Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa
A Bahraini minister lost her job after refusing to shake hands with the ambassador of Israel, which has ties with the tiny island kingdom.
A Bahraini minister has been sacked after refusing to shake hands with the country’s Israeli ambassador, sparking outrage and solidarity worldwide.
Sheikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, now former president of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities - a ministerial position - was dismissed by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa after refusing to shake hands with Tel Aviv’s envoy to Manama, Eitan Na'eh, during a funeral last month, according to reports.
The incident took place on 16 June at the residency of the US ambassador to Bahrain, who was holding a funeral for his father. When introduced to one another, Sheikha Mai refused to shake hands with Na’eh, exited the premises and asked the US embassy not to publish any pictures of her attendance, reports said.
After news surfaced of her dismissal, several officials and social media users poured to congratulate Sheikha Mai for her actions, and thanked her for her achievements in Bahrain’s cultural preservation.
"From my heart, many thanks for every message I received, only love protects and strengthens us," she wrote in a short message on Twitter.
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She was reportedly sacked whilst on a visit to the Balkans and Albania and replaced on 21 July by Sheikh Khalifa bin Ahmed Al Khalifa as head of the authority.
Sheikha Mai, who is also Chairperson of the Board of the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage, has worked in the media and culture field for over two decades.
Dubbed the Abraham Accords, Bahrain, along with the United Arab Emirates and Morocco normalised ties with Israel in 2020 in a highly controversial move. The agreements were widely criticised by other Arab nations and slammed by Palestinians who say such deals harm their cause.
Late last month, Bahrain hosted Arab, Israeli and US officials for joint talks, the first since the Negev Summit earlier this year.
Attending states agreed to form working groups with Israel on counter-terrorism, energy, education, tourism, health, as well as food and water security.
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