A divided sea : a study of Bahrain’s identity conflict and identity formation
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Bahraini society has suffered a prevailing conflict of identity spanning several generations. Generally, the division is described as based on sectarian lines – a minority Sunni and majority Shia. The two main groups lead segregated lives and distrust that has impeded cooperation. Periodically, violent fits of civil conflict have emerged, the latest and most significant of which was inspired by the Arab Spring. The protests were brutally suppressed by the government, divided society more than ever before. In order to understand the identity conflict that has endured in Bahrain, qualitative data was collected through semi-structured interviews with Bahraini citizens to gain a clearer image of the Bahraini collective identity formation, and the structures that play a role. The data presented the constructed image of the Bahraini self, and the significant others in the eyes of Bahrainis over the age of 65. Bahraini-Bahrani relations were difficult to discuss, as the topic was considered taboo. However, relations were depicted as once peaceful, with positive identification between the two groups existing. Changes in the economic structures, such as the tribal-governance system, and the introduction of oil, were not factors in the change in identification. The British other was constructed as a major actor in causing Bahraini disunity. Different identification towards the British by the government and society fractured trust between the two. The huge increase of the Hindi other was another possible reason for the distrust between Bahraini society. Finally, differing opinion on whether Bahrain was part of the khaleeji other is a reason for disunity among the Bahraini self.