The approval of the Unified Family Law is the culmination of a decade of efforts to secure comprehensive legislation which protects Bahraini families from both the Sunni and Shia communities. The result is that all Bahrainis now have equal access to justice concerning personal issues like marriage, divorce, child custody and inheritance rights.

After blocs of MPs in previous parliaments blocked progress to this end, it was particularly important to see this measure approved by more than two-thirds of MPs in the elected chamber, representing all segments of Bahrain’s diverse society.

The Bahrain Women’s Union, the Supreme Council for Women, Shura MPs, women’s rights activists, as well as the Bahrain Government itself, have all played significant roles in bringing us to where we are today. The Unified Family Law comes hot on the heels of other valuable legislation, such as Bahrain’s enhanced accession to the UN Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Domestic Violence Law, passed in 2015. 

These are all important milestones in enhancing the rights and freedoms of Bahraini women and families and we can be jointly proud of these achievements.

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As protests flared in Manama in February 2011, Iran quickly saw an opportunity. In this section we look at the various aspects of Iran’s support for militant groups in Bahrain after 2011. The various dynamics of Iran’s involvement at the outset of the protests can be summarized as follows: Propaganda support through Iran’s dense network of media outlets; providing training, funding and logistical support to militants; and the provision of weapons.

Previous sections

Part 1: Beginnings of militancy – 1950-1990

Part 2: Evolution of militancy – 1990-2011

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The 2011 unrest in Bahrain galvanized militant groups which quickly gained control over the protest movement; taking it in a more sectarian and revolutionary direction. Iran also saw an opportunity and began cultivating militant entities with the aim of engineering regime change and expanding its influence inside the GCC. The result was a growing pattern of terrorist activity targeted mainly against the police, but also against civilian targets.

In the second half of this section we look at Sunni militancy; in particular the radicalizing effect of ISIS in Iraq and Syria after 2014, which inspired a small but significant number of Bahrainis to associate themselves with this jihadist movement. After threats were made against mosques and institutions the authorities introduced measures to crack down on these militants. Previous sections of the Militancy in Bahrain series can be found below:

Part 1: Beginnings of militancy – 1950-1990

Part 2: Evolution of militancy – 1990-2011

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Militancy in Bahrain Part 3: Eruption – 2011

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On 14 February 2001, over 98 percent of Bahrainis voted in favour of King Hamad’s new constitution, the National Action Charter, which ushered in a new phase of political participation; allowing oppositionists to return from exile, establish political parties and stand for Parliament. This chapter relates what happened exactly a decade later on 14 February 2011 when this consensus collapsed and militants who had spent the past decade trying to destabilize the political scene succeeded in wresting back the agenda. Previous segments of this series can be accessed below:

Part 1: Beginnings of militancy – 1950-1990

Part 2: Evolution of militancy – 1990-2011

Tensions prior to 14 February 2011

The 2011 unrest occurred following a long period of escalating activity by opposition militants. As we saw in the previous section, the establishment of the Haqq movement in 2006 as a splinter group from Al-Wefaq Islamic Society, resulted in a steadily escalating pattern of rioting and violence against the security forces by militants opposed to Bahrain’s parliamentary system. The primary instigators were figures like Hassan al-Mushaima and Abduljalil Singace from Haqq; the Wafa movement led by Abdulwahab Hussein and Abduljalil Miqdad, and the outlawed BCHR led by Abdulhadi al-Khawaja and Nabeel Rajab.

All three movements collaborated closely and engaged in weekly bouts of tyre-burning, rioting and ambushing police as they moved in and sought to restore order and remove roadblocks. Such attacks using Molotov cocktails resulted in numerous police casualties, including the notorious killing of police officer Majid Asghar in Karzakan village on 9 April 2008.

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