Send My Regards to Your Mother

by Zein El-Amine
published in MER275


I sometimes refer to my college years in Saudi Arabia as “doing time.” But early in those years I did some time that almost did me in—and my mother, too.

I had spent high school in Bahrain as a boarder. My father pressured me to attend university near our house in Dhahran, where he worked as a contractor on the US military base.

Letter from Bangkok

by A Special Correspondent
published in MER123

In 1975, around 1,000 Thai workers left for Bahrain and Saudi Arabia; by 1982, 108,520 workers, over one third of all Thailand’s expatriate work force, had left for 11 different countries in the Middle East region. Their remittances, totaling over $450 million, amounted to the equivalent of half the foreign exchange brought into Thailand by its foreign visitors and exceeded revenues from the country’s main commodity exports except rice and tapioca. Many of the Thais employed in the region are skilled workers, mechanics, engineers and drivers, and their absence is blamed for shortages of skilled labor in Thailand’s domestic labor market. The majority are unskilled manual laborers drawn by the lure of wages often five times higher than Thailand’s.

Doubling Down on Dictatorship in the Middle East

by Amanda Ufheil-Somers | published December 30, 2014

For a moment, four years ago, it seemed that dictators in the Middle East would soon be a thing of the past.

Back then, it looked like the United States would have to make good on its declared support for democracy, as millions of Tunisians, Egyptians, Bahrainis, Yemenis, and others rose up to reject their repressive leaders. Many of these autocrats enjoyed support from Washington in return for providing “stability.”

Yet even the collapse of multiple governments failed to upend the decades-long U.S. policy of backing friendly dictators. Washington has doubled down on maintaining a steady supply of weapons and funding to governments willing to support U.S. strategic interests, regardless of how they treat their citizens.

Youth of the Gulf, Youth of Palestine

by Ted Swedenburg | published May 31, 2014 - 10:19am

I recently came across two accounts of Arab youth that fly in the face of conventional wisdom. One is Kristin Diwan’s issue brief on youth activism in the Arab Gulf states for the Atlantic Council, and the other is a documentary by filmmaker Jumana Manna on Palestinian “male thug culture” in East Jerusalem. The film is called Blessed, Blessed Oblivion.

(No) Dialogue in Bahrain

by Toby Matthiesen | published February 13, 2014

In the run-up to the third anniversary of the Bahraini uprising on February 14, 2011, mass protests with tens of thousands of participants again engulfed the small kingdom. At the same time, a number of contacts between the opposition and the royal family sparked hopes of renewed high-level negotiations leading to the resolution of the long-standing conflict.

Seeing Through the Fog

by Amanda Ufheil-Somers | published January 3, 2014

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was full of tough talk when he visited the island kingdom of Bahrain in early December.

The United States, he vowed, will continue to guard “the free flow of energy and commerce” from the Persian Gulf and keep Iran nuclear-free, through the presence of 35,000 US military personnel or the (as yet unproven) regional missile defense system.

Hagel also trumpeted the American commitment to “political reform” in the Gulf region. But the Pentagon chief uttered not a word about the hundreds of Bahrainis languishing in prison -- many without adequate medical care -- for demanding the very rights he says they deserve.

The Arabian Peninsula Opposition Movements

by The Editors
published in MER130

The contemporary opposition movements in the Arabian Peninsula have their origins in two processes of radicalization in Middle Eastern politics. The first was the rise of radical nationalists, Nasserists and Baathists, and of communist parties in the 1950s and 1960s, and the second is the spread of the radical Islamic groups in the latter part of the 1970s. The political organizations now engaged in opposition politics in the peninsula spring essentially from these two competing trends.

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Khuri, Tribe and State in Bahrain

published in MER132

Fu’ad Khuri, Tribe and State in Bahrain (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980).

Fu’ad Khuri has provided us with a sensitive analysis of the recent history of Bahrain. He captures the broad sweep of socioeconomic and political change brought about by the colonial bureaucracy and the discovery of oil, and he comprehends the multiplicity of peoples, religious sects and classes in Bahrain and their responses to these changes.

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Labor Movements in Bahrain

by 'Abd al-Hadi Khalaf
published in MER132

Labor activism has been a major feature of political life in Bahrain, going back to early industrial activities following the discovery of oil in 1928-1932. [1] These early efforts absorbed many destitute pearl divers, peasants and freed slaves, and paved the way for a new stratum of middlemen from among the pearl merchant families. The new economic activities gave additional impetus to British efforts to build the skeleton of a local government administration capable of coping with the social and economic transformation of the island. [2]

"The Rulers Are Afraid of Their Own People"

A Bahraini Citizen

published in MER132

“Isa” grew up in Bahrain and lived there until recently. He spoke with several MERIP editors in April 1985. He asked to remain anonymous in order to protect friends and family still living there.

What sort of distinctions and divisions are there among expatriates?

You’ve got the Europeans and Americans and then you’ve got the Indians, Pakistanis, Thais and Koreans. The Koreans come in contingents of a construction company, not free labor. They wear Hyundai uniforms. They go to the market in groups. There’s a much greater language barrier.