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King Hamad Al Khalifa

Royalty

Born: 28 February 1950
Birthplace: Riffa, Bahrain
Best known as: Emir, then king, of Bahrain from 1999-present
Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is the latest head of the family that since 1783 has ruled the country of Bahrain, an archipelago of 30 islands tucked in a gulf between Saudia Arabia and Qatar. King Hamad, whose earlier posts included that of defense minister (1971-1988), became emir in 1999 upon the death of his father. His title changed to King in 2002, when Bahrain, formerly an emirate, became a constitutional monarchy. The Khalifa family is of the Sunni branch of Islam, and the fact that most Bahranis are Shiite Muslims has contributed to political tensions, including those in which government forces fired on apparently peacful protesters in February 2011. The protests were a symptom of the country's religious divide, but they were also a call for greater democracy. In that way they resembled the secular uprisings that swept Tunisia, Egypt and Lybia in early 2011.
Extra credit: The number and names of King Hamad's wives vary among Internet sources. His official biography says he "married his cousin" on 9 October 1968; this is apparently Princess Sabika bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa. They have three sons, including Hamad's eldest, Shaikh Salman, born 21 Octoer 1969, now Bahrain's crown prince; and one daughter. King Hamad has other sons and daughters with at least two other wives.

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