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A look at Bahrain during less volatile times

In the desert island nation of Bahrain, Shia protesters are calling for the minority Sunni monarchy to give up its control over top government posts and to address deep grievances by Shiites, who claim they face systematic discrimination and poverty and are effectively blocked from key roles in public service and the military. To better understand this tiny nation that has been newly thrust into the headlines this week, we're sharing several images by Jonathan Lewis who traveled to Bahrain last fall during quieter times to cover the economy and elections. 

Jonathan Lewis

Bahrain's financial district, harbor and shoreline developments such as the Bahrain World Trade Centre are built on reclaimed land as the country attempts to diversify its economy. The island nation is one of the smallest in the world, just 3.5 times the size of Washington, D.C. 

Jonathan Lewis

 

Migrant workers make up a significant share of the manual labor force in the state of Bahrain, with many workers coming from India, Nepal, Pakistan and southeast Asia. Many workers complain that they are charged high fees for entering the country, which they then have to pay back to their agents or employers. Many also complain that their passports are taken from them on arrival in Bahrain.

Jonathan Lewis

The ruling Sunni Al Khalif Royal family are accused of stealing land and selling it for their own fortune in a country where tensions are high due to the regular detention of members of the Shia majority who make up 70% of the population of Bahrain.

Jonathan Lewis

Designed to look like the sails of the traditional Dhows that head out to sea every evening to go pearl fishing, the Bahrain Financial Harbor, with the World Trade Centre in the distance, is one of the prize developments in Bahrain. With limited oil compared to its petroleum-rich neighbors like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain is relying on banking to shore up its economy.

Jonathan Lewis

Tensions were high during the October 2010 general election following the  detention of 250 Shia who were accused of terrorism by the government. International campaign groups such as Human Rights Watch stated that some detainees were tortured. The outcome of the election, which favored the minority Sunnis, was disputed by the majority Shia group who feel under-represented in Bahrain due to gerrymandering of electoral districts.

Explainer: Tiny nation, big history: What you need to know about Bahrain

Slideshow: Bahrain protest crackdown