Saturday, December 7, 2013
From staff and news services
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Bahrain deported a Portland, Maine, native working as a teacher in the Persian Gulf kingdom over what it described Saturday as her “radical” writings on Twitter and websites as the government cracks down on dissent in the country.
Erin Kilbride left the kingdom and was to arrive back in the U.S. later Saturday, officials at the Bahrain Center for Human Rights said.
Her Facebook page said Portland is her hometown and she lives now in Manama, Bahrain, where she works as an early childhood English teacher. Her page also said she graduated from Cheverus High School in 2008, Georgetown University and the University of Jordan. Her Facebook page may have been removed later Saturday night.
Kilbride did not return requests for comment Saturday from the Maine Sunday Telegram and The Associated Press.
A woman contacted in Portland who said she is Kilbride’s aunt said she would contact family members about whether they wanted to discuss the situation. She did not call back Saturday night, and a follow-up phone call was not returned.
In a statement Saturday, Bahrain’s Ministry of State for Communications said it had received complaints about Kilbride. The ministry said an investigation found that she worked “illegally as an unaccredited journalist” in violation of her visa.
Kilbride was “using Twitter and a number of websites to publish articles on Bahrain that were deemed to incite hatred against the government and members of the royal family,” the ministry said. It did not offer specifics about what she wrote, though it did say she wrote for the Bahrain Center for Human Rights.
The ministry also said her landlord apparently reported Kilbride for having a flag of Hezbollah, the Shiite Muslim political party and militant group in Lebanon. The official Twitter feed of Bahrain’s Minister of State Communications, Fawaz Al Khalifa, posted images Saturday that it described as a yellow Hezbollah flag in Kilbride’s bedroom.
Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th fleet, has seen months of unrest between the Sunni-led monarchy and its majority Shiite population. The government has started a crackdown on dissent, including the parliament approving tougher measures against so-called “terrorists” that give authorities greater ability to strip citizenship from people convicted of violence.
On Friday, British Airways barred Maryam al-Khawaja, the acting president of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, from boarding a direct London-to-Bahrain flight over what a spokesman described as a request from the government.