2010-2019 | Backing dictatorships | Bahrain

Horse trading with a tyrant

King Hamad with Theresa May a year earlier –
 No 10 – CC BY-NC-ND 2.0- via Flickr.

[ 1 October 2017 ]

On 1 October 2017, Queen Elizabeth gifted a three year old prize stallion to Bahrain’s murderous tyrant, King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa. The horse was handed over in a formal ceremony by the British ambassador to Bahrain during a show from the Royal Stables.1 It was a clear and deliberate indication that the British government was keen to deepen ties. A month earlier Amnesty International had issued a damning report declaring that the situation in the country had ‘rapidly deteriorated into a full-blown human rights crisis.’

It accused the regime of ‘dramatically’ escalating a clampdown on dissent, including the closure of the country’s last independent newspaper, Al Wasat, and the use of arbitrary arrest, disappearances, torture and rape to silence democracy activists. It added that the security forces had ‘increasingly used excessive force, beating peaceful protesters, firing shotguns and semi-automatic rifles,’ which had resulted in the death of ‘six people, including one child, and injured hundreds.’ Even those who escaped injury or the much feared disappearances, faced little prospect of justice before Bahrain’s courts, which knowingly accepting coerced confessions as evidence and frequently handed down death sentences.2 The British government, however, remained exuberant at the prospect of strengthening its business and strategic relations with the Bahraini dictatorship and the gift of the stallion was seen as a green light from the British government, indicating that the brutal crackdown on democracy would not negatively affect relations.


  1. Jamie Merril, ‘Queen Accused of Horse Trading with Bahrain on Human Rights,’ Middle East Eye, 4 October 2017 accessed online at url https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/queen-accused-horse-trading-bahrain-human-rights
  2. ‘Bahrain: “No one can Protect You:” Bahrain’s Year of Crushing Dissent,’ Amnesty International, 7 September 2017, Index number: MDE 11/6790/2017 https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/mde11/6790/2017/en/

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