Bahrain has deported eight people to war-torn Iraq after revoking their citizenship and making them stateless, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Sunday, accusing the Gulf monarchy of exiling dissidents.
The eight were deported to Iraq’s southern city of Najaf on January 30 and February 1 after being stripped of their nationality in 2012, the New York-based watchdog said.
“Bahraini authorities have dropped all pretense of pluralism and tolerance for dissent and are clearly stripping away the citizenships of people whom they find undesirable,” HRW Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson said.
“Bahrainis who dare speak out for change now risk not only arbitrary detention and torture but statelessness and deportation to an uncertain future,” she said.
Under Bahrain’s citizenship law, amended after political protests broke out in 2011, individuals who engage in acts deemed “disloyal” to the state can be stripped of their nationality.
The eight deportees were among 31 Bahraini activists and human rights lawyers whose citizenship was revoked in November 2012 on the grounds of damaging national security, HRW said.
Only five of those 31 defendants had dual citizenship, HRW said, leaving the majority stateless.
“Bahrain should immediately put an end to these arbitrary deportations and restore citizenship to those who have been left stateless or whose citizenship was revoked unfairly or arbitrarily,” the watchdog said in a statement.
HRW has called on Bahrain to repeal its citizenship laws.
Located between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Bahrain, a country with a Shia-majority population, has been ruled for more than 200 years by the Al-Khalifa dynasty.
The kingdom has stripped hundreds of its citizens of their nationality and jailed dozens of high-profile activists and religious clerics since protests demanding an elected government erupted in early 2011.
The Bahraini government has accused Iran of backing the protests and attempting to overthrow the government. Tehran denies involvement.