I think almost no one even heard of the Shi’a except maybe in Iran and Lebanon, until after the removal of Saddam. Most people probably did not know Iraq was a Shi’ite majority country until after the removal of Saddam or maybe until the elections.
The majority of Iraqis are Shi’a, whether the Arab neighbors like it or not, and they do not. Of course, Iran is majority Shi’ite, and one thing that the Sunni Arabs like to do is say that all Shi’a are Persian or Iranian and this makes them more of foreigners than anything else. This is of course not true it is just slander from hateful people. Bahrain is majority Shi’ite, although it is ruled by the Sunni Khalifa family. They face discrimination in many ways from the ruling regime. The other country with a definite Shi’ite majority is Azerbaijan. In Lebanon, the Shi’a are the biggest of many groups but not more than 50% of the population.
In other Arab countries there are Shi’ite populations that are minorities but significant. In Saudi Arabia there are many Shi’a, and many are in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, which has a lot of oil. The Saudis are Wahhabis and so they hate all of the Shi’a and also for that matter hate all people who are not Wahhabis, although Shi’a are the worst to them usually, sometimes even worse than Jews. There is also a big Shi’ite minority in Kuwait. Kuwait is ruled by the Sunni Sabah family and Shi’ites in Kuwait and all Kuwaitis actually got some more rights after the US kicked out Saddam’s occupation of Kuwait in 1991 and then the US forced the Kuwaitis to be a little bit more democratic.
Outside of the Arab countries, there is a significant Shi’ite minority in Pakistan and also in Afghanistan. Right now there is a Grand Ayatollah who is Pakistani (Bashir al-Najafi) and another who is Afghan (Mohammad al-Fayadh), and both live in Najaf. India, which has the biggest Muslim population in the world except for Indonesia, also has a Shi’ite population in its Muslim population.
So there is some information for you. I think that more and more people will be learning about the Shi’a because the Shi’a are important and powerful now that there is a democracy in Iraq. A lot of Arabs and other Sunnis outside of Iraq and other Sunnis really don’t know much about the Shi’a and I have even learned this by talking to some of them.