On 31 January 2015, Bahrain’s Ministry of the Interior revoked the citizenship of 72 individuals, including journalists, bloggers, and political and human rights activists, rendering many of them stateless – its latest attempt to crack down on those critical of the government.
“Bahrain is using citizenship, the most basic of human rights, as a weapon to intimidate and silence critical voices,” said Index CEO Jodie Ginsberg. “This latest violation of international human rights standards comes amid continuing attempts to suppress free expression in the country.”
The Ministry of Interior published a statement claiming that “each citizen of Bahrain has the responsibility to act in ways that do not harm the interests of the Kingdom.” Alongside spying, financing terrorism, participation in terrorist actions, the statement lists: “defaming the image of the regime, inciting against the regime and spreading false news to hinder the rules of the constitution;” “defaming brotherly countries” and “inciting and advocating regime change through illegal means” as justification for their decision.
Sayed Ahmed Alwadaei, Director of Advocacy for the Bahrain Institute for Human Rights and Democracy, and who is among those who had their citizenship revoked, said: “Bahrain has forcefully stifled, through both force and national law, any form of free expression through their vicious crackdown against free thinking. They have now turned to wiping out the only identity held by individuals exercising their rights to call for human rights and democratic reform; their virtue of being a Bahraini. The nature of belonging to a country since ones existence has now become another tool used by the government to strangle its critics with impunity.”
Ali Abdulemam is a human rights and online activist who also had his citizenship revoked. He said: “revoking the citizenship in Bahrain is used as a tool of punishment and instills fear. It sends a message to other activists and freedom fighters to stop their activities or they will face the same situation.”
Index on Censorship joins Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB), the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD) in condemning the continued use of citizenship revocation by the Government of Bahrain as a reprisal against human rights activists, journalists and pro-democracy campaigners, and calls on international governments to ensure Bahrain meets its human rights obligations.