Bahrain Accuses Qatar of Luring NationalsAugust 8, 2014 in Bahrain, Qatar
The nation of Bahrain has accused neighbouring Qatar of luring Bahraini nationals to take Qatari citizenship. Bahrain called the action harmful to their national security. Bahrain’s Interior Ministry’s Undersecretary for Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs, Sheikh Rashid bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, said that “Qatar has targeted specific families and singled out a particular category of people, without any consideration for the provisions of the law on citizenship in Bahrain.” He added that the naturalisation of Bahrainis’ into Qatar could affect Bahrain’s security and vital interests. No information was provided as to who was being targeted by the Qataris, or how many had been granted Qatari citizenship.
The allegation could further deepen the rift among nations in the Gulf Region. Qatar has already been accused by several Arab states of interfering with the internal affairs of other nations. In particular, the accusation is based upon Qatar’s open backing of the Muslim Brotherhood movements throughout the Arab region. In March, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassadors from Doha.
Bahrain’s sensitivity in the matter could be related to their desire to protect the nation’s demographic balance. The country is led by a Sunni-ruled monarchy; the population has a Shiite majority. Bahrain has experienced ongoing, sometimes violent conflict between the government and the population since 2011. Citizens of Bahrain continue to call for a democracy which is representative of these sectarian divisions. Further, Bahraini Shi’ites have long accused their government of naturalising Sunnis from abroad in an effort to outnumber the Shiite population.
The Qatari government has not commented on the allegations, however one Qatari source claims that the request actually came from Bahraini families with tribal links to Qatar. He added that the requests were still under advisement.
Bahrain, meanwhile, has revoked the citizenship of nine Bahrainis convicted of convicted on charges including participation in an illegal organisation and having ties to Iran. The defendants received prison terms ranging from seven to 22 years. Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society, the largest Shiite political party in Bahrain, called the convictions “an unacceptable violation of fundamental human rights,” adding that “the authoritarian and unelected regime in Bahrain is misusing power to retaliate against its dissidents.” In 2012, Bahrain stripped the citizenship of 31 prominent activists and opposition leaders, including two al-Wefaq MPs. This is the first instance of nationality being stripped from ordinary citizens. Some believe that this action is being taken as part of the campaign to reduce the Shiite majority.