Agency denies sect-based population report

July 11, 2011

A Bahraini statistics agency has denied media reports that it had compiled sect-based data on the Bahraini population.

“The Central Informatics Organisation (CIO) has never worked on compiling data based on the people’s sects,” the agency said in a statement. A report was circulated in Bahrain, claiming that 51 per cent of the population were Sunnis and that the remaining 49 per cent were Shiites. The report, labelled “secret and confidential” was reportedly prepared by a research team working for the CIO between July 4 and November 15, 2010 and issued last year.

“We are shocked by the timing chosen to circulate the alleged report since it coincides with the launch of the National Dialogue. It seems that whoever is behind it wants to stir up a crisis by raising the issue of naturalisation,” the CIO said.

Naturalisation has divided the two communities for years and no official figure has ever been made in Bahrain about the size of the two sects of the population. No official document mentions whether a Bahraini is Sunni or Shiite and figures that put Shiites at 60 or 70 per cent of the population have invariably been disputed by Sunnis as “not based on facts.”

The opposition has often complained about a systematic “political naturalisation” drive aiming to tilt the demographic balance towards Sunnis. However, passports and naturalisation officials have rejected the claim and insisted on full compliance with the laws, citing the findings of a parliamentary commission.

Under Bahrain’s legal texts, Arabs who spend 15 years in the country and meet linguistic and satisfactory behaviour criteria can apply to obtain the Bahraini passport. Non-Arabs have to spend at least 25 years in the country before they submit their papers.


In December, King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa called for the toughening of the naturalisation policy. “Experience in matters of naturalisation has proven that it is illogical to grant Bahraini citizenship to a person who is not fully imbued with the national spirit,” King Hamad said at the opening of the 2010-2014 Parliament. Citizenship should only be granted in extreme cases and a naturalised citizen must respect the law and be loyal, and the nation must need him,

King Hamad said in his remarks about the qualifications for naturalisation. Bahrain does not allow dual citizenship and successful applicants have to give up their original nationality. On Monday, Kuwait denied claims that the interior ministry had compiled a report on the country’s demographic figures based on sects. “There is no truth whatsoever in the allegations that the interior ministry has prepared statistics about the number of Kuwaiti nationals based on their Sunni or Shiite sects,” security sources said.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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