Saturday, June 29, 2013

Royal Factionalism, the Khawalid, and the Securitization of ‘the Shīʿa Problem’ in Bahrain

At long last, my article "Royal Factionalism, the Khawalid, and the Securitization of ‘the Shī'a Problem’ in Bahrain" has finally been published in the Journal of Arabian Studies.  Beyond chronicling the history and rise of the Khawalid faction of the Al Khalifa, it advances a number of new arguments.  The most important of these is that the standard dichotomy, in which the group is positioned as the ideological nemesis of the "moderate" and reformist King Hamad, is disproven by the historical record. For the latter demonstrates that the Khawalid, far from a group that has somehow commandeered the state from a well-intentioned king, in fact was actively empowered by the new Bahraini monarch following his surprise succession in 1999, as a powerful weapon with which to challenge the entrenched political position of Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman. I won't make the entire argument here, so for those interested please do see the article.

Update: Some industrious fellow(s) at the Bahrain Mirror has begun translating the entire article into Arabic (in five parts).  It even comes with a nice banner ad:


  1. Seems like a nice piece. Too bad my openathens doesn't include it. Any chance you can e-mail me a copy?

    Anyway, it is worth mentioning that the king himself is half Khawalid; his mother Hessa (or Hussa) bint Salman bin Ebrahim bin Khalid Al Khalia is the great granddaughter of Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa, the father of the Khawalids.

    Essentially Al Khalawid gradually regained their influence after Hamad's father, Isa married Hessa.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Isa bin Salman's marriage to Hessa bint Salman was aimed to reconcile between the two branches of the family, especially that her grandfather, Ebrahim (or Ibrāhīm) was convicted (but not punished) of attempting to assassinate the ruler, Hamad bin Isa bin Ali (Isa's grandfather) in 1929.

      This info is missing from your paper, please conciser it for any of your future writings. The king is half Khawalid.

    3. Hi Mohamed,

      Thanks for your post. Indeed I had missed this fact, and it is the first time I've heard it, though the lineage is clear and very indicative. Can you provide some source where I might read more?

    4. Check your e-mail.

      Small correction: According to same source, the Khawalid began gaining influence after Charles Belgrave left Bahrain in 1957 and more-so after Independence in 1971.

  2. Hi Justin. Congrats on the article finally being published. I have recently been researching early 20th century Bahrain and the history of the Khawalid for my dissertation in the India Office Records at the British library so naturally your piece is of great interest to me. Unfortunately I too can't get access to the article through my institution (SOAS). Could you possibly email me a copy too?

  3. Another mistake in your paper, found while starting to write the article I told you about.

    Brothers Khalid and Khalifa bin Ahmed are not the uncles of Ahmed bin Atiyatallah and his brother Mohammad (as Bahrain Mirror wrongly reports), rather they're cousins. Khalid and Khalifa's mother is called Mariam bint Nasser Al-Suwaidi. Her sister Moza bint Nasser Al-Suwaidi is the mother of Ahmed and Mohammad bin Atiyatallah.

    Hence Al Khawalid are also known as decedents of "Al-Suwaidi daughters" (Arabic: أولاد بنات السويدي) as Dr Salah al-Bandar called them in one of his posts in Bahrain Online: Look at post #23 to see an explanation by al-Bander himself:

    Al-Bandar gives the name of the first sister as Moneera instead of Mariam, but I think he's wrong. He also calls them decedents of Sultan Al-Suwaidi, instead of Nasser. I don't know if Sultan is the grandfather as I don't have Al-Suwaidi family tree.

    I'd love to share my source, but I've been strongly instructed not to. See more here:

  4. Also, the younger Ali bin Khalid, which you said we know nothing about is actually mentioned in Diaries of Belgrave pages 159, 162, 351 and 471.

  5. Good sources that covered the history of Al Khawalid include:
    * Mahdi Abdalla Al-Tajir (1987). Bahrain, 1920–1945: Britain, the Shaikh, and the Administration. ISBN 0-7099-5122-1
    * Mohammed Ghanim Al-Rumaihi (1975). Bahrain: A study on social and political changes since the First World War. University of Kuwait.

  6. Also see this 2007 Los Angeles Time article on Al Khawalid. It even includes an interview with a "ranking government official who is a member of the royal family"

  7. Hey justin , did you catch the news about the "Bahrini tamarud"?