TEHRAN (Press Shia) – The Manama regime should restore citizenship to hundreds of Bahraini nationals whose citizenship has been revoked by executive orders or court rulings since 2012, Human Rights Watch said Friday.

According to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD), Bahraini authorities have, since 2012, revoked the citizenship of at least 738 nationals – 232 in 2018 alone – in a process that lacks adequate legal safeguards. This includes many human rights defenders, political activists, journalists, and religious scholars.

The vast majority of Bahraini citizens stripped of citizenship are left effectively stateless, and some have been deported.

“Bahrain seems intent on earning the dubious honor of leading the region in stripping citizenship,” Eric Goldstein, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said.

“While authorities claim that these acts are linked to national security, they are in fact punishing many people merely for peacefully voicing dissent,” he deplored.

All known citizenship revocations since January 1, 2018, have been handed down by civil or military courts, BIRD said. Human Rights Watch has documented widespread fair trial violations in both court systems, in particular since the crackdown on anti-government protests after 2011. The violations include a lack of access to lawyers, especially during interrogation, and allegedly coerced confessions.

In 108 cases prior to 2018, authorities directly revoked a person’s citizenship through a royal decree or Interior Ministry order, according to BIRD.

Bahrain, a close ally of the US in the Persian Gulf region, has been witnessing almost daily protests against the ruling Al Khalifa dynasty since early 2011, with Manama using heavy-handed measures in an attempt to crush the demonstrations.

Scores of Bahrainis have been killed and hundreds of others injured and arrested in the ongoing crackdown on the peaceful demonstrations.