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Arbitrary deprivation of nationality in the Gulf region

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Arbitrary deprivation of nationality in the Gulf region

The Gulf region has historically been home to a substantial number of stateless persons, most notably the stateless Bidoon.  However more recently we have witnessed a sharp rise in the trend of stripping individuals of their nationality. Across this region, nationality legislations prohibits dual nationality, therefore, when an individual is stripped of their nationality it is likely that they will be rendered stateless. It is widely believed that these measures are being taken to punish and exclude human rights advocates and political opponents. The practices in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in particular, are of significant concern.

In Bahrain in 2013, the King issued a decree that, among other things, enabled the courts to revoke the citizenship of any citizen convicted of a terrorist offense: an offense that is defined very broadly under Bahraini law. Since then, more than 330 persons have been stripped of their Bahraini nationality. All of those who have had their nationality stripped were male and, as women are not able to transfer their nationality to their children under Bahraini nationality law, any children born to these men is at risk of statelessness if their parents hold no other nationality.  Although there are no available figures, the Emirati government has also been carrying out similar methods of using citizenship as a political tool. This practice started in 2011 with the emergence of the then viewed ‘Arab Spring’ and has continued, with individuals regularly being stripped of their Emirati nationality. State practice has even extended to the deprivation of nationality of family members of individuals who have been jailed as political dissidents. Such deprivation is rarely carried out before a court of law. Instead, individuals are informed by the migration department that they are no longer citizens.

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