shia majority in Bahrain be able to live their dream of being free in an environment free of sectarianism and hate?  The history of Bahrain as a monarchy reveals that sectarianism in the country started in 1973, during the election of first parliament in Bahrain by the Sunni Al Khalifa dynasty over Shia majority. The Sunni government believed that Shia majority and Shia Islamic parties are big threats claiming that they are untrustworthy.[3] To most people, Shias are not Muslims and are accused of not following Prophet Mohammed peace teachings. Shias are never recruited in security agencies believing that they are fifth column of Iran and not trusted to protect the regime from outside threats.

According to Laurence’s Article “Sectarianism and Coup-Proofing Strategies in Bahrain”, most of the security forces in Egypt and Libya supported the protesters whereas in Bahrain security forces fulfilled their task to protect the Sunni regime[4]. In addition, most of the GGC countries, Saudi Arabia first joined the security forces to defend the regime and use extremely violence techniques to put down and arrest thousands of protesters. As “Troubled ahead; Bahrain” article discuss that Human-rights organizations warn that the situation in Bahrain is worsening where the government accuses the protesters’ movements as being sectarian rather than calling for democracy and human rights. Violence towards Shia groups took variety of ways such as the use of tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and the destroying of 38 Shia mosques. “Bahrain Arrested Revolution” article talks about the overwhelming violence in mid-February by security forces as more than 40 people being killed and 1,600 being arrested.

Discrimination is playing a very significant role in the revolution in Bahrain where numbers of dismissed people from their jobs reached 4,400 people. Most of Sunni people in Bahrain and elsewhere are racist where they became more racist during the Bahraini revolution believing that the Shia deserve to be killed and always be fewer than Sunnis. Corinna and Azadeh argue that most revolutions in other Middle East countries have full coverage of what is going on in their countries but Bahrain has different case. The government in Bahrain controlled news coverage with political reform calls muted to end the violence in Bahrain. Corinna and Azadeh opine on the participation of both British and US governments in Khalifa’s regime where a number of Bahraini military were invited to the US to learn how to “crowd control” and to disperse the protesters.

Khalifa’s military were able to control the protesters yet moderate protesters hoped for reform under the rule of Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa. It does not matter which group a person belongs, whether Sunni or Shia. The most important thing is fighting for democracy and an enhanced equal representation in various areas of governance by supporting all the oppressed people within different societies around the world.[5] In other words, people should believe on political democracy and should as well aim at putting to an end sectarianism and come together as one Muslim community. People should not accuse others on the basis of religious background but should understand and respect each other for the purposes of reunion and national continuity.[6] The only way to fight impunity and to bring to an end the increasing conflicts between Sunni and Shia is to restructure Bahrain parliament, represent the interest of Shia majority.

Sectarianism as a historically contingent and politicized phenomenon

The historical perspective of sectarianism revolves around the most current geopolitical situations observed in Middle Eastern politics which emerged shortly after USA led war against terrorists in Afghanistan and in Iraq. The present dynamics observed and the regional Sunni-Shia divide are just buts products of both geopolitical enhancements and ideological differences in matters of national security, decision making processes and policy implementation strategies. At significant levels, the geo- and power politics create division between the dominant group Sunni and the minority Shia and as projected, the level of hatred continues to intensify since the government does not take an initiative to ensure power balance and equal representation in parliament.[7]

At the point of ideological departure, Middle East politics could be examined in two levels: power assumptions at domestic level and regional interference through political dominion. At domestic level, the accounted level of division is between the rulers who are the Sunni and the oppressed who are the Shias.[8] Under sectarianism, Sunni-led states, have always considered Shia as heretic, foes to state ideologies and a thereat towards internal stability. This argument by the Sunni could arise due to the fact that the Shias are the minority and the main opposition to the provocative acts of infringement as relayed by the Sunni government.[9] In other words, the rising hate between Sunni and the Shias is one of the visible struggles for power between a majority group and the minority in government. The decision process is always in favor of the majority who decides to make policies that favor their political ego.[10]

The Shia groups have always faced oppression in Islam and for this reason, they are considered the most politicized compared to their counterpart Sunni; controlling almost every sector of governance and taking advantage of their power dominance to make decisions that are irritating. Since Shias are highly politicized, they stand to be the most vulnerable group and this accounts to their contributions as potential threat to the new geopolitical environment created by the Sunni regime. The race for regional power is the major challenge and contributing force towards the observed diversities between Sunni and Shias. In the past, Saudi Arabia has faced strict rules of Bagdad who are considered affiliates of Sunni while the controversial Shia remains separated from the rest of the groups. Even though the Iraqi government tends to reduce tensions between Muslim communities and countries in Middle East, the increasing release of nuclear weapon and the influential 2006 war against Lebanon might not have offered a good platform for Iraq to ensure completion of such initiative.

From the foregoing, Iraq is under the control of Shia-ruled government, Hezbollah who emerged after Israel claimed victory over Iraq. Better still, the shape of Shia protests and Bahrain Uprisings is a show of dimensional dependence with total control from particular group. The developments and the observed regional imbalances as subjected to the understanding of political interests and states physiological background all account to the question of social sensitivity and communal identity with one community claiming to be Muslim and therefore using Islamic Faith to regulate instances of social inclusiveness.

What does the case of Bahrain tell us about sectarianism at large?

Different meanings are derived from the term sectarianism and from the case of Bahrain and related studies, sectarianism can be viewed from the existing level of rivalry and hate in Iraq between the two opposing groups Sunni and Shia.[11] With such hate Shias feel ignored, oppressed and neglected and this is observed to translate into severe rivalry at regional levels. The rivalry is a manifestation of steps towards a rise in Iraqi political democracy and consequently Shia Crescent and this seems to be a threat to the current regional status. The needs to achieve political democracy in Iraq is viewed from constant challenges and oppositions posted by Bahrain Uprising which is again viewed as a threat to Iraqi governance.[12]

Still under the view of possible rise of Bahrain, sectarianism can be viewed from a normative dimension. The argument here is as to whether power manifestation through Bahrain Uprising is good or completely unethical for regional development and social cohesion. In this case, different scholars have argued on the basis of social identity and political interests of the evaluating team. As the case stands, one cannot clearly determine the possible outcome of the war in Iraq or the outcome of the Iranian nuclear crises considered by the international community as a threat not only to the two governments but also to the entire world.[13] The historical progress of Bahrain is a projection of the impact of US Middle East policy and other factors from within Iraq which tend to shape political understanding through creation of democracy between Sunni Islamic and Shia non-Islamic groups.

At present, Shia-Sunni clashes appear high and the two opposing groups seem to have a widening gap as far as social interaction is concerned.[14] The merged characteristics of sectarianism and neorealism provide the basic response to this argument. Shia Rival as seen at regional levels is a response shown by US, Sunni States and Israel to the newly developed geopolitical situations which resulted from the intense was in both Iraq and Afghanistan with the interventions of foreign governments. Bahrain Uprising followed from the long-term urge by the Iraqi population to gain regional supremacy after the fallout of Saddam. As opposed to the interest of the Sunni leaders, US has developed strategies of geopolitical containment and aims at including its political allies in the fight against social oppression and constant release of nuclear weapons the appear to destabilize political and economic balance of Middle East. Through the framework of neorealism, whereas US works through a platform external control and creation of social cohesion, Arab States that are under the control of Sunni works through both internal and external control, taking part in creating regional imbalances along sectarian lines.

According to social understanding and political reasons presented, the emergence of Shia-Sunni clashes as well as Bahrain Uprising is by-products of regional strategies of important participants of the wars. Among other nations, USA, Saudi Arabia, Korea, Jordan, Egypt and Israel are considered key players and their policies have impacts on the lives of Bahrainis and Iraq as a nation. The interests of the mentioned states to maintain regional control and to have significant policies implemented by Bahrain leaders account for higher percentages in creating the dichotomical gap between the Sunni States and the Shia States. External interventions through the combined efforts of moderators and radicals are strategic plans to contain Iranian powers and political ambitions and make the government respect the voice of the oppressed are conducting peaceful demonstrations for general social inclusions in major areas of political and economic determinant.

Sectarianism in Bahrain is majorly connected to instances of domestic power distribution and the need to build internal and external security in those states led by Sunni within the region. In this case, sectarianism is no single dimensional and according to the theory of social constructivist, there seem to be an inclined two-way relationship in political descriptions of Bahrain under sectarian identities. Sectarianism becomes useful as a tool of power in politics and assists Sunni-led states to develop control over their oppositions who in this case are the Shias. On the other hand, sectarianism conforms to realities of hate and endeavored social classifications which becomes a stress to the importance of social identities and differences in political ideologies. The social classes and religious divide can only be eliminated through protests, raising strong oppositions and recurrent uprisings.


The case on ground is a personal convention with many friends from Shia, it is realistic to reaffirm that the Shia are not easily accepted by the Saudi population and also in their jobs. A close interaction with one of the friends revealed that her mother has suffered a great deal from instances of discrimination; in school, other students used to make fun of her with disrespectful jokes because she was Shia. Even today, although she graduated from a university in the United States with bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, she is not allowed to receive rewards in her job because she is Shia. Another discussion with a second friend revealed that her father wanted to come to the US in the late 70’s to study his undergraduate degree, but the government made it very difficult for Shias to obtain scholarship. Other friends are facing emotional tensions rather than issues with their education or jobs. Most of the Sunni people claim that Shias are not Muslim and call them “Atfal al-Mut’a”, “illegitimate Children” in Arabic. The Sunni believes that Shias should be converted to the Sunni sect of Islam in order to be accepted and respected.

In general, the study focused on whether the Shia majority in Bahrain will be able to live their dream of being free in an environment free off sectarianism and hate.[15] This statement reflects a question that seem elliptical in determining the long lived life by the Islamic, a life full of hate and, mistrusts and political convictions. From the readings, we realize that the point of departure in Middle East is the Sunni-Shia social interaction which seems to be worsening more especially at the regional level.

Based on the case presented in this section, we realize that sectarianism and hate is perpetrated by the Sunni Community who believes that the Shias are their political enemies and are only interested in having their own leadership and control of the vast Middle East. The study emerges from the prospecting regional geopolitical imbalance and unequal representation of the Shias in various government positions.[16] The study makes it clear that the entire post-Saddam Iraq is facing complications due to significant influence from multifaceted sectarianism and tribal clash between the Sunni and the Shia. Consequently, every event in Iraq and the manifested regional politics falls at the time of Shia revolves and Bahrain Uprising.

From the presented investigations, it would be extremely difficult for the western actors to exhibit a completely coherent policy for Bahrain without properly understanding the historical perspectives attached to both social and religious gaps among the major opposing groups within the various states.[17] After the recent wars in Iraq, sectarian divisions surfaced strongly in almost all Arab states and unearthing policies become significant in driving Arab States towards a balanced society. Focusing on the neo-conservatism as an aid towards etiological understanding of the concepts of sectarianisms in Middle East Politics, there resemblance to US policies bears the desire to control and manifest power over Sunni-led states with an intention to reduce political oppressions while enhancing democracy and equal representations in leadership. In other words, current political situations in Middle East have broader interpretations and link to historical identities mixed with geopolitical landscapes that have resulted into new sets of dynamics for regional power.

The concern is as to whether the Shia Majority will obtain freedom from their oppressors and live in a world of rest and democracy. This concern is depicted from the onset of Shia-Sunni divide which is an important factor towards shaping social behaviors and political ambitions of Bahraini population and other groups in Middle East States. Apart from the interventions by foreign governments, Bahrain government should develop policies to enhance equal participation and to reduce levels of both political disparities and misinterpretation of religious beliefs. As observed from the readings, a weaker state is prone to emergence of sectarianism and other compelling identities that may replicate into instantaneous fall of a nation or state.




“Trouble Ahead.” Economist 409.8866 (2013): 56. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

Louër, Laurence. “Sectarianism And Coup-Proofing Strategies In Bahrain.” Journal Of Strategic Studies 36.2 (2013): 245-260. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

Mullin, Corinna, and Azadeh Shahshahani. “The Bahrain ‘Spring’: The Revolution That Wasn’t Televised.” National Lawyers Guild Review 69.3 (2012): 129-134. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

Zunes, Stephen. “Bahrain’s Arrested Revolution.” Arab Studies Quarterly 35.2 (2013): 149-164. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.

[1] “Trouble Ahead.” Economist 409.8866: 56. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. (press, 2013), p. 7-10

[3] Louër, Laurence. “Sectarianism And Coup-Proofing Strategies In Bahrain.” Journal Of Strategic Studies 36.2: 245-260. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. (Press, 2013) p. 29

[4] Louër, Laurence. “Sectarianism And Coup-Proofing Strategies In Bahrain.” Journal Of Strategic Studies 36.2: 245-260. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. (Press, 2013) p. 29

[5] Louër, Laurence. “Sectarianism And Coup-Proofing Strategies In Bahrain.” Journal Of Strategic Studies 36.2: 245-260. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. (Press, 2013) p. 29

[7] Mullin, Corinna, and Azadeh Shahshahani. “The Bahrain ‘Spring’: The Revolution That Wasn’t Televised.” National Lawyers Guild Review 69.3: 129-134. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. (press 2012) , p. 10- 14

[11] Zunes, Stephen. “Bahrain’s Arrested Revolution.” Arab Studies Quarterly 35.2: 149-164. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. (Press 2013), p. 15-16.

[12] Zunes, Stephen. “Bahrain’s Arrested Revolution.” Arab Studies Quarterly 35.2 (2013): 149-164. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. (Press 2013), p. 15-16.

[15] Louër, Laurence. “Sectarianism And Coup-Proofing Strategies In Bahrain.” Journal Of Strategic Studies 36.2: 245-260. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. (Press, 2013) p. 29

[16] Mullin, Corinna, and Azadeh Shahshahani. “The Bahrain ‘Spring’: The Revolution That Wasn’t Televised.” National Lawyers Guild Review 69.3: 129-134. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. (press 2012) , p. 10- 14.

[17] Louër, Laurence. “Sectarianism And Coup-Proofing Strategies In Bahrain.” Journal Of Strategic Studies 36.2: 245-260. Academic Search Complete. Web. 28 Mar. 2014. (Press, 2013) p. 29.