Bahrain. According to Countryaah.com, Bahrain population in 2020 is estimated at 1,701,586. The political crisis that arose during the 2011 democratic uprising continued to characterize the country during the year. On the three-year anniversary of the February uprising, new demonstrations were held that were degenerate in confrontation with the security forces, with several injured as a result. Three policemen were killed in a blast on the outskirts of the capital Manama in March in the bloodiest assault against the security forces in the country since the uprising.
In September, the government tried to breathe new life into the national reconciliation dialogue that started in 2013 but has stopped several times. According to Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, five important points had been identified, with proposals to, among other things, redraw the electoral districts in order to improve representation and give Parliament greater influence. However, the largest opposition group, Shia Muslim al-Wefaq, continued to demand more far-reaching reforms.
Several journalists and web activists were sentenced during the year to long prison sentences following allegations that they had tried to overthrow the monarchy, among other things. The judges drew sharp criticism among international human rights organizations.
Nabil Rajab, considered one of the most prominent human rights activists in the Arab world, was released in May after two years in prison for his role as organizer of the democracy protests. He was remanded in October, this time accused of insulting the authorities. After a month, Rajab was set free but he was banned from leaving the country pending trial.
Lifetime opposition leader Abdulhadi al-Khawaja hunger strike for a month beginning in August. His daughter, human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja, was arrested when she came to Bahrain to visit her father. She was released after three weeks, pending trial for illegal entry and insult to the king. Another daughter, Zainab al-Khawaja, was sentenced in December to three years in prison for tearing down a picture of the king. An American Deputy Foreign Minister, Tom Malinowski, was ordered to leave Bahrain in July after meeting members of al-Wefaq. The deportation caused a minor crisis in relations with the United States, an important ally with a large naval base in Bahrain.
Nevertheless, Bahrain, along with nine other Arab countries, decided in September to join the US in the military attacks against the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group in Iraq. Shortly thereafter, Bahraini fighter aircraft participated in the attack.
In September, the king set the date for the November parliamentary elections. As expected, al-Wefaq decided to boycott the election. The motivation was that the government did not seriously seek reconciliation after the democracy uprising.
The party that won in the previous election had left its seats in Parliament after the 2011 violence.
Just a month before the election, a court banned al-Wefaq from operating any business for three months at all. Thus, the group’s opportunities to protest or even to speak up before the election were undermined. Of the 40 members elected, 37 were formally independent.