Bahrain strips 31 of their citizenship

The authorities in Bahrain have issued a list of 31 people who are to be stripped of their citizenship in an apparent punishment for opposing the regime.

The announcement, posted on the interior ministry's website earlier today, gave no specific reasons but the ministry said it was taking action under "clause (c) of Article (10) of the Citizenship Law which permits the revocation of nationality when a holder of the Bahraini citizenship causes damage to state security".

"This move is reminiscent of past government crackdowns in the 1980s when the past emir, Salman bin Isa al-Khalifa, revoked the citizenship of a number of citizens," the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights (BYSHR) and the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR) said in a joint statement.

"The BYSHR and the BCHR express grave concern over the systematic targeting of prominent political activists, former members of parliament, clerics and others. The Bahraini authorities did not provide substantial evidence as to why these individuals' citizenships have been revoked, nor has the government issued a formal notification that their citizenship has been revoked prior to the press release ...

"It is apparent that the actions taken by the Bahraini authorities to revoke the citizenships of 31 individuals is intended to punish them for expressing peaceful dissent and thereby intimidate others from exercising their right to freedom of expression. This comes at a time when the crackdown in Bahrain by the authorities is intensifying, and in light of continued international inaction, will continue to deteriorate ...

"In depriving these Bahrainis of their nationality for exercising their right to peaceful expression, the Bahrain authorities have disproportionately enacted punitive measures against its citizens leaving them stateless and thereby issuing arbitrary dispossessions of nationality."

The interior ministry says it will now "take the necessary measures" to implement its decision "in conformity with the kingdom's commitments under international law".

Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says: "No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of [their] nationality." 

This disgraceful practice is nothing new as far as the Bahraini authorities are concerned. Here is a quote from an old Amnesty International press release dated 1993:

"Amnesty International opposes forcible exile when it is imposed as a formal measure by governments against nationals of their own country.

"Amnesty International has received countless reports of the forcible exile of Bahraini nationals from Bahrain since the early 1980s. At that time, in the wake of an alleged coup attempt, members of the majority Shi'a community suspected of having links with Iran were forcibly expelled to Iran. 

"Former political detainees and even entire families have testified that they were rounded up, stripped of their Bahraini passports or identity papers and forced to board small boats bound for Iran, even though they had no knowledge of that country or its language. Sometimes, those expelled were even supplied by the Bahraini authorities with false documents stating that they were born in Iran and were Iranian citizens.

"In one harrowing case, the wife of a political prisoner described to Amnesty International how she had resisted forcible exile with other members of her family, including her 22-month-old child. Although she was eight months pregnant, she was forced to board a fishing craft together with more than 20 other families and former political prisoners, their hands still handcuffed. All were told to surrender Bahraini passports and birth certificates and were given new documents stating that they were born in Iran. She gave birth shortly after the four-day crossing to Iran."

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 7 November 2012.