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Qatar naturalizing Bahraini citizens among key Gulf rift concerns

Ismaeel Naar

Published: Updated:

Qatar's naturalization of Gulf citizens, specifically those from Bahrain, has emerged as a key point of contention between Doha and several boycotting member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Several media outlets, including Al Arabiya, began to report in 2014 on the migration of several Bahraini families to Qatar, most of whom were Sunnis.

At the time, such policy was viewed as unfriendly toward Bahrain from a sister Gulf emirate. During the same year, when Gulf states withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar, Manama accused Doha explicitly of naturalizing Bahrainis for reasons that seemed dangerous.

Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa explained the matter clearly in a television interview at the time, saying that Bahrainis were being lured toward the Qatar nationality on grounds that they have a family affiliation in Doha, accusing Qatar of dealing with the issue on a sectarian basis as the latter was naturalizing Sunni Bahraini citizens, not Shiites. According to analysts, this was seen as a deliberate disruption of the country's social structure.

The ambassadors’ crisis in 2014 came to an end when Gulf countries demanded Doha stop naturalizing Bahrainis, but Manama's concerns continued and has further increased in its accusations that Qatar supports extremist groups seeking to overthrow the Bahraini regime.