American University of Beirut

Ali Fakhro

A physician, writer, political thinker, and inspirational speaker, Ali Fakhro is an adamant proponent of equality and a fair, inclusive society. He served as Bahrain’s first minister of health and later became minister of education. Throughout his national, regional, and international service, Fakhro brought innovative thinking to the education system and a philosophy on inclusivity and equality.  ​

Born in 1932, Ali Fakhro received his medical degree in 1958 from the School of Medicine at AUB after receiving his bachelor of science in 1954, also from AUB. He completed his internship at Baylor University Hospital, Dallas, Texas (1958–59), and his residency from the University Hospital, Alabama (1959–61). He became a fellow in gastroenterology and cardiology at the Harvard School of Public Health and the American Board of Internal Medicine in 1965.

 Bahrain’s first qualified medical doctor, Fakhro became the minister of health in the first Bahraini government, serving from 1971 to 1982, and then minister of education from 1982 to 1995. Between 1995 and 2000, he served as Bahrain’s ambassador to France and Belgium. He was president of the Bahrain Red Crescent Society during the years 1973–81 and 1988–95,  and chairman of the High Council of the Arab Board of Medical Specialties during the years 1983–1987 and 1990–95.

He served as chairman of the Board of Trustees of Bahrain University from 1986 to 1995; chairman of the Board of Directors of the Arabic Encyclopedia Arabia 1990–91; and the elected president of the International Council for Education of Teachers (ICET) from 1994 to 1998. From 2000 to 2004, he was appointed as chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Bahrain Center for Studies and Research, and was a member of AUB’s International Advisory Council. 

He is a member of several organizations and institutions, including the Executive Board  of the World Health Organization and the Executive Board of UNESCO. He is a trustee of the Institute for Arab Unity Studies; trustee of the Bahrain Youth and Sport Council; trustee of the Arab Organization for Translation; and board member of the Written and Visual Arab Media Awards in Dubai. 

Fakhro is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Arab Anti-Corruption Organization, a non-profit independent civil institution seeking to promote transparency and good governance in the Arab world. He is also the president of the executive committee and trustee of the Arab Open University, trustee of the Institute for Palestine Studies, and founding member of the Arab National Congress. 

He has written many articles and given interviews on medical, educational, political, and cultural issues. He was one of AUB’s 150th anniversary Distinguished Lecture Series speakers, presenting a lecture on “Rethinking the Times and the Response of Education.”

Respected across the political spectrum in Bahrain, Fakhro believes in getting moderates from opposing sides in Bahrain to persuade their parties outside a government forum and agree on a list of basic demands for democratic reform. He launched this plan at the National Bahraini Meeting, a congregation of prominent Bahrainis with no official political affiliations  or memberships.  

A believer in Arab unity, democracy, national independence, sustainable development, human rights, and cultural renewing, Fakhro fervently calls for a fair and just distribution of wealth and resources, differentiating between political democracy and economic democracy and calling for a review of the concept of neoliberalism. He insists that education must be accessible to all and that scholarship and access to knowledge is an inclusive right that shapes the future, and believes in preparing global citizens that can face the real world with tools to use in the professional fields they major in. ​

He received Bahrain’s Gold Medal for outstanding services in the field of health in 1982 and Bahrain’s First Class Medal in 1996. In 2016, he was presented the degree of doctor of the university by the Open University, UK, in honor of his “extraordinary life and work in the service of democracy and public services in the Arab world, and particularly his commitment and contribution to the Arab Open University.”​

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