Outrage at royal wedding invite for Bahrain king
‘Tyrant with fresh blood on his hands’ threatens to overshadow William and Kate's big day
Prince William and Kate Middleton's royal wedding next month is threatening to descend into a nasty diplomatic incident after one of the supposed guests, King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, responded to calls for greater democracy in the Gulf island-state with a vicious crackdown on protesters.
The detention of at least six opposition politicians, and reports of three civilians dying as a result of heavy-handed police raids, have brought condemnation of Bahrain's Sunni rulers today from the UN's human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay. "This is "shocking and illegal conduct," she said.
As the New Statesman puts it, "How does the Queen justify her invitation to an unelected tyrant with fresh blood on his hands?"
Buckingham Palace refused to confirm to The First Post on whether the King of Bahrain would be attending the royal wedding. However, the London media have been reporting since last month that he is among 40 or so "crowned heads" who have been invited.
Before today's UN statement, the pressure group Republic had already sent a letter to William and Kate requesting that the invitation to the King of Bahrain and to "any other Middle Eastern despot" be withdrawn immediately.
"I am sure you were as appalled and disgusted as I was at the news that the King of Bahrain has crushed a peaceful pro-democracy rally with tanks and live ammunition, killing a number of protesters," the letter reads.
"Clearly then it would send an appalling message to the world were any dictators of the Middle East - royal or otherwise - seen enjoying the hospitality of your family and rubbing shoulders with Hollywood stars and politicians at your wedding."
Mehdi Hasan writes in the New Statesman that the royal couple "risk having their much-awaited, much-discussed wedding being overshadowed by the (inevitable) protests against their VIP guests from the Middle East - the kings of Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabi and the rest. What is Wills and Kate's defence? How does the Queen justify her invitation to an unelected tyrant with fresh blood on his hands?"
Catherine Mayer writes in Time magazine: "[The King] may feel tempted by the idea of enjoying respite in a country where republican protests remain polite... But Al Khalifa's presence would be as uncomfortable at the wedding as the Ancient Mariner's and leaving his kingdom might prove as foolhardy as shooting an albatross."
If Twitter is anything to go by, the strength of feeling could lead to massive protests on the day of the wedding.
One user has posted: "Hey, what's a massacre of a few subjects between friends?" Another writes: "To invite murderers and despots must be a FIRST for a Royal wedding. Hope you get a nice present!" And another: "How many Shia carcasses wound round the axles of BAe armoured cars before King of Bahrain's Royal Wedding invite is withdrawn? Lots, I bet."
If Al Khalifa does go to the wedding, he will at least have the support of the Saudi king, Abdullah, who is propping up his regime in Bahrain by providing Saudi troops.
However, in the opaque tradition of monarchies the world over, this controversy could be sorted out behind the scenes long before April 29. Buckingham Palace's policy of refusing to release an official guest list beforehand may offer a face-saving way out for all concerned.
In the meantime, the Foreign Office told The First Post that the event was a "not a state occasion" and therefore couldn¹t comment on the suitability of guests. It is "a private wedding so invitations are down to Clarence House". ·
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