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Thursday, June 13, 2024
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Opinion: The SIS atrium is directly opposed to the school’s stated values

The Prince Salman Grand Atrium departs from the values SIS touts

The following piece is an opinion and does not reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff. All opinions are edited for grammar, style and argument structure and fact-checked, but the opinions are the writer’s own.

It’s easy to move about classes head-bent, unaware of our surroundings — especially amidst pre-finals dread — but as I walked through the School of International Service atrium on my way to classes about “waging peace,” I couldn’t help but notice the irony of whom it was named for. 

After a multi-million dollar donation from Bahrain’s crown prince, prime minister and deputy supreme commander of the Bahrain Defense Force, Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, AU agreed to name the atrium after him. As a school of international services, it is, of course, absolutely a positive that SIS has developed relationships with important officials in foreign governments. The crown prince himself attended American University for his undergraduate degree. This, however, does not mean the school should name spaces for dignitaries who entirely oppose its stated values — especially those of SIS. 

SIS boasts of “waging peace since 1957,” emphasizing the promotion of peace and human rights globally. Stated values like these are splashed throughout its LEED Gold-certified building, including in the Prince Salman Grand Atrium. The building reflects the school’s commitment to “preserving transparency and human dignity, and working for social justice,” according to the SIS website

SIS is certainly dedicated to its stated values upon a first glance at the building, with its environmental sustainability focus and mission of “waging peace through a building.” Despite these efforts to cement values through its building, though, SIS has failed to recognize the irony of naming its atrium after a member of a royal family who has been accused of numerous human rights violations and instances of identity erasure

Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is Bahrain’s crown prince, prime minister and deputy supreme commander of defense. This is to say he is very much a part of the family and its problematic actions. Bahrain’s Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa family has been complicit in subjugating Bahrain’s Shia majority in state-sponsored discrimination according to human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch.

A myriad of other human rights violations have occurred at the hands of Bahrain’s leaders, including Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, as reported in the latest U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices. Among these are credible reports of inhuman or degrading punishment by the government — led by the crown prince, of holding political opposition leaders prisoner and of massive restrictions on freedom of expression. Al Khalifa and his family lead Bahrain in a way that is certainly not in line with SIS’ stated values: waging peace, preserving transparency and preserving human dignity.

Proudly touting the name of a crown prince who has been complicit in human rights violations is absolutely antithetical to the values SIS constantly asserts. Maintaining a relationship with Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in itself is not harmful, as much of international relations ought to be ongoing conversations with those whom one may not agree with, but naming the atrium after him serves as an endorsement of the crown prince and, in turn, an endorsement of his actions.

Julia R. Cooper is a sophomore in the School of International Service and a columnist for The Eagle.

This piece was edited by Alana Parker, Zoe Bell, Jelinda Montes and Abigail Turner. Copy editing done by Luna Jinks, Isabelle Kravis, Romy Hermans and Charlie Mennuti.

opinion@theeagleonline.com 


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