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Political Naturalization in Bahrain: Various Violations of Citizens and Foreign Workers Rights

01 September 2006

Causes of Worry, Categorizing the Naturalized and General Recommendations

REF: 060090302

The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) is concerned in regards to the progression of the political naturalization. Members of the Representative Council revealed that the authorities might have granted extraordinary citizenships to almost 10 thousand residents, both Asians and Arabs. This number is added to approximately 30 thousand who might have been extraordinarily granted citizenship during the last 10 years [1]. It is also believed that there are political motives behind the extraordinary naturalization campaigns and especially that they are not carried out openly and are based on racial and sectarian basis, and their timing might be related to the elections which will take place in Bahrain in a few months time.

The BCHR's causes of worry are listed in the following matters:

1. Discrimination and inequality: Naturalization is carried out selectively based on tribal or sectarian origin and not based on the equal right of foreigners in getting the citizenship. [2] Article (6) of the Bahraini citizenship law of 1963 permits granting citizenship with conditions; among them is that the applicant must have residing in Bahrain for 15 years if the applicant is an Arab and 25 years for non-Arabs. However, the basic drawback is in the way the law is enforced: the law does not impose on the authorities to grant the citizenship automatically to those that the law is applicable to, which gives a free scope to discrimination and favouritism in granting the citizenship based on unwritten laws and according to the authority?s tendency and mood, a major problem considering the lack of transparency and accountability.

2. Abuse of power that is granted exceptionally: A large percent of those that have been granted the citizenship have not fulfilled the regular legal requisites, especially the period of residence, therefore they are granted the citizenship by using an extraordinary authority which the law grants to the king in granting citizenship.

3. Manipulating the law and the procedures: While many applications that fulfil the requirements were frozen for many years claiming that the requester was not able to prove cancelling his/her original citizenship, in the political naturalization that procedure is either overstepped or by-passed. In addition, the laws of the countries of origin are violated since they do not permit dual?citizenship like India and Saudi Arabia. Whilst the governments of some of those countries overlook the fact that their citizens have obtained the Bahraini citizenship, the naturalized Syrians for example tackle paying fines to their country?s authorities for not carrying out the military service.

4. Falsifying information: In order to issue a citizenship and identity documents for the naturalized who do not originally live in Bahrain, for example like the Saudi Arabians, or to register those naturalized in certain areas for electoral purposes, the authority?s employees enter fake addresses by confirming addresses in uninhabited areas such as Hawar Islands or by using addresses of houses that are inhabited by other people.

5. Deprivation of citizenship: Although the citizenship is granted extraordinarily to ones who have not fulfilled the criteria of residence and who already hold citizenships of their original countries, hundreds of people who are entitled to it are deprived from it either due to their ethnic origin or their sectarian background even though they do not have any other citizenship [3]. There still are hundreds of families who suffer from psychological, economic and social effects resulting from deprivation of citizenship, though all the required criteria for citizenship were met. The majority of these families are from Persian origins from both the Sunni and Shi?a sect. Article 15 from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stipulates that ?everyone has the right to a nationality?. Moreover, children who come from a Bahraini mother are deprived from the Bahraini citizenship because of their father?s different nationality, although Bahrain is a member in The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) which states in article 9 that ?states parties shall grant women equal rights with men with respect to the nationality of their children.? The case of Al-Satrawi?s family emerges as an outrageous example of depriving Bahraini families of their right to citizenship and dispersing them as refugees in different countries [4].

6. Violating economic and social rights of citizens and foreign workers: Bahrain suffers from an escalating unemployment rate, low wages and a housing shortage. A large percent of citizens and foreigners suffer from this dilemma [5]. The government, instead of making economic reforms that include organizing foreign workers? import and improving the status of wages and work circumstances for citizens and foreigners in general, the authority, and for political purposes, turns towards settling foreigners in large numbers which adds to the deterioration of living standards and residential conditions as well as increasing social problems. Naturalizing foreign workers does not necessarily mean guaranteeing their rights and improving their living standards, it rather robs them from some privileges such as residential and emigration allowances. The Bahraini authorities refrain from joining the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families and justifies this by claiming that settling foreigners jeopardizes the demographic makeup in Bahrain, however we find that the government is currently granting citizenship extraordinarily to a large number of them, based on political purposes and benefits that will be reaped.

7. Violating political rights: manipulating elections to reinforce supremacy and tyranny: The timing of the naturalization?s process, its degree and the way the beneficiary are chosen, affects the elections directly, which prejudices the rights of the people and raises racial and sectarian discord and that is to the advantage of the authority?s dominance over the state?s institutions. The wide-ranging naturalization process that the authority is performing is associated with changing the law that is related to political rights, so as to granting the naturalized the right to nominate and elect instantly instead of waiting 10 years.

8. Using the foreigners as mercenaries and granting them privileges [6]: The government recruits workers from other countries of a certain ethnic and sectarian background to work in security and military apparatuses. The government favours them over regular citizens in work privileges and services, and uses them in suppression apparatuses, like the Special Security Force, which is widely accused of using excessive force against citizens in peaceful gatherings. It also provides them with closed residence compounds and extraordinarily grants them citizenships in large numbers.

9. Arising racial and sectarian tension and hatred towards foreigners (xenophobia): Due to racial and sectarian discrimination in granting the Bahraini citizenship, and the political and economic prejudice resulting from the authority?s aforementioned policies, the way is paved for racial and sectarian tension on both the political and social level, which causes inflexibility and hatred towards foreigners in general, which does not exclude those who obtained the citizenship in a normal way.

10. Lack of transparency: Even though the authority denies the existence of selective naturalization for political aims, it refuses to reveal the number of people that have been naturalized, their identities and the countries they came from.

11. Lack of monitoring and accountability: The government prevented the Council of Representatives from investigating the naturalization policies and practices, and that was done through a decree it had issued which prevents the Council from questioning the government on matters preceding its formation. The representatives and political societies as well as institutions of the civil society are tentative and hesitant in discussing the political naturalization in a serious and sincere way as it might wrong the countries king?s actions, which exposes them to the authority's resentment and perhaps severe legal pursuing.

Categorizing the naturalized:

In order to evaluate the naturalization case correctly, and in order to pose recommendations and suitable solutions, the naturalized have been categorized into 6 main types:

The first type: those who deserve the citizenship according to international human rights standards: They are the residents, who do not hold any other country?s citizenship, and they meet the regular criteria like the period of residence or are born in Bahrain from a father that does not hold the citizenship. They are those that the International Law for Human Rights defends, as it is stated in the Universal Declaration for Human Rights as well as the international conventions that are related to it, that everyone has the right to a nationality. Considering that granting them the citizenship is in accordance with the Bahraini law, their right to a nationality should be secured from both the legal and humane aspects. The Bahraini law should be changed to be proportional with the international commitments in regards to granting citizenship to Bahraini mother?s children.

The second type: those who deserve the citizenship by meeting the criteria of the national local law: They are those who hold the citizenship of another country and who came normally to the country to work, and who meet the basic regular criteria such as the period of residence. They, according to the country's law, have the right to request the citizenship. Even though they posses their original country?s nationality, their obtained rights, that result from residing for a long period in a new country, qualifies them in getting a legal status and privileges that the natives of the country benefit from.

They have the right get a citizenship automatically as long as they meet the legal criteria. Abstaining from giving them the citizenship should be justified, according to clear standards that are not based on discrimination and the estimations of the authority's employees. In case there is a public policy in limiting the grant of citizenship for public benefit purposes, then that should be done by law and it should include standards and clear procedures that are not based on discrimination, along with asserting transparency.

The third type: residents who do not meet the regular criteria and are granted extraordinary citizenships: They are those who hold another country's citizenship and who came normally to the country to work, but they do not meet the regular basic criteria like the period of residence. The numbers of this type cases were limited in the past until it was disclosed that the authorities were granting them citizenships in large numbers which were estimated in this past August as 10 thousand. The sources say that this might be only the first group. The citizenship is not granted by equality basis, but by lists determined by the authority which perhaps are based on unpublicized specifications like the type of religious sect. Because their naturalization was based on ethnic and sectarian discrimination, and a clear abuse of the exceptional authority therefore, based on the principle: what is based on wrong is wrong; it is essential that their right to citizenship, and everything that resulted from it, gets reconsidered with securing their civil and humane rights as residents in the country.

The fourth type: those that were recruited by the governments from other countries based on the sectarian security policy, however they meet the legal criteria: The individuals of this type also hold the citizenship of their country of origin. Even though this type meets the regular criteria such as period of residence, they were brought into the country based on the sectarian recruiting policy in the security and military apparatuses according to certain racial and sectarian specifications. Their import and employment could be considered as a violation to the constitution which stipulates employing citizens in security and military departments, and they were used for implementing violations against human rights like torture and excessive use of force.

The fifth type: those that were brought into the country among the sectarian security policy, but without meeting the legal criteria: They are the same as the fourth type in regards to holding the citizenship of another country and coming to Bahrain among the sectarian employment policy in the security and military departments, but they do not meet the basic regular criteria such as period of residence. They definitely are not qualified for the Bahraini citizenship, hence, the permanent need for them should be reconsidered, and recruitment in security and military apparatuses should first be open to citizens far from racial and sectarian discrimination.

The sixth type: citizens of neighbouring countries who do not reside in Bahrain: They are citizens of neighbouring countries and share the same tribal origins as the ruling family and its allies. However they have never resided in Bahrain and their countries do not permit dual-citizenship. Moreover, their countries do not deal or implement the same way in granting citizenship to Bahrainis. They lack the residence criteria, and they do not belong to the country in respect to rights or civil, political and economic duties, as well as not having any relation to the society. There is no legal, social or humane reason to grant them the Bahraini citizenship and the rights that result from it.


The Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR) calls upon the concerned authorities and panels of human rights to intervene and prompt the following:

ÿ Disclosure and transparency: That the authority announces all information regarding naturalization, especially the number of naturalized individuals and their identities.

ÿ Permit publicized discussion, debate and finding solutions for this issue.

ÿ Carrying out administrative reforms in the departments that are related to granting the Bahraini citizenship and hold those in charge accountable of any violations.

ÿ Amending the naturalization law in a way that determines clearly the extraordinary naturalization criteria, and limits that authority so as to prevent its abuse, and achieves transparency by officially declaring the situations of granting the citizenship.

ÿ Putting solutions and reconsidering, within a humane enclosure, those that were granted the citizenship extraordinarily without meeting the normal criteria.

ÿ Implementing laws and procedures to stop any discrimination in granting citizenship and any favouritism towards the new naturalized in employment, accommodation or privileges.

ÿ Giving the priority to the citizens, without discriminating among them, in getting jobs or promotions in the army and security departments.

ÿ Giving priority in granting the extraordinary citizenship to those that are deprived of it, to the women who have Bahraini children and to the Bahraini women's children.

ÿ Hastening the procedures of granting the citizenship to those that are entitled to it, and issuing passports to Bahrainis that are deprived from it such as members of Al Haj Saleh Al Satrawi extended family that are until now prevented from returning to Bahrain.


[1] Refer to the attached report: BCHR: Manipulation of Process and Results of the Coming Elections in Bahrain August 1st, 2006

[2] Refer to the attached report: Discrimination In Granting Citizenship In Bahrain March 2004

[3] The ?Deprived of Citizenship Committee? keeps documented files of hundreds of people who are deprived form the citizenship despite their entitlement to it and their existence in Bahrain for decades.

[4] Refer to the attached: ?The case of Al-Haj Saleh Al-Satrawi?s family as an example of violating the law and the discrimination in granting the citizenship?, January 22nd, 2004.

[5]For more statistics and details refer to the report: ?Poverty and Economic Rights in Bahrain: Increasing crisis threaten the political and social stability?, September 2004. Half of Bahraini Citizens are Suffering from Poverty and Poor Living Conditions

[6] The United Nations appointed a Special Rapportuer to study the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights, and which governments may use in facing threats by opposition groups. The International Organization has faced complications, amongst them when mercenaries are granted the citizenship with the purpose of not distinguishing him/her from the citizen.

The Case of Al Satrawiís Extended Family:
An Example of Discrimination Violating the Law in Granting Citizenship

Al Haj Saleh bin Ahmad Al Satrawi, is a Bahraini citizen from Sitra Island, whom Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid bin Abd Al Wahab Al Khalifa disagreed with on the possession of a piece of land. The court released in its book, issue nr. 1439 for the year 1356 Hijri, under the management of the Bahrain governmentís counsellor, a default judgement that only a quarter of the land is for Al Haj Saleh. Because Al Haj Saleh considered the courts judgement unjust and bias, he did not accept it. He was attacked in his home and he was exposed to an attempt on his life, so he fled with his children to Iraq, and that was in the year 1938.

In a dated letter on Ramadan 16th 1356 Hijri, the Bahrain governmentís counsellor wrote to Al Haj Saleh bin Ahmad Al Satrawi in his residence in Basra: ëIn reference to your undated book regarding what you claim about Mohammed bin Rashid Al Khalifa, the case has been resolved and you got a quarter of the palm trees. Therefore the lawsuit is over and there is no need to constantly send letters in this regard.í

Al Haj Saleh used to hold passport nr. 19 and a citizenship certificate nr. 438 and he used to hold residence identification in the Basra province issued in the year 1939. He passed away in Basra in the year 1946. Two of his sons are still alive and they hold the old Bahraini passports. The number of children and grandchildren are now almost 100 person, most of them still live in Basra in Iraq.

In the year 1957, all the Iraqis including the residents were added up, and the family of Al Haj Saleh was considered Iraqi and they got the Iraqi citizenship. However, in the year 1986 an order was issued from the Iraqi government to denaturalize all residents whose grandparents held residents before the population statistic of 1957 and getting a residence was regarded illegal because they concealed their real identity. As a result of that they got exposed to a lot of harassments.

We have documents that were released by the Iraqi government circulating to all quarters and universities that the children of Al Haj Saleh Al Satrawi are not Iraqis, but are holders of the Bahraini citizenship. That greatly influenced the way they were treated by official bodies, their childrenís studies in university, job applications and even in getting ration cards during the economic blockade on Iraq. The children of Al Haj Saleh suffered from a lot of insults when consulting governmental departments, especially when the relation between the Iraqi government and the Gulf States became tense. Some of their children were also not issued residence cards. They are currently working in the low level jobs despite that some of them hold university certificates.

In April 1989, Hashim Abd Al Razaq tried entering Bahrain along with his father, as Abd Al Razaq carried the old Bahraini passport, but they were held in the airport for three days, then they were deported to Baghdad. In the year 1990, the children of Al Haj Saleh consulted the Bahraini embassy in Baghdad, and they were given certificates proving that they requested getting passports in order to help them in dealing with the Iraqi authorities. During Iraqís invasion on Kuwait, members of the family went to the Bahraini embassy in Kuwait, as the Bahraini community was residing in the embassy. The children of Al Haj Saleh went through many risks to supply food and to deliver the wax sealed correspondences between the Bahraini embassies in Kuwait and Baghdad. They received a letter of certificate regarding that from the ambassador.

However, the children of Al Haj Saleh stayed until this moment without benefiting from the right of getting a passport and the freedom of mobility. In the year 1995, some of them tried to leave Iraq with women and children, after getting visas for Jordan. But at the borders of Jordan, they were investigated for many hours and then were returned to Iraq and were told to ask the Iraqi authorities for the reason.

On October 10th, 2000, in a verdict pronounced from the High Civil Court in Bahrain, in a lawsuit filed by 6 of Saleh Al Satrawiís grandchildren against the Directorate of Immigration and Passports, the verdict was pronounced compelling the defendant to issue Bahraini passports to the suitors. That is based on the defendants being Bahrainis by ancestry according to what article 4 from the citizenship law of the year 1963 states, as there father is of a Bahraini nationality and has a Bahraini passport.

However, in a reply from the Ministry of Internal Affairs to a letter from the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), dated January 6th, 2004 the following was mentioned: ëAccording to the provisions of article (3) of the Bahraini citizenship law for year 1963, amended by the announcement nr. 11/1963, (the family of Al Haj Saleh Al Satrawi) are not considered Bahrainis, knowing that a verdict was pronounced from the Supreme Court regarding that by an appeal numbered 323/2002í

The family is currently spread in different countries: almost 75 in Iraq, 7 people in Kuwait and 17 sought refuge in Europe by the help of the United Nations after being forced to leave Kuwait after the war. Sixty six of Al Haj Salehís children and grandchildren are Bahrainis and legally have the right to obtain passports and to return to their country, Bahrain.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) released certificates entitling the members of this family refuge because they were deprived of their original citizenship and their right in returning to their country Bahrain. In a follow-up to one of the familyís memberís case with one of the Bahraini Diplomatic Missions outside, it was said to the Commissionís delegate that the reason for not permitting their return to Bahrain is that their grandfather led an attempt to break up Sitra Island!!

Subsequent to when Sheikh Hamad bin Isa came to power, the family wrote to him a group of letters requiring returning to Bahrain. They told us that a bargain was made in order to grant them passports as long as they renounce their old properties, and some of them were ready for that on the condition of actually securing the ability of regaining the citizenship. After the Iraqi regimeís downfall, as I was on a visit to Basra among the delegation of Amnesty International, they came to present their case. They are currently in constant touch with the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), as they requested from the BCHR to follow-up their case.

The case of Al Haj Saleh Al Satrawiís family is not an isolated case, yet it is an exemplar case which discloses the regimeís nature and its procedures. Through this case, the governorship of the law can be tested, and the nature of the Bahraini citizenship law and its efficiency. The case of Al Haj Salehís family can be compared to the cases of thousands of tribal Syrians, Yemenis and Saudi Arabians who were granted the citizenship secretly without meeting the criteria, and even though they hold another effective citizenship. This reveals the manipulation in the law, abuse of power, corruption and racial and sectarian discrimination in granting the Bahraini citizenship.

The story of Al Haj Salehís family is the story of Bahrain, and it shows to what extent there is need for a real reform that makes Bahrain a state of law, and not the possession of a group or certain family that acts the way it wishes to.

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