#SALAM : Bahraini authorities continue abusive streak with nationality revocation of leading cleric #Sheikh_Isa_Qasim

Bahrain’s Ministry of Interior has taken the unlawful and highly intimidating decision to revoke the nationality of Bahrain’s leading Shia cleric, Sheikh Isa Qasim, following an official confirmation today.

Sheikh Isa Qasim has played an instrumental role in keeping the popular uprising that erupted in Bahrain on 14 February 2011, peaceful, urging the youth to pursue peaceful means to protest as well as demanding basic rights and freedoms, like freedoms of opinion, assembly, and belief. He has never been convicted of a crime, and is roundly respected across Bahraini society, and in particular, the indigenous Baharna population.

Sheikh Isa Qasim started out his career as a teacher in state primary schools. He had a keen interest in religious studies and attended night lessons early on in his life, followed by religious studies in Islamic seminaries in Iraq and Iran (1964 to 1968 and 1990 to 2001, respectively) – acquiring the title of Ayatollah in 2001.

He was a member of Bahrain’s constituent assembly following the end of British rule in 1972, which produced the first constitution, and a member of Bahrain’s first elected parliament, the National Assembly, in 1973. Sheikh Isa Qasim was instrumental in the development of civil societies and national participation, forming the Tow’iya Islamic Society in the seventies, the first in Bahrain.

This latest nationality revocation decision has closely followed a number of other antagonistic judgments carried out by the Bahraini authorities and judiciary, including the intensification of Sheikh Ali Salman’s sentence to nine years instead of four, arrest of human rights defender Nabeel Rajab, and prevention of activists like Abdulnabi Al-Ekry from leaving the country to participate in international human rights events.

Bahrain’s king, Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, has issued a number of decrees since the popular uprising revoking the nationality of prominent Bahraini nationals, as well as the judiciary adding to this violation by stripping various young Bahrainis of their nationality for peaceful protests.

SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights has written extensively and compiled a report (which has been updated numerous times) on the stripping of nationality violation that Bahrain has used to punish dissent, prevent or convolute reform demands, and clampdown on freedoms of expression, belief, and opinion.

Historically, a number of Bahraini prominent figures had their nationalities revoked and some reinstated. However, in recent times, the Bahraini authorities have commenced a line of action where any contrary opinion may see you face revocation of nationality and deportation from the country. From 2011 until today, over 300 Bahrainis have had their nationality arbitrarily revoked, with the majority of them activists, scholars, journalists, former members of parliament, and youth that participated in peaceful protests.

Further, a deportation order usually follows nationality revocation decisions, and until today six Bahraini citizens been forcibly deported after stripping their nationality as seen in many recent cases, including Sheikh Najati, Sheikh Khojistah, Dr. Masoud Jahromi, the lawyer Timor Karimi, Zainab Alkhawaja and others, and most probably the authorities in Bahrain will do the same with Sheikh Isa Qasim.

SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights adds that the responsibility to restrain, reprimand and redirect the Bahraini authorities lies squarely with its Western allies, the United Kingdom and the United States. Human rights in Bahrain has deteriorated rapidly over the last five years in an open display to the international community with these latest decisions merely illustrating the extent to which the Bahraini authorities have stooped. The Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) and Human Rights Council only set out what needs to be done in the form of recommendations (which Bahrain has largely ignored or attempted to deceive by carrying out cosmetic improvements), but recent events and objective analysis of the last five years shows much to be desired, with human rights in Bahrain as worse as ever.