The Bahraini government, facing protracted unrest by its Shiite Muslim majority, has revoked the nationality of 31 men for damaging national security.
They include London-based dissidents Saeed al-Shehabi and Ali Mushaima, the son of jailed opposition leader Hassan Mushaima, as well as clerics, human rights lawyers and activists, according to Mohammed al-Mascati, head of the Bahrain Youth Centre for Human Rights.
In April, Ali Mushaima scaled the roof of Bahrain’s embassy in London to publicise opposition demands for democratic change.
Also on the list, published by state news agency BNA, were two former parliamentarians from leading Shiite party Wefaq, Jawad and Jalal Fairooz, who are of Shiite Iranian descent.
Bahrain’s ruling Al Khalifa family used martial law and help from Gulf neighbours to put down a Shiite-led uprising against discrimination in March last year, but unrest has resumed.
Bahrain – where the United States Fifth Fleet is based as a bulwark against Iran – accuses Tehran of encouraging the unrest and has promised a tough response as talks with the opposition have stalled. Iran has denied meddling in Bahrain’s affairs.
Matar Matar, a senior member of Wefaq, said the decision to revoke nationality was an escalation of the conflict in Bahrain and accused the government of having granted citizenship to Sunni foreigners to boost their numbers in the country.
He said: “They want to replace us as a pro-democracy movement via nationalisation of mercenaries and revoking our nationality. This is … against Shiites and the pro-democracy movement in general.”
Amnesty International said it appeared Bahrain had withdrawn the men’s citizenship on the basis of their political views.