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Britain’s royal family has met members of autocratic Middle Eastern monarchies nearly once a fortnight since the crackdown on ‘Arab Spring’ protests began 10 years ago this month. Their visits have often coincided with human rights abuses in the Gulf, where pro-democracy activists are punished for criticising the Windsor ties to regimes.
The extent of support given by Britain’s royal family to repressive Middle Eastern monarchies in the decade since pro-democracy uprisings rocked the region is revealed this week in a four-part investigation by Declassified UK.
Ten years since the ‘Arab Spring’ protests threatened autocrats from Morocco to Oman, all of the region’s eight ruling monarchies remain in power, having spent a decade cracking down on dissent and largely backtracking on promises of reform.
Middle Eastern monarchs have routinely banned political parties, severely repressed dissent and shut down independent newspapers. But while killing, torturing or detaining subjects who call for reform or expose corruption, the UK’s royal family was willing to meet the region’s monarchies on 217 occasions since 2011, it can be revealed.
The total figure is likely to be higher as the Court Circular, the royal family’s official diary, is not comprehensive. Available records show that meetings between the House of Windsor and Bahrain’s brutal monarchy were the most frequent, with 44 encounters.
Gulf princes in charge of notorious internal security units, such as Saudi Arabia’s national guard, had repeated meetings with British royals, with visits sometimes coinciding with those countries’ worst abuses of human rights or support to hardline Islamist forces in the wars in Libya and Syria.
Prince Andrew met the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi at his lavish Bateen Palace the same day a court jailed five Emirati activists on charges that included insulting the country’s leadership. Among those convicted was an economics professor from Sorbonne university in Paris.
The King of Bahrain’s son, Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, who is accused of involvement in the torture of activists during the Arab Spring,