A Human Rights Watch staffer said Wednesday he was barred from entering Bahrain for the annual FIFA congress in the Gulf state, which restricts access to foreign activists and journalists.
HRW director for Israel and Palestine, Omar Shakir, said he spent 18 hours in the airport before being obliged to change his return ticket and board an outbound flight.
The US citizen told AFP by telephone that he was hoping to get a visa at the airport, as is customary for holders of American passports.
But he was denied a visa once he declared he was there for the FIFA meeting and that he worked for HRW.
“They told me it was a decision from security services,” Shakir said, pointing out that the initial response was that he was not on the list of attendees provided by world football’s governing body FIFA.
Bahrain grants visas at the airport to nationals of many Western countries, but journalists and rights activists have been denied since its crackdown in 2011 on nationwide Shiite-led protests.
Shakir said he travelled to Bahrain to lobby participants at this week’s FIFA congress to ban Israel from holding league football games in West Bank settlements.
FIFA “should have done more with Bahraini authorities” to guarantee access to its meeting, he said.