Hamad bin Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa (Arabic: حمد بن عيسى بن سلمان آل خليفة Ḥamad bin ʿĪsā bin Salmān ʾĀl Ḫalīfah; born 28 January 1950) is the King of Bahrain (since 14 February 2002), having previously been its Emir (from 6 March 1999). He is the son of Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, the previous Emir. The country has been run by the al-Khalifa dynasty since 1783.
Critics have described King Hamad's reign as authoritarian or dictatorial, and his Sunni government's treatment of Bahrain's Shia majority has been called into question. During the Bahraini uprising, protestors have called for an end to King Hamad's reign, and the government has been called out for gross human rights violations and the murder of protestors and civilians. Bahraini security forces have been criticized for the indiscriminate abduction and torture of dissidents.
Early life and education
Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was born on 28 January 1950 in Riffa, Bahrain. His parents were Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa who in 1950 was the Crown Prince and Hessa bint Salman Al Khalifa. After attending Manama Secondary School in Bahrain, Hamad was sent to England to complete the remainder of his education. He attended Applegarth College in Godalming, Surrey before taking a place at The Leys School in Cambridge. Hamad then underwent military training, first with the British Army at Mons Officer Cadet School at Aldershot in Hampshire, graduating in September 1968. Four years later in June 1972 Hamad attended the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, graduating the following June with a degree in leadership.
Hamad was designated as heir apparent by his father on 27 June 1964. In 1968 King Hamad was appointed as the Chairman of the Irrigation Council and Manama Municipal Council. He was commissioned into the Bahrain National Guard on 16 February 1968 and appointed as its commander the same year, remaining in that post until 1969 when he was appointed as the Commander-in-Chief of the Bahrain Defence Force. In 1970 King Hamad became the head of the Bahraini Department of Defence and the Vice-Chairman of the Administrative Council, remaining in both offices until 1971. From 1971 to 1988 he was the Minister of State for Defence.
In October 1977, Hamad started learning to fly helicopters, successfully completing the training in January 1978. He then worked to establish the Bahrain Amiri Air Force which came into being in 1987 when the Defence Force air wing was reconstituted as an air force.
On the death of his father Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa, Hamad became Emir of Bahrain on 6 March 1999. As Emir, Hamad brought several political reforms to Bahrain. These included the release of all political prisoners, the dissolution of the State Security Court and the abolition of the 1974 Decree on State Security Measures. Additionally, many Bahraini citizens were permitted to return after several years in exile overseas. In 2002 he declared himself king. He enjoys wide executive authorities which include appointing the Prime Minister and his ministers, commanding the army, chairing the Higher Judicial Council, appointing the parliament's upper half and dissolving its elected lower half.(p. 15)
After Hamad took power in 1999, he focused on attaining stability in a nation riddled with profound tensions after the 1990s uprising. The King succeeded in improving the living standards and in making Bahrain a financial hub. During the period 2003-2010 majority Shi'ite community accused his government of corruption, discrimination in housing and jobs, recruiting foreigners in military service and bringing Sunni tribes from Asia to change the demographic composition of the nation.
During Hamad's reign, the Shi'ite majority took some positions in the government who still called for improving the entire political system and equitable distribution of positions and jobs. The Al Khalifa family lead a large number of ministerial and governmental posts including Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of foreign affairs, general organization for youth and sport, Bahrain Economic development board and Supreme council for women. Also, positions of power in Bahrain Defence Force in the country are filled with Sunnis, a minority that make around 30% of the population. Information affairs authority had been separated from the Ministry of information and led by a member of Al Khalifa family too. Opposition claimed that this is a nepotism which marginalizing the people. Hamad claims that he is giving an equal chance to all Bahrainis regardless of their sect.
In October 2010, Hamad's government accused 24 Shi'ite Bahraini citizens of forming a terrorist cell linked to Iran and trained in Syria for overthrowing the regime and planning terrorist attacks. Opposition parties denounced the accusations and described it as propaganda. After a few weeks, tension rose again after controversial Bahraini parliamentary election, 2010 when the main opposition bloc Al Wefaq National Islamic Society with secularist National Democratic Action Society (Waad) complained that the election system is unfair and that aims to reduce the number of opposition chairs in the parliament, although the first party won nearly 40% of the available seats.
On 14 February 2011, the tenth anniversary of a referendum in favour of the National Action Charter, and ninth anniversary of writing Constitution of 2002, Bahrain was rocked by protests inspired by the Arab Spring and coordinated by a Facebook page named "Day of Rage in Bahrain", a page that was liked by tens of thousands just one week after its creation. The Bahrain government responded with what has been described as a "brutal" crackdown on the protests, including violations of human rights that caused anger. Later on, demonstrators demanded Hamad to step down. As a result of this "massive" crackdown, Foreign Policy Magazine classified him as rank 3 out of 8 of "America's Unsavory Allies" calling him "one of the bad guys the U.S. still supports".
On 11 February,King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa ordered that 1,000 Bahraini dinars (approximately US$2,667) be given to "each family" to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the National Action Charter referendum. Agence France-Presse linked the BD1,000 payments to the 14 February demonstration plans.
On 15 February 2011, Hamad apologized for the deaths of two demonstrators on a rare TV speech and urged to investigate the incident. Two days later, four protesters were killed and hundreds wounded when protesters were attacked in Pearl Roundabout at 3:00 A.M local time. The Pearl Roundabout was evacuated and encircled by the Bahraini army. Two days later, Prince Salman, Hamad's son, ordered the withdrawal of army troops from there after death of another protester by live ammunition next to Pearl roundabout. Later on, Hamad showed restraint while demonstrations against him continued for several weeks.
During the peak of the Bahraini uprising in mid March 2011, Hamad declared State of National Safety for three months just after Salman summoned Peninsula Shield Force troops to enter Bahrain. Saudi Arabia deployed about 1,000 troops with armored support, and the United Arab Emirates deployed about 500 police officers. Opposition parties reacted strongly, calling it an "occupation". Hamad, however, claimed that he deployed the troops to "protect infrastructure and to secure key installations". After this step, the country's economy suffered losses estimated at billions. Also, the security situation deteriorated in areas that people were demonstrating against him. While dozens of deaths were announced including five whom died in custody due to torture.
On 1 June 2011, protests erupted across Shia-dominated areas of Bahrain to demand Hamad's resignation and to end martial law as he announced that state of emergency was officially lifted.
In June 2011 Hamad commissioned the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry headed by respected human rights lawyer M. Cherif Bassiouni to look into the events surrounding the unrest. The establishment of the BICI was praised by Barack Obama and the international community as a step towards establishing responsibility and accountability for the events of the 2011-2012 Bahraini uprising. The BICI reported its findings in November 2011 and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “commend[ed] King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s initiative in commissioning it”. In August 2012, Amnesty International stated that "the government’s response has only scratched the surface of these issues. Reforms have been piecemeal, perhaps aiming to appease Bahrain’s international partners, and have failed to provide real accountability and justice for the victims."
Relations with the British royal family
Hamad was invited to the royal wedding of Prince William of Wales and Kate Middleton. He declined amidst protests by human rights activists who had pledged to disrupt his stay in Britain because of his violent response to demonstrators. Earlier in 2005, he was the only sovereign head of state to attend the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales, and Camilla Parker Bowles.
His attendance at the May 2012 Sovereign Monarchs lunch, to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II caused some controversy, given criticisms of his regime’s human rights record.
Hamad has four wives and in total twelve children, seven sons and five daughters:
- He married his first wife, Sabika bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, at Rifa’a on 9 October 1968. Together they have three sons and one daughter:
- Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (born 21 October 1969)
- Abdullah Bin Hamad Bin Isa Al-Khalifa (born 30 June 1975)
- Khalifa bin Hamad Al Khalifa (born 4 June 1977)
- Najla bint Hamad Al Khalifa (born 20 May 1981)
- His second wife, Sheia bint Hassan Al-Khrayyesh Al-Ajmi, is a lady from Kuwait. Together they have two sons:
- Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa (born 8 May 1987)
- Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa (born 23 September 1989)
- His third wife,a lady from Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, with whom he has two sonsand four daughters:
- Sheikh Faisal bin Hamad Al Khalifa (12 February 1992 – 12 January 2006), died in a fatal car accident
- Noora bint Hamad Al Khalifa born in 1993
- He also has fourth wife,a lady from Bahrain and they have 2 daughtersand 1 son and they are:
- Hessa bint Hamad Al Khalifa born in 1993
- Sultan bin Hamad Al Khalifa
- Reema bint Hamad Al Khalifa
Titles and styles
- 28 January 1950 – 16 December 1961: AlMalik ( King ) Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
- 16 December 1961 – 27 June 1964: His Excellency Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa
- 27 June 1964 – 6 March 1999: His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Heir Apparent of Bahrain
- 6 March 1999 – 14 February 2002: His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, Emir of Bahrain
- 14 February 2002 – present: His Majesty Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain
Honours and awards
His Majesty King Hamad has received numerous honours, for example:
- Grand Cordon of the Order of the Star of Jordan (1 February 1967)
- Order of the Two Rivers, 1st class (Iraq, 22 February 1969)
- Order of the Mohammedi (Morocco, 16 October 1970)
- Grand Cordon of the Supreme Order of the Renaissance (Jordan, 1 September 1972)
- Collar of the Order of the Republic (Egypt) (24 January 1973)
- Revoked: Collar of the Order of the Crown (Iran, 28 April 1973)
- Collar of Abdulaziz al Saud (Saudi Arabia, 4 April 1976)
- Star of the Republic of Indonesia, 1st class (8 October 1977)
- Order of the Republic of Mauritania, 1st class (4 April 1978)
- Honorary Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (UK, 15 February 1979)
- Grand Conqueror of Libya, 1st class (1 September 1979)
- Order of Zayed the Great of the UAE (2.2.2005)
- Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (2006)
- Order of the Republic of the Yemen, 1st class (25.3.2010)
- Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog of Denmark (4.2.2011)
- Grand Cross of the National Order of Merit of France
- Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Isabella the Catholic
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- BICI (23 November 2011). "(Report). Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry. 23 November 2011.". BICI. http://files.bici.org.bh/BICIreportEN.pdf. Retrieved 23 November 2011.
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- Staff writer (18 February 2011). "Bahrain Mourners Call for End to Monarchy – Mood of Defiance Against Entire Ruling System After Brutal Attack on Pearl Roundabout Protest Camp That Left at Least Five Dead". London: Associated Press (via The Guardian). Archived from the original on 18 February 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/18/bahrain-mourners-call-downnfall-monarchy. Retrieved 31 March 2011.
- URI FRIEDMAN (28 October 2011). "America's Unsavory Allies". Foreign Policy. http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/10/28/america_unsavory_allies?page=0,2. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
- France 24 (11 February 2011). "bahrains king gifts 3000 every family". France 24. http://www.france24.com/en/20110211-bahrains-king-gifts-3000-every-family. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
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- Andrew Malcolm (2 July 2011). "Jay Carney says vacationing Obama welcomes new democratic dialogue in Bahrain". PUBLISHER. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2011/07/vacationing-obama-bahrain-jay-carney.html.
- AUTHOR (30 June 2001). "Bahrain - Alistair Burt welcomes independent commission". Foreign & Commonwealth Office. http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=News&id=624443882.
- Hillary Rodham Clinton (23 November 2011). "Release of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) Report". U.S. Department of State. http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2011/11/177735.htm.
- "Urgent action: Bahraini activist sentenced to three years". Amnesty International. 21 August 2012. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- "Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Muslim leaders invited to royal wedding". The Times Of India. 26 April 2011. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/news-by-industry/et-cetera/hindu-jain-sikh-muslim-leaders-invited-to-royal-wedding/articleshow/8088464.cms.
- Daily Telegraph 18 May 2012 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/queen-elizabeth-II/9274690/King-of-Bahrain-lunches-with-Queen-as-human-rights-storm-rages.html