Salam DHR Condemns the Deportation of the Omani Woman Prisoner of Conscience, Buthaina Ahmed, After the End of Her Sentence

SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights (SALAM DHR) condemns the Bahraini authorities’ deportation of Omani life-long resident Buthaina Ahmed Mahmoud, aged 60. During her childhood, Buthaina studied in Bahraini schools since her first year of primary school and graduated from Al-Houra secondary school. The mother of 3 daughters and one son – from a naturalized Bahraini father whose naturalization dates to May 2nd, 1953 – got married on July 2nd, 1985, according to the marriage certificate issued from the Ministry of Justice and Islamic Affairs and Waqf (Courts AdministrationShari’a Courts – Ja’fari Department). According to Buthaina, she held Bahraini citizenship until 1984, wherein she relinquished the nationality upon her move to the Sultanate of Oman and acquiring an Omani passport, effectively renouncing her Bahraini nationality. Buthaina’s residence in Oman only lasted for a year before she moved back to Bahrain in 1985. 

Bahraini Criminal Investigations authorities arrested Buthaina on November 11th, 2020, due to a message of her on the social networking site Whatsapp commenting on the death of the former Bahraini Prime Minister, Sheikh Kahlifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa, in which she was hoping for a positive change for the better. She was charged by the Public Prosecution with “insult and defamation” over the contents of her message and sentenced by a court ruling, with the verdict upheld by the Second High Criminal Court of Appeal on 8/12/2020. The judge’s statement was that the “the Court ruled and accepted the appeal formally, and in the matter, upheld the first-degree conviction of a six-month imprisonment sentence and deportation of the accused after the sentence has been carried out and the confiscation of the seized phone.”

The decision of the Bahraini judicial authorities to deport Buthaina Ahmed has forced the couple to live separately, and the mother being deprived the right to see her children. This denial is in contravention of the principle of family reunification, as international human rights law considers the family a fundamental natural and basic unit of society to be protected, with the “right to find a family includes…the possibility to live together to secure the family unity or to reunite it.”

SALAM DHR Advocacy Officer Mohamed Sultan commented that “the nationality law in Bahrain is susceptible to the political mood more so than to international and human rights law. It has become imperative for Bahrain to address the shortcomings of the nationality law, especially concerning the case of children of Bahraini mothers with foreign spouses and the foreign women spouses of Bahraini men, for these are humane conditions that preserve the family entity from diaspora and life’s difficulties.”

We at SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights urge the Bahraini authorities to take into consideration the importance of the family as a main tool to ensure the promotion of traditional values in society and the protection of human rights, and to take into account the most vulnerable members of the family such as women, children, and the elderly, especially when the members of the family are separated for political, economic, or similar such reason.

As such, SALAM for Democracy and Human Rights recommends that the authorities in Bahrain consider the family as a pioneering social institution that should not be dismantled at all and for a revision of local legislation to reflect that protection. We also recommend that the penalties be commensurate with reducing crime to reform the individual and society, and also on the basis of preventing any negative effects after completion of the freedom-depriving penalty for proper integration into society and the family. The Bahraini government should reconsider the sentence to be implemented against Buthaina Ahmed, which affects the entire family unit, and to allow for her return to Bahrain and the reunification of her family if she so wishes.