Debunking the Iranian Revolution as a turning-point in anti-Shia discrimination in Bahrain

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Marc Owen Jones
Bahrain Watch

In agenda setting, the ‘media are persuasive in focusing publication on specific events, issues, and persons and in determining the importance people attach to public matters’.1 Similarly, in issue framing, we look at how issues are ‘packaged’ for mass consumption.2 In history, like the field of communications and media, certain tropes tend to attract a certain amount of importance becoming embedded in the abridged histories, contextualisations, or summaries of country cases. For Bahrain, the Iranian Revolution and the attempted coup of 1981 by the Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain (IFLB) have become such tropes, ones that are often referred to as a turning point in Bahraini contentious history. Indeed, scholars , academics, and commentators, and I include myself among them, repeat the attempted coup ad nauseum when recounting notable incidents of Bahrain’s history. While this is unlikely to change, it is significant as a recurring discourse because its pervasiveness in the literature of Bahrain is perhaps not down to the threat it posed, but by the continued inference that is somehow shifted regime threat perceptions and Shia loyalties. As a result, it has become a recurring aspect of national security discourse in Bahrain that justifies persecution of the country’s Shiʿa population on account of their disputed allegiance to Bahrain, framing the status quo as being in an unenviable position in which t hey must oppress a majority in order to maintain stability and plurality.. Crucially, this paper argues that there were other, more significant factors during the 1970s and 1980s that resulted in increasing oppression of the Shia in Bahrain.