Many Bahrainis have witnessed huge wealth sloshing around their diminutive country of less than 600,000 indigenous people (perhaps another 300,000 are expatriates, official figures are vague). But so little of that wealth has found its way into creating jobs and decent accommodation. More than 50,000 Bahraini families are estimated to be on waiting lists for homes. Some families have been waiting for over 20 years to be housed, with several generations sharing the one roof, in cramp conditions with poor sanitation.
Its reputation for being a cutting-edge capitalist hub – Bahrain is the only country in the Gulf region to have signed a free trade agreement with the United States – comes at a heavy social and ecological cost. And it’s a cost that seems to have pushed a large section of the population too far, to the point where they are emulating the protests in Tunisia, Egypt and other parts of the Arab world to demand long-overdue democratic rights.