Bahrain (Al-Mamlaka Al-Bahrayn or Kingdom of Bahrain) is a country in the Middle East and a member of the Gulf Co-operation Council. It is an archipelago of 36 low-lying islands situated in the Persian Gulf, with Saudi Arabia to the west and Qatar nearby in the east. Bahrain has a small total population of 1.1 million, of which 51% were non-citizens in 2008.
The country has been in the control of the Khalifa family since 1783, although increasing British influence prompted a declaration of independence in 1971. A National Assembly, elected under the terms of the 1973 constitution, never served its four year term as the Amir of Bahrain, Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, announced its dissolution in 1975 in favour of rule by decree. His successor oversaw Bahrain's transition to a kingdom in 2002, becoming King of Bahrain.
Although the National Assembly was reinstated in 2002, control of the country rests with the King, who appoints all judges and much of the government. Its elections of 23 October 2010 have recently been characterised  as indicating popular uprising against an authoritarian regime, which has used torture and suppression of human rights. This democratic challenge to autocratic rule is seen as being of great international importance, with wide implications for regional stability and governance.
- opendemocracy.net - Bahrain on edge