DUBAI: Thousands of Shias protested in Bahrain yesterday against what they say are attempts by the Sunni authorities to tip the kingdom’s demographic balance in their favour by naturalising foreigners, witnesses said.
The Shia opposition accuses Sunni-ruled Bahrain of having naturalised tens of thousands of Sunni foreigners in the kingdom over recent years.
“The indigenous people of Bahrain are in danger,” banners read, as protesters waving Bahraini flags marched near the Shia village of Daih, near the capital Manama, according to witnesses.
Police heavily patrolled the area but no clashes were reported.
In a statement read at the end of the protest, the opposition accused authorities of “following a destructive policy aimed at replacing the indigenous people with regime supporters”.
“Naturalising poses a threat to Bahrain’s security and stability,” they said. The protest came two days after Human Rights Watch urged Bahrain to repeal a law allowing dissidents’ citizenships to be revoked if they have been convicted of terrorism.
The law was introduced last year. On August 6, a court stripped nine Bahraini men of their citizenship. HRW also said that 10 other Shia, whose citizenships were revoked two years ago, are now facing jail terms or deportation from Bahrain.
Hundreds of Shias have been arrested and many have faced trials over their role in anti-regime protests that erupted in February 2011. Security forces crushed the protests in mid-March 2011, but smaller demonstrations frequently take place in Shia villages, triggering clashes with police.