April 18, 2015 -- Updated 4:10 pm GMT

World Monarchs Gather for Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee

Friday saw a major event in the history of royalty – monarchs and other royals from 25 countries gathering for Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. It is not often so many royals, let alone monarchs, are together for the same moment. But for this occasion, it was worth it.

Worlds Monarchs 300x197 World Monarchs Gather for Queen Elizabeth IIs Diamond Jubilee

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An Emperor, Kings, former Kings, Queens, Princes, Sultans, an Emir, a Grand Duke, monarchs to-be, and siblings of monarchs came to Windsor Castle for a luncheon. They were greeted by Her Majesty and her husband, Prince Philip the Duke of Edinburgh. Some simply shook her hand, some bowed or curtsied, while other kissed the Queen’s hand. Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands was the most informal, throwing her arms around her British counterpart and kissing her two cheeks.

At the Waterloo chamber, there was a pre-luncheon reception, where the royals mingled with each other and some of the British royal family. Princes William, Harry, Andrew, Edward were present, as was the Duchess of Cambridge, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, and the Countess of Wessex.

Later on, there was a sitting for an official, and historic photograph. The royals were arranged apparently according to their length of reign, or status. Those who were heirs or siblings to a monarch stood in the back row. Those who inherited their monarchies from the 1990s until recently stood in the second row. The monarchs who have been reigning for decades, or would have if their monarchies had not been abolished, sat in the third row with Queen Elizabeth. Sitting next to her on either side were the former Kings of Romania and Bulgaria. Those two men would have had longer reigns than her had they were not forced to abdicate when the communists took over their countries.

After the photograph came the official lunch, which included locally grown food. For the appetizer, there was a tartlet of poached egg with English asparagus. Next came the main course – new season Windsor Lamb with braised potatoes, artichokes, peas, carrots, broad beans, cabbage, and a tomato and basil salad. For dessert, there was Kent strawberries, vanilla Charlotte, dessert fruit and cheese.

Of all the countries in the world that do have monarchies, those of Bhutan, Cambodia and Oman were not present for Friday’s celebrations.

Charles Camilla 157x300 World Monarchs Gather for Queen Elizabeth IIs Diamond Jubilee

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In the evening, Prince Charles and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, had a dinner celebration at Buckingham Palace, and most of the same royals attended that one. This more elaborate banquet had Duchy of Cornwall vegetables, rhubarb Eton mess, and cheese soufflé on the menu.

Despite the celebrations and excitement surrounding Friday’s events, there was a lot of controversy involved. First, Queen Sofia of Spain pulled out due to fishing rights between her country and the United Kingdom over the British territory of Gibraltar. Spain has claimed the area as their own, and expressed dismay over the British Queen’s youngest son, Prince Edward’s visit there in the coming days.

Also, there were a lot of raised eyebrows over the guest list – especially with King Hamad al-Khalifa of Bahrain. Last year, his son Crown Prince Salman, declined to attend the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton because of concern over how the Bahraini royal family responded to the protests in their country. It is estimated about 60 people died from the crackdown.

But this year, the Bahraini King himself came to the Jubilee celebrations, and Queen Elizabeth greeted him warmly, even apparently sharing a joke with him at one point.

Many Britons were not happy.

Denis MacShane, a former Foreign Office minister, blamed the Office for inviting the King, whom some consider to be a dictator.

“Given the amount of blood on the hands of the royal regime in Bahrain it’s a shame he will stain the white linen of Windsor Castle at this event,” MacShane said.

“It’s the responsibility of the Foreign Office to decide who comes, it’s nothing to do with Her Majesty.”

But that didn’t stop the protests outside Windsor and Buckingham Palace. Even the British republican movement expressed their dismay.

Campaigner Peter Tatchell criticized the Queen for “wining and dining dictators who stand accused of very serious human rights abuse”.

He added that it was “a shocking misjudgement” that showed the Queen was “out of touch with the humanitarian values of most British people”

British Royal Military Parade 300x189 World Monarchs Gather for Queen Elizabeth IIs Diamond Jubilee

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Peter Tatchell also said, “It is very wrong that the Queen has invited seven royal dictators to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee”

“Inviting bloodstained despots brings shame to our monarchy and tarnishes the Diamond Jubilee celebrations,” he said.

Also causing controversy was inviting King Mswati III of Swaziland. The King is known to live in luxury while most of his people are in total poverty. There were demonstrations outside of his London hotel, where he is said to be staying with an entourage of 30 people.

There was also some disappointment with the presence of the Kuwaiti and Saudi royals due to their country’s poor human rights records.

The next day, Saturday, many of the royals from yesterday, returned to Windsor for the Diamond Jubilee Muster, where they were treated to a royal military parade. They watched as thousands of British troops from the Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force paraded past by to honor Queen Elizabeth’s 60 years on the throne.

Sources: BBC, Telegraph, AP

Bahraini King Imposes 3-Month State of Emergency

Posted in: Bahrain

The King of Bahrain declared Tuesday a three month martial law style order to tackle the pro-democracy uprising that the tiny Gulf nation has been experiencing for a month. King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa also gave Bahrain’s military chief the authority to combat the protesters.

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AP Photo/Hasan Jamali

It is being reported that on Monday, a parliamentary bloc urged King Hamad to enforce the state of emergency. The bloc also asked the King to set a curfew and ban all illegitimate acts which may instigate violence, terrorize people, create sectarian strife, endanger social peace and security.

The martial law will be enforced by the army, police forces, units of the National Guard and “any other force” if necessary, Bahraini state TV said.

The “any other force” might be referring to the 1,000 Saudi troops that entered the country yesterday. One soldier was shot and killed by a protester in Manama, according to a Saudi security official. If true, that means the demonstrators have taken on new tactics, whereas their slogan was “peace” and never before used weapons.

Bahrain’s opposition party, Wefaq, strongly condemned the martial law imposement.

“There is nothing you can do. The army is in control of society now,” said Jasim Hussein, a Wefaq politician.

“We condemn this and call on the international community to live up to its responsibilities.”

Sources: AP, Xinhua, Reuters

Bahraini King Dismisses Ministers as Opposition Leader Returns

Posted in: Bahrain

King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa dismissed four members of his cabinet Saturday while an opposition leader returned to Bahrain to join the thousands still protesting for the removal of the royal family.

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The King removed the ministers of housing, health, and cabinet affairs. He even expanded the portfolio of the oil and gas minister to include electricity and water, and he appointed a new minister of labor. However, these new ministers have held other government positions before.

King Hamad also announced all government housing loans would be reduced by 25%

This is a similar act done King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia earlier this week. The Bahraini King personally welcomed his Saudi counterpart home after months abroad for back surgery. Upon his return, King Abdullah gave out benefits to Saudi citizens to quench any uprising that is sweeping across the Arab world.

King Hamad also pardoned Hassan Mashaima, an oppositional leader who was in exile in Great Britain for a year. Mashaima was charged by the government for illegal organization, engaging in and financing terrorism and spreading false and misleading information. He stayed in the U.K. until he was pardoned Friday.

“The time has come for true unity and our priority today is for the opposition to sit down with the protesters at Pearl Square and clearly set our demands,” Mashaima told reporters at his home.

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AP Photo/Hasan Jamali

As for the King’s urging for dialogue on Tuesday, telling the Bahraini people “to engage in this new process” and “move away from polarization”, Mashaima doubts his words.

“They are always lying — they are promising to do something and they don’t do it,” he said about the monarchy.

“We talked about dialogue for a long time. Nobody listened, nobody heard us,” he said. “They are just listening now because of the pressure. If the pressure will finish, they will not listen again.”

Mashaima is the leader of the Haq movement, which is more hard lined than the Wefaq political party. The Haq party is against the Sunni monarchy.

Meanwhile, Pearl Square in Manama has become a makeshift camp for protesters to do their daily rallies.

On Saturday thousands began their demonstration at the Square and went on to march along a major highway chanting “leave Hamad, leave Hamad,” blocking traffic.

They then went to the the walled compound where the foreign ministry is located, chanting “Down, down Hamad!”

Then the crowd proceeded up the street, which is flanked by towering buildings housing banks, to the cries of “the people want to topple the regime!”

Sources: AFP, CNN



Saudi King Abdullah Returns Home

Posted in: Bahrain, Saudi Arabia

The King of Saudi Arabia returned to the desert kingdom Wednesday after a three month absence. King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud was recuperating in Morocco for about a month following back surgery in New York. He was welcomed with open arms by male members of the Saudi royal family. He also ordered handouts to citizens in attempt to prevent any uprising currently being seen across the Arab world.

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REUTERS/Saudi Press Agency/Handout

The octogenarian King descended from the plane on a lift before taking to a wheelchair at a Riyadh airport. Numerous male dancers doing a traditional Bedouin sword dance performed as part of the welcome-home ceremony.

Saudi Princes, such as Crown Prince Sultan, himself in poor health, hugged and kissed monarch.

Also in attendance was King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa of Bahrain. It is interesting to see him out of his Gulf country, which has seen demonstrations by its majority Shiite population, demanding for governmental reform and even removal of the monarchy.

King Hamad has close ties with his Saudi counterpart, and Saudi Arabia was concerned that what is occurring in Bahrain would spread to its country because of its Shiite minority on the east coast.

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REUTERS/Saudi Press Agency/Handout

But King Abdullah is back in Saudi Arabia to prevent such an uprising from happening. He ordered a $37 billion handout to help lower- and middle-income people in his country which included rises to offset inflation, unemployment benefits and affordable family housing.

Saudi analyst Turad al-Amri welcomed what he called “a nice gesture” from the King, but other Saudis were not so impressed. “We want rights, not gifts,” said Fahad Aldhafeeri in one typical message on Twitter.

On Facebook, which has helped organize the demonstrations in the Mideast and North Africa, disgruntled Saudis are setting up a “Day of Rage”, scheduled for March 11th. They will call for an elected ruler, greater freedom for women and the release of political prisoners.

There are reports that King Abdullah will organize a new cabinet in order to install reforms.

“They are under pressure. They have to do something. We know Saudi Arabia is surrounded by revolutions of various types, and not just in poor countries, but in some such as Libya which are rich,” said Mai Yamani, at London’s Chatham House think tank.

“Basically what the King is doing is good, but it’s an old message of using oil money to buy the silence, subservience and submission of the people,” she said. “The new generation of revolution is surrounding them from everywhere.”

Ahmad al-Omran, who runs the popular Saudi Jeans blog, had this to say about the King’s handouts and reforms: “People don’t revolt because they are hungry. People revolt because they want their dignity, because they want to govern themselves. Money won’t solve our issues. We need true political and social reform. We need freedom, justice and dignity.”

Source: Reuters

Bahraini Mourners Call for End of Monarchy

Posted in: Bahrain

As thousands of Bahrainis mourned the death of five protesters after security forces crackdown on the anti-government rallies, many began to call for an end to the monarchy. Before, the protests were for political reform, but now they have turned to removing King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa and his family from power.

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AFP/Joseph Eid

“The regime has broken something inside of me. … All of these people gathered today have had something broken in them,” said Ahmed Makki Abu Taki at the funeral for his 23-year-old brother, Mahmoud. “We used to demand for the prime minister to step down, but now our demand is for the ruling family to get out.”

“The government has shaken something inside us all and we have lost all trust in it,” Mohamed Ali, 40, a civil servant, said as he choked back tears. “Our demands were peaceful and simple at first. We wanted the prime minister to step down. Now the demands are harsher and have reached the pinnacle of the pyramid. We want the whole government to fall.”

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AP Photo/Hassan Ammar

These were such words being cried out at a Shiite mosque. Across Manama, however, at a Sunni mosque, there were rallies in favor of the al-Khalifa family, who are Sunni Muslims and have ruled Bahrain for two hundred years. Flags were being waved and portraits of King Hamad were being being held up.

“We must protect our country,” said Adnan al-Qattan, the cleric leading prayers. “We are living in dangerous times.”

Some Sunnis are concerned that if Shiites succeeded in their demands, influences from Iran would penetrate this tiny Gulf nation.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Khalid Al Khalifa made the first comment on the violent crackdowns, saying it was necessary because the demonstrators were “polarizing the country” and pushing it to the “brink of the sectarian abyss.” He went on the call the deaths, “regrettable”.

Bahrain is 70 percent Shiite and 30 percent Sunni. In the 1990s, the Shiites held similar demonstrations, demanding more rights.

Source: AP

Bahrain’s King Hamad to Look into Demonstration Deaths

Posted in: Bahrain

As anti-government protests continue in North Africa and the Middle East, the tiny Gulf kingdom of Bahrain has been no exception.

Bahraini King 300x224 Bahrains King Hamad to Look into Demonstration Deaths

AP Photo/Bahrain News Agency/FILE

On Tuesday, two Shiite protesters clashed with police in Manama and died. Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa went on television to express his condolescences.

“In light of the incidents that took place yesterday and today… There have been sadly two deaths. I express my deep condolences to their families,” he said.

The King then added: “Everyone should know that I have assigned Deputy Prime Minister Jawad Al-Orayedh to form a special committee to find out the reasons that led to such regrettable events.”

Hamad went on to insist Bahrainis about their freedoms.

“We have viable constitutional institutions and laws endorsed by the elected parliament, on organisation of peaceful protests,” he said.

Bahrain Protests 208x300 Bahrains King Hamad to Look into Demonstration Deaths

AP Photo/Hasan Jamali

“Freedom of expression is an inalienable right guaranteed by the National Action Charter and the Constitution.”

“Ten years ago, on February 14, we opened all the doors of freedom and responsibility, as a token of love and dignity for our loyal people,” the King said.

“We will continue to work together, God willing, for brighter days to come.”

Despite the constitutional efforts in 2001, Bahrain’s Shiites felt it didn’t give them a say in the country’s affairs and improve their access to government jobs.

“We’re not looking for a religious state. We’re looking for a civilian democracy … in which people are the source of power, and to do that we need a new constitution,” Wefaq, the main Shiite opposition group’s general secretary, Sheikh Ali Salman, told a news conference.

In Bahrain, Shiites make up 70 percent of the population, while the 30 percent of Sunnis get the more political power.

The government is appointed by the King while two-thirds of the ministers come from his al-Khalifa family. Parliament is based on elections, but has limited powers because an upper house is also made up of al-Khalifa kin. Wefaq has only 18 seats in Parliament.

Source: Gulf Daily News, Reuters, Foreign Policy