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NHRI people profile: Maria Khoury, NIHR

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Each month, we’re profiling a passionate and committed individual from one of our member institutions.

Name and position:

Maria Khoury, Chairperson, National Institution for Human Rights in the Kingdom of Bahrain (NIHR).

Could you tell us a bit about your role?

As Chairperson, my role involves promoting and protecting human rights. At the National Institution for Human Rights in the Kingdom of Bahrain (NIHR), we have four major roles.

Firstly, we study national legislation to ensure it is on par with the international agreements and covenants that Bahrain has ratified or signed.

Second, we arrange both announced and unannounced visits to any place where we suspect there has been a violation of human rights.

Third, we receive and investigate complaints of any allegations of human rights violations.

And finally, we carry out training on human rights. This involves training the public and any stakeholders such as NGOs, new lawyers, or new judges, to incorporate human rights approaches into their work.

What do you love about your role?

I love every aspect of it! But I always say that if I make one person happy, then I sleep better at night. Making a difference in people's lives is what I value the most.

What's the most challenging aspect of your role?

Every day is a challenge. As an independent institution, it's important that we are honest and transparent in everything we do. But the challenge is how you communicate to people that you're being transparent, that what you're sharing is a reflection of what's really happening.

At the NIHR we have achieved quite a lot in terms of raising awareness. But we still have a long way to go. And COVID hasn't helped - over the past 18 months we've directed much of our attention to COVID challenges.

Why did you decide to work in human rights?

Well, actually I didn't! Before being appointed to the human rights council by His Majesty the King, I had a career in media and student affairs. In fact, I always wanted to be a nurse. I had a passion for helping people, and I still do.

When I reflect on my past career, I can say that I enjoy helping people and making a difference in their lives. Working in human rights now is the icing on the cake.

What do you consider to be important qualities in leadership?

I think the ability to accept different kinds of attitudes and different personalities, is a very important leadership quality. This includes accepting the people that disagree with you. I also think it's important to not take things personally. This is a quality that I have developed over the years.

What would you consider to be your greatest achievement as Chairperson?

I cannot name a single achievement that is the greatest, simply because I believe that we are all in the process of not only achieving but "becoming". There have been several milestones in the last four years, but if I want to name a single one, I think it is encouraging NIHRs mechanisms to strengthen human rights protection.

Also, being able to peacefully cooperate with all the external and internal systems that safeguard human rights.

What is your favourite book?

At every stage of my life, I've had a favourite book. But I can say without hesitation, my favourite book ever is The Prophet by Khalil Gibran.

It's the kind of book that you put by your bed, or keep in your office, and you can continually go back to it. I never get tired of reading it!

Date: 29 April 2021