09/02/2014 10:38 am ET Updated Nov 02, 2014

Citizenship Revoked, Entry Denied: Citizen to Uncitizen

Imagine for a moment that you are living alone in exile. Your immediate family is nearly 3,000 miles away. Your father is serving a life sentence in prison for demanding basic justice and dignity. The only times you speak with him are during limited and monitored phone calls he makes from prison. His health is quickly deteriorating in the midst of his hunger strike "in protest against the continuation of arbitrary arrest and detention."

Imagine for a moment that your sister, who is a mother and a wife, is a frequent target of arbitrary detention for her peaceful demonstrations. Other members of your family, your colleagues, and friends have either been arrested, are currently in jail, or face the constant threat of being thrown in prison.

Imagine for a moment that the last time you attempted to go back to your country of origin, and you cannot even make it beyond the luggage counter at the airport. The airline employee checking your luggage in informs you that you are not permitted to board.

Imagine for a moment that anytime you intend to go back to your country of origin, you must prepare a statement, inform human rights organizations, and confront the uncertainty of either being denied entry, arrested, or deported.

For Bahraini human rights defender Maryam Al-Khawaja, imagination is not necessary -- this is her reality. On August 30, 2014, Maryam arrived in Bahrain in order to visit her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, who at the time, was entering his fifth day of hunger striking. Before departing on her flight from Istanbul to Manama, she posted the following tweet:

About four hours later, she posts the following:

Maryam's mother, Khadija Almousawi, provided updates:

And with that, Maryam Al-Khawaja receives the welcome of a wanted fugitive in her own country. The limited communication leaves her family, friends, and colleagues speculating about her whereabouts and security. Even the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs was unable to identify her status within the hours of the incident.

Most revealing is the Bahraini authorities' contempt of justice and its selective application of citizenship laws, which have been used to achieve political ends in numerous instances. Express critical sentiments toward the regime? Citizenship revoked. Willing to support the regime and enforce its draconian laws, even if you're a foreigner? Citizenship granted. This politicized approach of regulating citizenship serves little more than to depict a skewed facade of Bahrain's citizenry. Bahrain's critical voices will continue to grow in a loud unison, something that the revocation of citizenship or denial of entry cannot and will not silence.

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