Bahrain was controlled by the Portuguese from 1521 until 1602. The Khalifa family gained control in 1783 and has ruled since that date. British assistance was sought to retain independence and from 1861 until 1971 Bahrain was in all but name a British protectorate. Bahrain declared its independence in 1971. Sheikh Isa bin Salman Al-Khalifa became the Amir. A constitution was ratified in June 1973 providing for a National Assembly of 30 members, popularly elected for a four-year term, together with all members of the cabinet (appointed by the Amir). However, in 1975 the National Assembly was dissolved and the Amir began ruling by decree. In 1987 the main island was joined to the Saudi mainland by a causeway. In Feb. 2002 Bahrain became a kingdom, with the Amir proclaiming himself king. In Feb. and March 2011 there were popular anti-government protests in the capital, Manama, echoing similar demonstrations in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. A state of emergency, imposed in March 2011 at the height of the protests, was lifted seven weeks later.
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