2022 Portfolios: Sheikha Mai Removed from the Culture Authority, Dr. Nader Kadhim Detained and Fired

2023-12-10 - 4:31 p

Bahrain Mirror (2022 Portfolios): Almost simultaneously, the year 2022 witnessed the dismissal of the President of the Authority for Culture and Antiquities in Bahrain, Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, on July 21, 2022, and the arrest and detention of prominent academic Dr. Nader Kadhim on July 20, 2022, for a week, followed by his termination from his position as a professor at the University of Bahrain. In this context, it was reported that Sheikha Mai's dismissal was due to her refusal to shake hands with the Israeli ambassador in Manama, Eitan Na'eh, during the funeral of the father of the U.S. ambassador to Manama, Steven Bondy. She also opposed a government project to establish a "Jewish neighborhood" in the capital, Manama.

Regarding Kadhim, he underwent hours of questioning about his views expressed in his books. It was reported that he was transferred to the hospital during his detention due to pre-existing health issues. In the explanation for his dismissal as a professor of cultural studies in the College of Arts, the University of Bahrain claimed, in a letter sent to Kadhim and shared on social media, that there was "no academic need for his department due to the lack of academic staff to teach."

The public prosecutor's office refrained from commenting on the matter, which became a topic of discussion in Bahraini society, and no statement was issued regarding his case and the nature of the charges under which he was detained.

In the course of these developments, a Twitter user openly called for Kadhi`m's "execution" and labeled him a "hypocrite and traitor." Maryam Al-Joudar, who identified herself on Twitter as a "consultant in finance and business development and a member of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry," stated, "If I were from the government, I would execute him in Manama Souq to teach them that there is no country that tolerated hypocrites and traitors as much as Bahrain did." Later, a government entity intervened to prevent a seminar by Kadhim at the Bahrain History and Antiquities Society scheduled for October 12.

King Hamad of Bahrain issued a decree appointing Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa as the president of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, succeeding Sheikha Mai. Sheikha Mai had worked in media and culture for over 20 years, during which she consistently maintained a controversial persona, empowered by her royal background, enabling her to challenge ministers under whom she worked.

Responding to the information circulating about her dismissal, the National Communication Center issued a statement denying "incorrect interpretations" regarding recent changes in leadership positions in various ministries and public sector entities in Bahrain, including the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities. The statement mentioned that the extensive changes announced this week in several ministries and government entities came after the largest cabinet reshuffle in the kingdom's history, which saw changes in 17 out of 22 ministerial positions.

Employees of the Authority for Culture and Antiquities bid farewell to their former president Sheikha Mai by forming an honor corridor with escalating applause upon her entrance. Sheikha Mai made a point of shaking hands with all employees while tears flowed from the eyes of the female staff during their embrace with her. Videos circulated on social media showed Sheikha Mai attempting to conceal her emotions as she wiped away the tears of the female employees. She had struggled to separate the cultural sector from the media and grant it independent ministry status, achieving this in 2008 before the ministry was later abolished and transformed into an authority in 2015.

Minister of Information Nabeel Al-Hamar expressed annoyance at her disdain and resistance to his decisions, while ministers Dr. Mohammed bin Abdulghaffar and Jihad Bukamal complained about her non-attendance at the coordinating meetings to which they invited her. Meanwhile, she accused all of them of blatant interference in her work and hindering her movements. To break free from the dominance of the Information Ministers over her actions, she relied on the "Tamkeen" Fund in addition to the private sector to finance the cultural projects she launched, such as the "Culture Spring" and "Bahrain Summer." She was relieved of her position when she served as the assistant undersecretary for the culture sector at the Ministry of Information due to a dispute with the minister. She was later reinstated and promoted to minister.

Sheikha Mai was preparing her daughter, Sheikha Hala bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, to succeed her in the presidency of the Authority for Culture and Antiquities. She brought her from Qatar, where she had worked for about 7 years (2008-2015), to assume the position of Director-General of Culture and Arts and be her right-hand woman in transforming the ministry into an authority. Despite Israel's endorsement of her Bahraini candidacy for the position of Secretary-General of the World Tourism Organization in 2021, she did not meet with any Israeli officials who visited the country since the normalization steps began, in contrast to other ministries and entities.

Arabic Version