King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa became head of state as the emir of Bahrain after the 1999 death of his father, Sheikh Isā ibn Sulmān Āl Khalīfah, and then proclaimed himself king in 2002. He is the eldest son of the late Amir of Bahrain, Shaikh Isa bin Salman Al Khalifa. He was born in Riffa in January 1950. At the age of six, he began his primary education in Bahrain in addition to reciting the Holy Quran and studying the principles of Islam and the Arabic language at the hands of professionals in the field of Islamic studies. This education had a positive impact on his mastering of Arabic and his appreciation of Arabic poetry, especially Nabati and Bedouin poetry.
His Majesty was keen to attend the open court sessions with the people of his late father to listen attentively to traditional stories and legends about heroes, nations, incidents and factors that contributed to victory or resulted in defeat. The King also expressed keenness to learn swimming, horse riding and target shooting from expert trainers, which had a major influence in planting the seeds of his interest in sports and his patronage of sportsmen.
A brief introduction of Bahrain
Bahrain has been one of the Gulf’s most important commercial crossroads for over 4,000 years. The word Bahrain means ‘two seas’ in Arabic, indicating how the country’s geographic position as a collection of islands has been important throughout the history. As the land of the ancient Dilmun civilization, Bahrain has long been a trading center linking east and west. Bahrain was the first Gulf state to discover oil, in 1932, and since then, it has led the regional transition to a modern economy. In 2002, Bahrain became a constitutional monarchy, and a democratically elected parliament was established. This marked the beginning of a period of on-going reform. Manama is the capital of Bahrain and also its largest city. Manama enjoys a distinct reputation as a tourism and cultural hub regionally and internationally, as shown by its selection as the Capital of Arab Culture in 2012, and Capital of Arab Tourism in 2013, and Capital of Asian Tourism in 2014.
Following the completion of primary education with honors, he was proclaimed Crown Prince in June 1964. He completed his secondary schooling from Leys public school in Cambridge, England, returning to Bahrain in the summer of 1967. He joined the Mons Officer Cadet School at Aldershot in England graduating in September 1968. He also studied at Sandhurst Academy.
On his return, he played an active role in preparing the outline of the Bahrain Defence Force (BDF) which was bolstered by an Amiri Charter issued in August 1968 that created the BDF. king Hamad married his cousin in October 1968, a union which bore him Shaikh Salman in October 1969, Shaikh Abdullah in June 1975, Shaikh Khalifa in June 1977, and Shaikha Najla in May 1981.
He was appointed head of the Defense Directorate and became a member of the State Council which was established in January 1970. He became Minister of Defense in August 1971, when the Cabinet was formed and continued holding the post until the formation of the current Cabinet. In June 1972, he joined the US Army Command and Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, the United States of America. He was awarded the Freedom Medal of Kansas city from the Mayor and people of Kansas city.
He attained the National Diploma in military administration in May 1972, from the Industrial College for the Military Forces in Washington. In June 1973, he graduated with honors from Fort Leavenworth with a degree in leadership. He was awarded the military honor certificate from the United States of America for his achievements in military affairs since 1968 and his name was enlisted in the college’s lieutenant honors list.
After his return from the US, he took active part in the country’s development and expansion process in general and the BDF in particular. His efforts covered various fields including the culture, sports, military, technology and health sciences. In June 1974, he was appointed deputy to the Head of the Al Khalifa Family Council following an Amiri decree issued in this context. As emir, amad made efforts to improve Bahrain’s relations with Qatar, strained by a long-running territorial dispute over the awār Islands. The initiation of high-level official contacts between the two countries in 1999 led to the resolution of the dispute in 2001. amad also implemented some domestic reforms, releasing many political prisoners and repealing the State Security Law, which had given the government wide powers of arrest and detention. In late 2000 he directed the drafting of the National Action Charter, which articulated the goals of establishing an elected parliament and a constitutional monarchy in Bahrain. It was overwhelmingly approved by a national referendum in 2001.
In 2002 amad promulgated a new constitution that declared Bahrain a constitutional monarchy and gave amad the title of king. Although the 2002 constitution contained provisions guaranteeing Bahrainis’ civil rights without discrimination based on religion or sex, it did little to advance political reform, creating a weak parliament and leaving governing authority in the hands of the king and the royal family. Sectarian and political tension remained high in Bahrain in spite of amad’s reforms, and demonstrations by human rights activists and members of Bahrain’s marginalized Shīite majority occurred frequently from 2004 to 2010.
Amad’s rule was challenged in February 2011 when demonstrators inspired by pro-democracy uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt began staging large rallies in Bahrain to call for political and economic reform and protest discrimination against the Shīite community. When two protesters were killed by police, amad gave a televised address to express regret over the deaths and vowed that the government would continue to introduce reform gradually. However, Bahraini security forces continued to violently suppress demonstrations, attracting criticism from human rights groups and some foreign leaders. In March Bahrain invited a force of 2,000 soldiers from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to help quell unrest.
In September this year, he was in Russia on a working visit during which he visited the Army-2016 international military technology forum and acquainted himself with Russian defence industry products. He held a fruitful meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin and in the presence of the heads of state, intergovernmental agreements were signed on the establishment of the Intergovernmental Russian-Bahraini Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technological Cooperation, and on military cooperation. Memorandums of understanding were also signed to expand cooperation in the sphere of liquefied natural gas and strengthen partnership in geophysical research in oil and natural gas exploration and production.