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Bahrain 2017 Crime & Safety Report

Near East > Bahrain; Near East > Bahrain > Manama

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy Manama does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of services provided.

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MANAMA AS BEING A LOW-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Please review OSAC’s Bahrain-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.

Crime Threats

Much of the crime occurs within the large South Asian population of guest workers. Violent crime is rare, and firearms are prohibited in Bahrain. The targeting of Westerners is uncommon; however, there have been a few isolated incidents of theft/break-ins. Over the past few years, in commercial districts surrounding Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bahrain, Westerners have reported being victims of crime.

There have been reported and anecdotal incidents of harassment and sexual assault of women. Women traveling alone have been harassed while driving or when out and about. Crimes of rape are perceived to not be fully prosecuted under the law. U.S. citizens should keep in mind the cultural differences among the many people who coexist in Bahrain and should be cognizant that unwitting actions may invite unwanted attention. Modest dress, not engaging in “small talk,” not making constant eye contact, and maintaining a low profile may deter harassment. Try to travel with a buddy or in groups, especially during hours of darkness. U.S. citizens who find themselves harassed are advised to seek safe haven in a public area immediately, contact store management or security personnel, and not attempt to go to a secluded area or drive to their residences until the situation has been resolved.

Other reported crimes include, but are not limited to, various types of immigration and residency fraud, ATM/credit card theft, white collar fraud, embezzlement, possession or trafficking of illegal narcotics, and property theft.

Other Areas of Concern

In February 2012, the U.S. Embassy identified geographic boundaries known as red zones. These red zones were designated as restricted travel areas. In March 2013, the Embassy introduced yellow zones, which are designated as daylight travel areas only. The Embassy constantly assesses the island-wide security situation to reevaluate the restricted zones. The restricted travel areas can be found on the U.S. Embassy Manama’s website.

Transportation-Safety Situation

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Although the roads are generally very good, driving can be hazardous. Aggressive driving coupled with a high-speed road network creates a dangerous driving environment. One in five vehicles is involved in an accident each year, often with deadly results. Alcohol-related traffic accidents increase over weekends (Thursday evening through Saturday). Wearing seat belts is required by law, but compliance is irregular, and traffic enforcement is minimal but increasing with the government’s awareness campaign. Speed is the primary cause for traffic fatalities.

Bahrain has an excellent highway system, but many drivers drive in excess of the posted speed limits and weave through traffic at high rates of speed; the danger posed by these high-speed drivers is compounded by many others who drive well below the speed limit across all lanes of traffic, increasing the chances for accidents. 

A good general rule to follow is to avoid driving in the number one (far left) lane on highways due to the prevalence of high-speed drivers. These number one lane drivers may exhibit aggressive behavior if blocked (flashing headlights rapidly, tailgating in order to get the slower number one lane drivers to move to the right). Night driving is particularly dangerous because some drivers do not turn on their headlights. Road rage, pursuit, extremely aggressive and reckless driving, and vehicle gamesmanship often end in disaster when a vehicle is forced off the road or has a collision with another vehicle on the crowded highways. 

Apart from periodic sandstorms, fog, and rain, road conditions and weather are favorable most of the year, but drivers must remain on the defensive and alert to the hazards posed by others that neglect to yield in merges, cut across lanes to exit, drive aggressively and at excessive rates of speed, pass on shoulders, and sometimes operate without headlights at night.

Police checkpoints are not unusual and increase sporadically and with little warning, particularly in February and March, during the anniversary dates of the 2011 Arab Spring protests in Bahrain. Uniformed police have the authority to make traffic stops. The RSO advises individuals to remain in their own vehicles with the doors locked but to lower the window and be polite when answering questions. Be prepared to present identification, as the law requires people to carry government issued ID. Do not attempt to run from an official police checkpoint.

If a visitor is involved in an accident, s/he should not move the vehicle and should immediately contact the traffic police by calling 199 if there are no injuries or 999 (the general emergency number) if the accident involves injuries. Drivers should wait until the police arrive or direct them to one of several traffic police stations to file an accident report. The driver should obtain a copy of the accident report for later use. Car rental and auto repair companies require a police accident report prior to making repairs.

Public Transportation Conditions

The use of marked taxis or transportation companies is generally safe and reliable; however, the risk of sexual harassment is present.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

Bahrain International Airport (BAH) is the international airport, located in Muharraq, an island about 7km (4.3mi) northeast of Manama. It serves as the hub for the national carrier Gulf Air.

Terrorism Threat

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF SATE HAS ASSESSED MANAMA AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

Although there have been no terrorist attacks against Americans on the island, the fact that Bahrain is joined by a causeway link to Saudi Arabia, has a large U.S. Department of Defense presence, and is in very close proximity to neighboring state sponsors of terrorism demands constant security awareness. Bahrain’s police and security forces are competent and capable counterterrorism partners.

In Bahrain, the number of violent attacks against security forces declined in 2016 after several high-profile strikes the previous three years. In 2016, at least three attacks resulted in casualties, only one of which involved explosives. However, Shi’a militants continued to instigate low-level violence against security forces and regularly planted real and fake IEDs around the country. Bahrain regularly experiences such low-level violence between Shi’a youth -- using Molotov cocktails and other homemade devices -- and predominantly Sunni security forces in Shi’a villages.

  • On June 30, 2016, an IED in the village of East Eker killed a Bahraini woman and injured her three children. The woman was likely collateral damage and not the intended target: no one claimed responsibility for the attack, and militants have not previously targeted civilians.
  • On May 22, 2016, the Mukhtar Brigades Shi’a militant group claimed credit for the shooting of a police officer in the Shi’a village of Sitra. The officer survived the attack.
  • On April 16, 2016, Shi’a youth used Molotov cocktails to attack a police patrol vehicle in the Shi’a village of Karbabad, resulting in the death of a police officer and injuries to two others. 

On several occasions, ISIS-affiliated social media accounts claimed the group would carry out attacks in Bahrain, but these failed to materialize, and the country did not experience any Sunni terrorist incidents in 2016.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

The call for self-radicalization, whether disseminated on extremist forums, or via a broader approach through social media, continues to be a global concern. It is difficult to determine which message will inspire a violent extremist. 

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED MANAMA AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.

Civil Unrest

Among the Shi’a community, perceived economic and political disenfranchisement remain the primary drivers of violent extremism, although maligned Iranian influence remains a factor in supplying violent factions with requisite training and supplies. A sense of disenfranchisement has persisted among sectors of the Shi’a community for years, and many of their leaders claim discrimination in government employment and in granting scholarships has worsened since the Arab Spring-inspired protests of 2011. However, research into this topic is politically sensitive; while contacts have supplied anecdotal evidence, there is little public reporting or research on drivers of violent extremism or even concrete data on whether or not economic disenfranchisement has increased.

There is little widespread support for violent, anti-government activity in the Sunni community, but a small number of individuals have become radicalized in the past several years and either joined local factions or left to fight with ISIL and other militant groups in Syria and Iraq. Within the Sunni community, a small number of extremist religious preachers have helped radicalize these individuals; Bahraini Sunnis looking to join such extremist groups are also motivated by regional events and a desire to counter what they perceive to be growing Iranian influence.

The government has attempted to dilute the influence of religious leaders in political life and in 2016 required both Sunni and Shi’a clerics to sign a document, originally authored in 2009, that commits them to certain standards when delivering Friday sermons. The government has rationalized several of the actions it took in 2016 --  the revocation of Isa Qassim’s citizenship and the dissolution of Wefaq, the country’s preeminent opposition group -- as attempts to dilute the influence of actors who incited violence and radicalization in the Shi’a community. However, oppositionists have alleged that the government wants to suppress peaceful political activity and dissent.

There are no notable government or non-government efforts to rehabilitate and reintegrate former violent extremists and returning foreign terrorist fighters. There is also no overall strategic messaging campaign to counter terrorist narratives, although government leaders often speak about tolerance and reducing sectarian rhetoric.

Anti-government demonstrations are commonplace in some villages and frequently become violent. These demonstrations routinely include the throwing of rocks, burning of trash receptacles, and the use of Molotov cocktails and other homemade weapons and improvised explosive devices. Bahraini security officials remain the focus of these types of activities. However, there is concern that Westerners may become involved in wrong-place, wrong-time violence. Violent clashes between security forces and demonstrators can make travel in/around Bahrain dangerous without advance warning. The demonstrations are primarily located in/around identified areas of concern. The Ministry of Interior maintains official and temporary checkpoints in certain areas and routinely uses tear gas and stun grenades along with use of shotguns and other crowd control measures against demonstrators.

Both peaceful and violent oppositionist activity increase in February-March, marking the anniversaries of 2011 events. Violent opposition groups have sought to disrupt daily life by creating havoc on the roadways and infrastructure with homemade spike strips, blocking off roads with burning tires/debris, and calling for a general labor strikes. Violent activity against security forces has included an increase in Molotov cocktail attacks and the use of improvised weapons, improvised explosive devices, and shotgun like projectiles.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Bahrain’s low desert plain and arid climate put it at risk for periodic droughts and dust storms.

Critical Infrastructure

Communications (cell phones and Internet) are reliable; however, during the 2011 uprising, cell towers were shut down in an effort to prevent their use is organizing demonstration activity. During times of heightened tensions, access to the Internet decreases perceptibly.  

Economic Concerns

There is an abundance of pirated merchandise for sale, readily available from street vendors.

Drug-related Crime

There is a growing illegal drug market in Bahrain, and the government regularly interdicts illegal drugs entering the country. In 2016, media outlets reported a few seizures of illegal narcotics by local authorities at the King Fahad Causeway crossing and International Airport due to enhanced monitoring and enforcement measures.

Police Response

The government has attempted to improve the atmosphere for its security forces -- and their overall effectiveness -- through the use of community policing, which uses mostly Shi’a Bahrainis to bridge the divide between predominantly Shi’a villages and the regular -- overwhelmingly Sunni -- police force. This community police program emerged as one of several initiatives after the 2011 unrest, but the government has not published relevant statistics on the force’s composition or track record. Additionally, many in the Shi’a community continue to view anyone who works directly or indirectly for the security services with suspicion.

How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment

Police are generally professional and competent. If an American citizen is detained, s/he should make their citizenship immediately known to the officers. The authorities will notify the Embassy. Consular officers will visit and assist.

Crime Victim Assistance

Police, Ambulance, and Fire services can be reached by dialing 999.

Police/Security Agencies

The Ministry of Interior (MOI) is responsible for law enforcement and public safety. The Public Security Forces are the principal law enforcement arm of the MOI and are responsible for maintaining order and security.

The Special Security Forces of MOI are the paramilitary law enforcement arm and include the riot police, SWAT, explosive team, and VIP protection.

Medical Emergencies

In an emergency, call 999 or go to the emergency department of a nearby hospital. Payment at all medical facilities is due at the time of service.  Some hospitals have limited direct billing capability for certain insurance carriers.  Billing and insurance practices vary among the medical facilities.  Pharmacies are common throughout Bahrain and carry a wide range of medications.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

Basic, modern medical care and medicine are available in several hospitals and clinics. Three government hospitals, a network of primary care clinics, and several private facilities offer a wide range of medical services. Cardiac care, general surgery, ENT, internal medicine, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, orthopedics and dentistry services are readily available, as are X-rays, CT-scans, and MRI testing. The government hospitals house both trauma and ICU units.

If experiencing chest pain, go directly to the Bahrain Defense Force (BDF) Hospital’s Chest Pain clinic located in the Emergency Department. The Chest Pain Clinic numbers are 1776 6637 or 1776 6626. If an ambulance is required, contact 999 and state it is cardiac emergency. They will contact BDF, which will send out a BDF ambulance & care team.

Local medical facilities include but are not limited to the following (Bahrain Defense Force, Salmaniya Hospital, and King Hamad University Hospital are the three tertiary facilities):

American Mission Hospital (AMH): +973 17 253-447; plus Saar Medical and Dental Center, a satellite clinic: +973 17 790-025 - Bahrain’s oldest hospital is located on Shaikh Isa al Kabeer Road in central Manama. The AMH Urgent Care unit has a doctor on 24-hour duty. It provides general practitioner services and specialty services in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology and general surgery including physiotherapy and dietitian services. Medical and dental care (including pharmacy) are available at both AMH in central Manama and at AMH Saar Medical and Dental Center located in the Saar area. AMH and Saar Medical Clinic are not staffed or equipped for cardiac, trauma or emergency care. AMH is a private, not-for-profit hospital.

Awali Hospital: +973 17 757 600 - Awali hospital is a private hospital primarily staffed by Western doctors, nurses and midwives. It provides general practitioner services and specialty services in internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics, gynecology, and general surgery including physiotherapy and dietitian services. Awali Hospital is not staffed or equipped for cardiac, stroke, major trauma, or emergency care.

Bahrain Defense Force Hospital (BDF): +973 17 766 555 – (This is the Private Practice Appointment number for all Non-Bahrainis/Expatriates. Main switchboard is 1766 3366, which will refer callers to all departments.) BDF Hospital is one of the government hospitals. It is located in Riffa and has a modern, state-of-the-art Coronary Care Unit. The Al-Khalifa Cardiac Care Center is in a separate building that is joined to the main hospital by a walkway. Various specialist services are available, as well as a full service emergency department and intensive care unit.

Bahrain Specialist Hospital (BSH): +973 17 812 000 - BSH is a private hospital located in Juffair. It has several specialties including cardiology, endocrinology, gastroenterology as well as internal medicine, general surgery, pediatrics, and orthopedics. Bahrain Specialist Hospital has a full-service emergency room and intensive care unit.

International Hospital of Bahrain (IHB): +973 17 598 222 - IHB is a private hospital located on Budaiya highway and has several specialties to include general surgery, obstetrics, gynecology, pediatrics, and a full service emergency room and intensive care unit.

King Hamad University Hospital (KHUH): + (973) 17 444 777 – KHUH, the newest hospital in Bahrain, opened in 2012. This tertiary government facility has most medical specialties and subspecialties. Though without 24/7 neurosurgical assets, it is the recommended facility for trauma management. A blood bank is located here, as is the country’s only hyperbaric chamber. An oncology center, planned to open in 2016/17, will be the largest in the Middle East.

Royal Bahrain Hospital (RBH): (+973) 1724-69-01 – RBH is located less than five minutes from the Embassy, and it has a small emergency room. Due to its proximity and excellent working relationship with the Embassy’s Health Unit, RBH is often utilized for laboratory and routine radiologic examinations by the Embassy.

Salmaniya Medical Center (SMC): SMC main switch is 1728 8888. (This is the SMC telephone number but the receptionist may answer as Ministry Of Health. This number will direct you to any Department in SMC.) SMC is the main Bahrain Government Hospital with over 1,000 beds providing many specialist medical services. SMC has full emergency and ambulance services, as well as an intensive care unit. Stroke patients are likely best served at this facility.

Gulf Dental Hospital: +973 17 741 444 - Provides all types of specialized dental treatments.

Seef Dental Centre: +973 1758 7991 - Provides all types of specialized dental treatments.

Additional information concerning all of these facilities and more can be obtained from the Embassy’s Health Unit.

Available Air Ambulance Services

International SOS: +971 4 601 8777 – International SOS maintains a dedicated fleet of air ambulances that provide evacuation services worldwide. http://www.internationalsos.com.

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Bahrain.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Manama Country Council currently meets monthly and has approximately 500 members. Please contact OSAC’s Middle East & North Africa team, or the council,with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

Street Address: Building No. 979
Road 3119, Block 331
Zinj District
Manama - Kingdom of Bahrain

Embassy Contact Numbers

Emergency requests after-hours will be handled by the Embassy Duty Officer.  In case of an emergency after hours, call the Embassy switchboard and follow the recorded instructions to speak to the U.S. Marine Security Guard on duty.

Working Hours: (+973) 1724-2700
After Hours: (+973) 1727-5126
Fax: (+973) 1727-2594
Vonage Lines from U.S. (202)-536-4783; (202)-536-3053; (202)-536-2354; (202)-448-5131
All consular services are by appointments only.
Website: https://bh.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

American citizens arriving in Bahrain for an extended stay should enroll with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

Additional Resources

Bahrain Country Information Sheet