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Saudi Intervention, Sectarianism, and De-Democratization in Bahrain’s Uprising

Protest, Social Movements and Global Democracy Since 2011: New Perspectives

ISBN: 978-1-78635-028-2, eISBN: 978-1-78635-027-5

Publication date: 9 June 2016


Here, we examine the challenges to democratization in Bahrain, with a particular focus on how the recent 2011 Uprising has resulted in a deepening of authoritarianism. It is argued that the recent unrest has brought into sharp relief the absence of “quality” democracy in Bahrain, and that any form of democratic transition is dependent on the will of a conservative Al Khalifa-Saudi nexus. While the pro-democracy movement may have prompted minor concessions on the part of the government, the extent of the popular mobilization triggered the Al Khalifa regime’s authoritarian reflex, and they have reacted to throttle the Uprising by putting in place legislative, ideological, and political barriers to reform, which points not only to a current de-democratization, but also a lack of future democratization. In addition to arguing for the post-2011 undoing of democracy in Bahrain, this paper also points to two major barriers to future democratization; (1) a conservative, post-Independence Al Khalifa-Saudi coalition assisted by large military resources (2) protracted communal tension brought about by the government’s instrumentalization of sectarianism.




Many thanks to the editors and the reviewers for their useful and constructive comments. The author is also grateful to Bahrain Watch for their dedicated research, and Zainah el-Haroun for her meticulous copyediting.


Jones, M.O. (2016), "Saudi Intervention, Sectarianism, and De-Democratization in Bahrain’s Uprising", Protest, Social Movements and Global Democracy Since 2011: New Perspectives (Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Vol. 39), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 251-279.



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