First for Bahrain: International Airshow

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Between 21 and 23 January 2016, Bahrain is hosting its fourth International Airshow. These have been held every two years with the first such event taking place in 2010. Since this date, the airshows have only got bigger and more ambitious, with tens of thousands of attendees and hundreds of participating companies.

Participation has recently expanded from regional and GCC airline companies, including the major international players, like BAE, Boeing and Airbus.

Bahrain has a distinguished history in the airline industry. The first recorded flight arriving in Bahrain was in 1918; a Vickers Vimy bomber from the Royal Air Force on a survey flight from London to Calcutta, a journey which took 27 days to accomplish.

This was the beginning of a regular RAF air mail service along this route. Imperial Airways, the forerunner of BOAC and British Airways, proved flights through the Gulf region during the 1920s. The first Imperial Airways flight to Bahrain was in 1927. Imperial’s De Haviland bi-plane ran scheduled flights between the UK and India, via Basra, Bahrain, Sharjah and sometimes Kuwait.

Over this period, Bahrain’s aviation facilities became firmly established at the current site of Bahrain Airport in Muharraq, making it the international airport with the longest history in the region. By 1936 these flights were running two times each week.

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An evolving role for Bahrain’s civil society

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Civilsociety aims to create a space for public discourse and activity, independent of the conflicts between political factions. This is why February 2011 was so damaging for civilsociety in Bahrain – as the nation was deeply affected by the political and sectarian polarization.

In the early days of the unrest, civil society figures were very active and visible in social media, calling for calm, supporting political reform and urging the sides to avoid violence.

However, in mid-March 2011 the sectarian mood soured, particularly after a number of nasty sectarian incidents, including violence at Bahrain University and attempts by opposition militants to mobilize rallies against predominantly loyalist areas.

Moderate figures found themselves under attack from both sides, especially in social media. As the protests increasingly became dominated by divisive sectarian figures, the Sunni middle classes completely distanced themselves from the protest movement, and so more moderate calls for reform were completely overshadowed by calls for violent revolution.

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First for Bahrain: Women in medicine

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Women have continually been at the forefront of medical advances in Bahrain with medical training institutions encouraging female students across all specializations. As a result, around 60% of doctors and dentists in Bahrain today are female, as are 88% of nurses employed by the Ministry of Health.
 

This female penetration of all segments of the Bahraini health service goes back many decades. Not surprisingly, from early in the twentieth century, women were already a dominant presence in the caring professions, such as nursing. However, as the century went on, more and more female doctors graduated and rose to the top of their respective fields. For example; Dr. Fawzia Kamal became the first female radiologist in 1978. 

Meanwhile, Nada Hafadh had a successful career as a doctor and a Health Ministry official, before becoming Bahrain’s first femaleminister, as Minister of Health in 2004.

Another notable senior figure is Mariam al-Jalahma who served as Assistant Undersecretary for Primary Care and Public Health in the Ministry of Health and has also held senior roles in the World Health Organization. In late 2015, Al-Jalahma was appointed by the King as Chief Executive of the National Health Regulatory Authority.

These senior female figures have been important in demonstrating that the most outstanding female medics are capable of reaching the highest levels in their areas of practice. This is already providing inspiration to thousands of female medical students who represent the future of Bahraini achievements in the field of health.

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Continuing Iranian efforts to undermine GCC security

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The Bahraini authorities on 6 January announced the arrest of members of the Basta Group, which received support and training from Iran’s Republican Guard and Hezbollah. The group was reportedly responsible for attacks in July last year which left two policemen dead.

One member of this group, Ali Fakharawi, had travelled to Iran where he arranged for logistic and financial support for the network. Fakhrawi reportedly met Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah during this visit who donated $20,000.

Iran has been seeking to increase tensions inside Bahrain and other GCC states, following Saudi Arabia’s execution of the cleric Nimr al-Nimr, alongside others who had been involved in acts of terrorism inside the Saudi Kingdom.

The international media widely reported protests in Bahrain following Al-Nimr’s death. However, most of the images relate to a couple of rallies in Sinabis and Jidhafs which contained a handful of individuals; along with a few minor skirmishes with police. Major opposition organizations like Al-Wefaq Islamic Society didn’t even appear to officially comment on these developments.

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