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Bahraini critics face threat of statelessness

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Amendments to Bahrain's Citizenship Act make it easier for the Interior Ministry to revoke individuals' citizenship.

Last updated: 01 Oct 2014 10:12 on aljazeera.com

 

On the day of her arrest at Bahrain International Airport, human rights activist Maryam al-Khawaja tweeted: "Overheard guards saying they are going to deport me. They keep saying I am not a citizen." Khawaja had travelled to Bahrain from Denmark on August 30 to support her imprisoned father, who'd just started a second round of hunger strike five days earlier.

Her case highlights the threat now confronting some Bahraini opposition activists: The removal of their citizenship and subsequent deportation.

Like her father, who is serving a life sentence on charges of trying to overthrow the government during pro-reform protests three years ago, Khawaja is also a staunch critic of the Bahraini ruling Al Khalifa monarchy.

For years the main opposition in Bahrain has campaigned for a greater role in government. There have also been complaints of discrimination from the country's Shia Muslim population, a charge the government denies. Inspired by other uprisings in the region, tens of thousands marched on the streets in February 2011, demanding change.

But with the help of neighbouring Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain crushed the revolt. Dozens of people were killed, hundreds wounded and more than a thousand were arrested. The government alleges that the protesters attacked police and that soldiers were deployed to "protect the safety of the citizens".

Since then, there have been almost daily protests and anti-government activists continue to be arrested arbitrarily, tortured and imprisoned, often without a fair trial. However, security forces have been attacked by home-made bombs in recent months. In March, three policemen were killed in a blast, including a policeman from the UAE.

Khawaja's lawyer is confident that her citizenship has not been officially revoked. Mohammed al-Jishi told Al Jazeera that the incident at the airport was simply a scare tactic: "It's a lengthy procedure to remove the citizenship of anyone. The king himself has to agree to revoke the citizenship of any national. This must be published in the newspapers. But this doesn't apply to Maryam."

continue reading on http://www.aljazeera.com/news/middleeast/2014/09/bahraini-critics-face-threat-statelessness-201492414310552790.html

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