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AKIPRESS.COM - Bahrain has accused neighboring Qatar of harming its national security by “luring” some nationals to take Qatari citizenship, a charge that could widen a rift among Gulf Arab countries, Kuwait Times reports.
Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates recalled their ambassadors from Doha in March, accusing Qatar of failing to honor an accord not to interfere in each others’ internal affairs. The countries are all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), along with Kuwait and Oman. Efforts to patch up the rift, largely centered around Qatar’s backing for the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement which the other countries deeply oppose, have so far failed.
The Interior Ministry’s Undersecretary for Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs, Rashid bin Khalifa Al-Khalifa, said Qatar had “targeted specific families and singled out a particular category of people” with no consideration to Bahraini laws.
“The naturalization of Bahrainis would affect Bahrain’s national security and vital interests negatively,” the official added but gave no details on who was being targeted for naturalization or how many had been granted Qatari citizenship. Bahrain is acutely sensitive to changes in its demographic balance between Shiite Muslims and Sunnis.
The Sunni-ruled kingdom has a Shiite majority and an ongoing conflict between the government and predominantly Shiite protesters calling for more democracy has strong sectarian elements. There was no immediate comment from Qatar on the accusation, but a Gulf source said Bahrain’s complaint was linked to requests for naturalization by some Bahraini families with tribal links to Qatar. These requests are still under consideration, and the applicants had not yet met the requirement that include residing in the country for five years before being granted citizenship.
Bahraini Shiites have long accused their government of naturalizing Sunnis from abroad so that they would eventually outnumber Shiites in the small Gulf kingdom. Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, still sees regular violence more than three years after security forces quelled pro-democracy protests that erupted on the island during the Arab Spring.
Bahrain’s opposition has been largely decimated by arrests and prosecutions, and some young men have increasingly turned violent, targeting police and security forces with home-made bombs.