Bahrain’s king hands out cash to prevent protests


MANAMA: Bahrain’s king decided on Friday to give 1,000 dinars ($2,650) to each Bahraini family, the latest step that the Sunni rulers have taken to appease the majority Shia public before protests planned next week.
“To praise the tenth anniversary of the National Action Charter and in recognition of the people of Bahrain…. His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa … will provide the amount of one thousand dinars for each family of Bahrain after adopting necessary legal procedures,” a news report of the official Bahrain News Agency said.
Activists have called for protests on Feb 14, the tenth anniversary of Bahrain’s constitution. It is not yet clear how widespread the protests will be, but analysts and diplomats say the Shia opposition group Wefaq will be waiting to see how many concessions the government is prepared to make. Although Bahrain has a parliamentary system, many Shias feel that elections have only served to co-opt them into the political system and did not improve their access to government jobs and services. Although most analysts do not see any immediate risk of revolt after popular uprisings toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, the small oil producer is considered the most vulnerable to unrest among Gulf Arab countries.
Bahrain is one of the few Arab countries where the majority practices Shia Islam. Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet, is seen as a bulwark by its allies Saudi Arabia and the United States against the regional influence of Shia Iran.