Bahrain’s doyenne journalist

Ahdeya Alsayed can’t wait to host Israelis and visit Israel

Ahdeya Alsayed is the president of the Bahrain Journalists Association (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ahdeya Alsayed is the president of the Bahrain Journalists Association
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Ahdeya Alsayed is a Bahraini Muslim woman who went to the Sacred Heart Catholic High School and has close Jewish friends. She is also the president of the Bahrain Journalists Association and an outspoken supporter of the reconciliation agreement with Israel.
“I think it was about time,” she says in a Zoom conversation with The Jerusalem Report, referring to the agreement. “A lot of opportunities have been given for decades to the Palestinian leadership and these opportunities are not being used the right way. In an attempt to be fair to the Palestinians, Israel was isolated. I think it’s about time to look at this issue in a more practical and pragmatic way.” Palestinians have sharply criticized the agreements between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain as a betrayal of their right to an independent Palestinian state. The US-brokered deals changed the Middle East paradigm that posited that improving Israel’s relations with the Arab world was dependent on solving the Israeli-Palestinian issue.
The Ramallah-based Palestinian Journalists Syndicate attacked Alsayed for defending the agreement with Israel, and called her “an enemy of humanity.”
She brushes off the criticism. “I live in a safe country, so I don’t feel scared,” she says. “Only cowards need to threaten people.”
Alsayed began her journalism career at the age of 18 when she saw an ad looking for a trainee for the Gulf Daily News, which was then Bahrain’s only English-language newspaper. The editor asked her what parts of the paper she liked to read.
“I said, ‘I’m 18 years old. All I read is the TV schedule and the horoscope.’”
The editor laughed and said he appreciated her honesty, and gave her a job where she worked for six years. She then was one of the founding members of The Bahrain Tribune, the second English-language paper in the country.
“I was 24 years old and I loved seeing my name on the first page of the newspaper,” she says with a laugh.
Soon afterwards she also began working for Bahraini TV as a journalist. Most days she worked from 8 a.m. to close to midnight, when she finished reading her last news bulletin.
She also grew up with an openness to Jews, and one of her close friends in high school was Nancy Khedouri, today a Jewish member of parliament. She remembers that Ahdeya once came to her home for Shabbat dinner, an experience that Alsayed described as “like Thanksgiving.” They attended a Catholic school together where they also studied Koran with a female teacher from the Sudan.
“I used to score 100% in Koran, and some of my Muslim friends barely passed,” says Khedouri, laughing. “And the teacher would say, ‘Shame on you! The Jewish student got 100%.’” Khedouri calls Alsayed “a dear friend and a dear sister.”
Alsayed says her parents taught her to respect all religions. Her father used to take her to visit a perfume-seller, and always mentioned that the man was Jewish.
“My dad always said we all believe in the same God and there is no difference between us,” she says.
In Manama, the Bahraini capital, the main mosque has a church on one side, and the synagogue on the other. She took it for granted that her Jewish friend Nancy would not be available on Saturdays, the Jewish Shabbat. She describes herself as a religious Muslim who prays five times a day and fasts on Ramadan. Her husband is a pilot for Gulf Airways and she has three sons.
Alsayed says she was thrilled when she watched the signing ceremony of the Abraham Accords between Israel and the UAE, and Israel and Bahrain.
“I was watching TV and thought ‘this can’t be happening in my lifetime,’” she says. “People say it’s a historic movement and for me it was also an emotional moment. I was not allowed to go to that country for years.” She hopes to visit Israel soon, and has already had several op-eds published in Israeli newspapers. While the public in Abu Dhabi has warmly welcomed the agreement with Israel, the mood in Bahrain has been far less jubilant. Although the King of Bahrain and the leadership are Sunni, the majority of the population is Shi’ite.
There has been extensive criticism of the agreement on Bahraini social media. The Bahraini Interior Ministry has pledged to take “legal steps” against these activists who criticize the deal with Israel, saying that these critics “spread sedition” and pose a threat to national peace and stability.
Alsayed says she hopes to visit Israel soon, to see both the Muslim and Jewish holy places, and she looks forward to hosting visiting Israelis in Bahrain.