Bahraini lawyers, activists face lost citizenship
He said he does not expect to be deported — ‘‘No documents, no passport,’’ he shrugged — but to now fall under the category of a stateless resident, known in Arabic as Bidoun and common in some areas of the Middle East. The stateless sometimes go back generations in some countries, but are often denied access to state benefits such as pensions and subsidized health care.
‘‘I am Bahraini and I won’t leave my country,’’ he said.
Targeting citizenship has been used elsewhere in the Gulf as rulers try to muzzle opposition emboldened by the Arab Spring wave of revolutions that led to the ouster of leaders in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen.
In the United Arab Emirates, at least six activists were stripped of citizenship for criticizing the country’s leaders, and at least one person was deported to Thailand under a Comoros Islands passport arranged by UAE authorities.
Bahrain has used the punishment as far back as 1954 when Sunni leader Abdul Rahman al-Baker lost his citizenship because of his political activities. He and two other activists were later deported to St. Helena in the South Atlantic in the same prison where Napoleon Bonaparte was jailed.
In the 1960s and 70s, many dissidents studying outside Bahrain were not allowed to return and their passports were not renewed. And hundreds of Bahrainis with Persian origin were forcibly exiled to Iran in the 1980s after their citizenship was revoked. Many had to wait until political reforms in 2001 to have their citizenship restored.
International rights groups have condemned Bahrain’s latest decision, with Amnesty International saying it ‘‘appears to have been taken on the basis of the victims’ political views.’’
‘‘We urgently call on the Bahraini authorities to rescind this frightening and chilling decision,’’ said Philip Luther, Amnesty’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.