Arbitrary Revocation of Nationality in Bahrain: a Tool of Oppression

Salam for Democracy and Human Rights’ (SALAM DHR) joint report with the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion (ISI) and The MENA Statelessness Network (Hawiati), Arbitrary Revocation of Nationality in Bahrain: a Tool of Oppression, documents Bahrain’s citizenship deprivation of hundreds of Bahraini citizens, between 2012 and 2019. 

Dr. Ali Ahmed Al-Dairi, an academic who published “Stateless”, a book about his citizenship revocation, stated: “the state of revoking your nationality plunges you into an ordeal that has no treatment or cure.” 

This report draws on Bahrain’s revocation of citizenship of human rights defenders and advocates after the 2011 Bahraini uprising. It analyses the Bahraini nationality law and subsequent amendments adopted by the state to revoke nationality and deny rights to its citizens to quell dissent. 

The report discusses the international legal framework regarding nationality and its deprivation and revocation, drawing on relevant international law standards, as synthesized in the Principles on Deprivation of Nationality as a National Security Measure. It focuses on n the trend of Bahraini nationality-revocation post-2011, considering Bahrain’s evolving national law, in addition to two cases studies about citizenship stripping discussed in detail, to give and overview of the process and struggle that some Bahrainis and their families go through as a consequence of the government’s arbitrary practice. The report also focuses on a dangerous precedent set by the Government of Bahrain , by deporting most of those who were stripped of their nationalities, even though Bahrain is their only country. 

The key findings of the report include: 

  • From 2012 to 2019, a total of 985 individuals were arbitrarily stripped of their nationality either by a court order, a royal decree or ministerial order. Today, the total number is 434, after the King reinstated citizenship for 551 individuals in 2019;
  • The majority of those who lost their nationality were rendered stateless and continue to face immense obstacles in enjoying their basic human rights;
  • Nationality revocation has become one of the main weapons in the GoB’s arsenal, not to protect national security, but to stifle dissent, crack down on human rights defenders and further entrench the state’s authoritarian and an.- democratic agenda;
  • The revocation of nationality has had serious effects on those concerned, denying them the ability to exercise their civil and political rights as well as their social, cultural and economic rights;
  • Most of the victims who were still in Bahrain at the time of the revocation of their citizenship faced prosecution for staying in the country “illegally” and were eventually deported;
  • As a result of the gendered nature of revocations (overwhelmingly targeting men) and the gender discriminatory character of Bahrain’s nationality law (only Bahraini fathers, not mothers, can pass their citizenship onto their children), the children born to of nationality revocation are also directly impacted. They, too, are denied Bahraini nationality, deprived of their basic rights and most likely rendered stateless as a result;
  • As demonstrated in the two study cases of Masaud M. Jahromi and Ibrahim Karimi, the authorities have abused nationality revocation powers with impunity, and allowed no serious grounds for challenging these arbitrary decisions under the basis that the government has the full right to assess what harms the integrity and stability of its internal and external security, and that the revocation of citizenship is not subject to judicial oversight and
  • Bahrain’s revocation of nationality is a clear violation to its obligations and standards set forth in international human rights law, including international standards relating to the avoidance of statelessness, prohibition of discrimination and prohibition of arbitrary deprivation of nationality, as well as other human rights considerations which must inform any decision to deprive nationality. 

Reflecting on the report’s conclusions and recommendations, Abbas Taleb, the principle author of the report and SALAM DHR’s member, said:” This arbitrary practice affects not only the victims, but also their families and future generations. Bahrain should reinstate full citizenship to those who were impacted, provide them with an effective remedy and reparation, and dismantle the arbitrary laws which enable citizenship revocations.” 


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