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article imageInside Bahrain's poor communities Special

By Christina Schulthof-Fernandes     Mar 7, 2011 in World
Manama - “Bahrain is not Egypt” is a sentence that has been uttered frequently in recent weeks. While this is true, there are many Bahrainis who live in less than comfortable conditions.
Bahrain is certainly better off than Egypt: While in Egypt 18.5% of the population live on less than $2 per day in Bahrain it’s 0.6%. Egypt’s per capita GDP is about $2,000 while it is $20,000 in Bahrain. However, unemployment, especially among young males (often a contributing factor in revolutions) is higher in Bahrain at 15% compared to Egypt’s 9.6%.
There are many people in Bahrain who live in very modest circumstances, to say the least, and in a country where wealth is often flaunted in the form of elaborate villas, designer clothes and expensive cars, this has led to frustration and anger.
Ahmed and Fatma receive BD30 (approx. £49) per moth in government support each month.
Ahmed and Fatma receive BD30 (approx. £49) per moth in government support each month.
Many people (Shias as well as Sunnis) have been waiting for years to receive new housing promised by the government or for the government to make desperately needed repairs to their homes.
One such person is Ahmed Ali Ramadan and his wife Fatma Ali Yousif. The couple live in a small house in Sitra. While many others like them are desperate for new housing, Ahmed and Fatma are actually refusing to leave. They feel that they are too old to be uprooted and tales of others like them, who died from exhaustion after being moved from home to home, have frightened them to the point that they would prefer to stay where they are.
Ahmed and a neighbour sit at the entrance of his house.
Ahmed and a neighbour sit at the entrance of his house.
Neither Ahmed nor Fatma know how old they are, but it is evident that they are elderly and no longer able to take proper care of themselves. Ahmed can only move around with difficulty while Fatma is completely paralysed from the waist down and hasn’t moved off the mattress in their bedroom for the past eight years.
The stench in the small house, which the couple share with numerous chickens as well as cats, is almost unbearable. There is trash everywhere and the carpet is so filthy that it is impossible to detect its original colour or texture. Spider webs cover the walls and ceilings. Ahmed and Fatma receive 30BD (approximately £49) a month in government support.
Fatma is paralysed and has been sitting on the mattress in this bedroom for eight years.
Fatma is paralysed and has been sitting on the mattress in this bedroom for eight years.
This couple’s house is certainly an extreme example, though there are numerous others like them. Many more live in houses that are in danger of collapsing and in dire need of repair. So while it is accurate to say that the level of poverty in Bahrain is not the same as in Egypt, it would be wrong to assume that everyone in Bahrain is well off and living an easy life. The source of anger and frustration among poorer Bahrainis is the disparity of income, perhaps not worse than in many other places but often more visible, and flashing of wealth from the upper classes. It is this inequality that has spurned many into action.
Ahmed has lived in his house in Sitra for 40 years.
Ahmed has lived in his house in Sitra for 40 years.
More about Bahrain, Poverty, Protests, Manama, Shia
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