Hundreds In Bahrain Lose Citizenship For 'Peacefully Voicing Dissent'

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“Authorities claim that these acts are linked to national security, they are in fact punishing many people merely for peacefully voicing dissent.”

Hundreds of nationals in Bahrain have been stripped of their citizenship since 2012 through executive orders or court decisions, leaving them with nowhere to go, stated a latest report by the Human Rights Watch.

According to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), citizenships of at least 738 nationals have been revoked in the past six years and in 2018 alone, so far, authorities have stripped 232 people of their citizenship.

Most of these people have nowhere to go now and many of them have also been deported from the Middle Eastern country. People who have lost their citizenship include many human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, and religious scholars.

The country has a Shia Muslim majority population but is governed by the Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa dynasty. After the country-wide anti-government protests in 2011, which were led by Shia communities, dozens of people were arrested and put on trial.  

Shia spiritual leader Sheikh Isa Qassim, who took part in the protests, was stripped off his citizenship in 2016.

Furthermore, authorities are accused of jailing or exiling leading human rights activists. Family members of these activists also faced harassment, intimidation and imprisonment.

“Bahrain seems intent on earning the dubious honor of leading the region in stripping citizenship. While authorities claim that these acts are linked to national security, they are in fact punishing many people merely for peacefully voicing dissent,” said Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

He added, “What Bahraini authorities have done in stripping away hundreds of people’s citizenship clearly violates international norms. Bahrain should promptly do the right thing and restore citizenship to those victims.”

The process also reportedly lacks legal safeguards.

Since 2018, the citizenship revocations have been given in civil or military courts. According to HRW, people were deprived of a lawyer even in times of interrogations and were reportedly pushed to confess a crime that they haven’t committed.

Bahrain amended its Citizenship Law of 1963 in 2014. In the amended version of the law, a person who “aids or is involved in the service of a hostile state” or who “causes harm to the interests of the Kingdom or acts in a way that contravenes his duty of loyalty to it” can be stripped off his/her citizenship by the interior minister.

 

 

 

Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Reuters/Hamad I Mohammed

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