The Al-Khalifa family, who control Bahrain, has cracked down on dissent with little condemnation from the west
History and geography explain why Bahrain's peaceful uprising was the early exception to the "Arab spring", which began with high hopes in Tunisia and Egypt but now faces bloody uncertainties in Libya and Syria.
Sitting astride the faultline between the Shia and Sunni worlds, the small Gulf island state lies at the heart of a strategically sensitive region that is dominated by bitter rivals Iran and Saudi Arabia – both very tough neighbours.
Bahrain was always going to be a prime candidate if unrest erupted in the Arabian peninsula. But it was not easy to predict that the Al-Khalifa dynasty, Sunnis who rule over a restive 70% Shia majority, would react so brutally when protests mushroomed in February. Still, the activists who streamed to Manama's Pearl roundabout in a deliberate echo of Cairo's Tahrir Square were demanding reform, not the overthrow of the regime.
By regional standards, King Hamad was not the most repressive of rulers. Bahrain, unlike Saudi Arabia, has a parliament and a legal opposition. Bahrain's press operated within "red lines" but had a margin for manoeuvre. Expensive western PR companies were employed to promote the country's image.
Prospects for political change looked reasonable until last summer when a sudden security crackdown began. The government was alarmed by joint Shia-Sunni demands to investigate the acquisition of prime real estate by the royals: Google Earth showed just how much of the island – where public beaches are rare – was already owned by the Al-Khalifa family.
And Petition for the release of Bahraini Human Rights activist Al-Khawaja can be found here
Other human rights petitions found here