PORTLAND, Maine — A Portland woman working as a teacher in Bahrain was deported over the weekend after the government accused her of “radical” political writings.
Erin Kilbride was teaching Kindergarten in the small Persian Gulf island kingdom, located off the coast of Saudi Arabia.
The country’s Ministry of State of Communications said in a statement Saturday that Kilbride was working “illegally as an unaccredited journalist” and that the government had terminated her visa for that reason, according to reports. She returned to the U.S. on Saturday.
The Bahraini government accused Kilbride of “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.”
Kilbride was working as an editor at Muftah, a publication that covers art, music and business as well as human rights issues in the Middle East and North Africa.
Kilbride’s profile on Muftah calls her “an independent researcher and teacher currently based in Bahrain. She has lived and traveled through the Middle East.”
“Erin’s work explores the intersections of human rights violations, conflicting modalities of protest, and critical theory. She is currently a Research Assistant at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Manama,” the site says.
Pro-Bahraini government sources in the Gulf Daily News said Kilbride was also working under the pseudonym Chloe Kems, and wrote about human rights issues in Bahrain for Human Rights First and for Middle East Voices.
Kilbride holds a Bachelor’s degree in Women and Gender Studies and Arabic Language from Georgetown University and is planning to pursue masters in Human Rights at the London School of Economics this year, her profile on Muftah said.
The Gulf Daily News cited pro-government sources who said Kilbride was working with Hezbollah. In addition, the Bahrain government tweeted a picture they alleged was taken in Kilbride’s room showing a Hezbollah flag on the wall.
A recent piece in the christian Science Monitor said the Bahrain government has been cracking down on citizen journalists lately to suppress dissent.
Bahrain, a majority Shi’ite country ruled by the Sunni al Khalifa family, has been buffeted by unrest since the start of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, with mostly Shi’ite Bahrainis agitating for democratic reforms and more say in government.
The island, which is home to the U.S. Fifth Fleet and sits between top oil exporter Saudi Arabia and Iran, has expelled several foreigners for involvement in documenting unrest.
In February 2012, two American rights activists were deported for trying to report on events marking the first anniversary of demonstrations for democratic reforms.
Reuters contributed to this report.