baharnas and ajams and howalas, oh my!

so, tptb in bahrain are shooting @ the protestors:

Bahrain royal family orders army to turn on the people

“…Most of the protesters are members of Bahrain’s long-marginalised Shia majority.

“They say they are not demanding the abdication of Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Sunni king, but they are calling for a constitutional monarchy that would treat the Shia fairly and make them equal subjects in his kingdom.

“But they are demanding the resignation of his uncle Khalifa bin Sulman Al Khalifa, who has served as prime minister for 39 years.

“During his rule, the protesters say, the Shia have been turned into second class citizens, deprived of jobs in the army, police force and government while Sunnis from abroad have been given Bahraini citizenship to alter the kingdom’s demographic balance….”

“sunni” and “shia” are really just code words for a couple of populations of unrelated peoples that don’t get along.

in bahrain, the shia — who are probably 66% of the population — are the baharna, the arabs indigenous to the area. they happen to have as allies the ajam, some persians who settled in bahrain within the last 100 years.

i imagine that these two groups are allied together against the ruling “sunnis” just for convenience’s sake. they’d probably have a go at one another given the chance. kinda like how blacks and hispanics here in the u.s. are allied politically … for now ….

the sunni — who are probably 33% of the population — are in charge. they’re other arabs from an area in the center of the arabian peninsula. in other words, they’re really not related at all to the local baharna. they’ve been in bahrain for a couple of hundred years.

it’s kind-of like if the poles went and invaded and took over bulgaria. sure, they’re all slavs (arabs) so they’re related in one way, but clearly the poles (sunni arabs in bahrain) are not really bulgarians (baharna).

see?

the king of bahrain, the prime minister, and roughly half of the cabinet are all members of the al khalifa clan, i.e. they’re all some of these non-bahraini arabs from central arabia.

allied with these sunni arabs that are in charge are the huwala, who were a bunch of sunni arabs from a bunch of different areas who migrated to persia at one time but then came back to the arabian peninsula. (there’s some persians mixed into that group just to add to the confusion.) and, also, the descedants of the african slaves that had belonged to the al khalifas once-upon-a-time are allied to them. oh, there’s also some bedouin tribes in bahrain that are allied to the sunnis in charge.

so, there’s the “bahrainis for dummies” breakdown for you, as far as i understand it.

don’t let THEM throw you off with all this “sunni”/”shia” nonsense. religion and religious sects ain’t got nothing to do with it. not ultimately anyway. there’s a minority of foreigners (+ their allies) ruling over a majority of natives (+ their allies), and the natives are a little fed up, especially since the rulers have been busy electing a new people.

oh, and yes the clans in bahrain inbreed, too. the first- plus second-cousin marriage rate in 1989 was 31.8%.

previously: cousin marriage conundrum addendum and aígyptos

update: from The Menas Associates Blog

“During the 1990s, there were several years of Shi’a rioting and low level violence mostly in rural areas against a constitution that allowed them virtually no representation. When King Hamad took power in 1999 he offered a new deal whereby the Shi’a appeared to be able to vote freely for a Lower House which would have the main say in parliament. He later altered this to an equal voice to the Upper House. Election arrangements for the Lower House are organised (i.e. gerrymandered) to ensure that the Shi’a are under-represented….

“There are also strong suspicions that the regime has been granting nationality to Sunni from Jordan and other countries in an effort to increase Sunni demographic size…..”

update 02/21: see also steve sailer’s Bahrain—Electing A New People…And Shooting The Old One

update 02/22: see also IAmA Bahraini Citizen, and I will tell you what’s REALLY going on in Bahrain.

update 03/11: from globalsecurity.org“The way that government officials are appointed reflects the importance of tribal connections. Members of the ruling family are accommodated first, followed by families and tribes with whom the rulers have been traditionally allied. In Bahrain, for example, the ruling Al Khalifa have given the major positions in the bureaucracy to Sunni Arabs from tribes that helped them rule the island in the nineteenth century. The Al Khalifa have given lesser positions to Shia Arabs from merchant families with whom they engaged in the pearl industry but with whom they had no tribal alliances. But the Al Khalifa have been reluctant to give positions of authority to Shia farmers of Iranian descent to whom they had neither tribal nor economic ties.”

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9 Comments

  1. I think you under estimate the force of religion, and over estimate race and ethnicity.

    Racial and ethnic cohesion on a scale larger than the extended family tends to be somewhat artificial. It is easier for people who have the same language and culture to cooperate, which creates the illusion of races and ethnicities acting like extended families.

    Religious institutions provide a mechanism for social cooperation. Christian churches that are still functional (what few of them there are) provide a venue for people to arrange business deals and marriages. Islam still functions in this manner, though Christianity is pretty much dead as a community. So Sunnis are going to marry and do business primarily with Sunnis, Shia primarily with Shia.

    A major illustration of this fact is that today Jews that have converted to progressivism are not in the same boat with Jew that culturally Jewish.

    Reply

  2. “don’t let THEM throw you off with all this “sunni”/”shia” nonsense. religion and religious sects ain’t got nothing to do with it”

    Nothing directly. Although i don’t think it’s an accident that the majority of Persians adopted Shia islam to differentiate themselves from the Arab sunnis.

    Reply

  3. @gw – “Although i don’t think it’s an accident that the majority of Persians adopted Shia islam to differentiate themselves from the Arab sunnis.”

    right. but that’s sorta my point. phenotype (e.g. ethnic group) first; extended phenotype (e.g. religious sect) second.

    Reply

  4. Its’ funny how you comment that the sunni arabs have been living there for 100’s of years but call them foreigners. What is the yardstick for measuring that? A millennium, two millennium? Might as well call the current Englishmen immigrants as the Celts were the original owners of the Isle…

    This is the true problem in the middle east. No one respects another person because they are a person, they try to belittle them either claiming they have no “roots” in the country, are originally Persian, are descendants of slaves, (all of these are viewed extremely negatively by the way) etc..

    Reply

  5. @anonymous – “Its’ funny how you comment that the sunni arabs have been living there for 100′s of years but call them foreigners. What is the yardstick for measuring that? A millennium, two millennium?”

    in relation to the baharna who have been there longer — and, more importantly, in the eyes of the baharna — the sunni arabs are foreigners.

    fwiw, here are my thoughts on the “i was here first!” arguments that many humans like to use.

    @anonymous – “This is the true problem in the middle east.”

    no. this is the true problem in the middle east. that and maybe the aggressive, tempermental nature of middle easterners.

    Reply

  6. “right. but that’s sorta my point. phenotype (e.g. ethnic group) first; extended phenotype (e.g. religious sect) second.”

    Yes. I was just adding that the second comes back and reinforces the first in a feedback loop. They become entwined.

    Reply

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