Bahrain strips Tiberias Marathon winner of citizenship

Move comes after Mushir Salem Jawher tells 'Post' he was "very proud" to compete in Israel.

bahrain jawher 298.88 (photo credit: Yisroel Pinchas/‘Pashut’ magazine)
bahrain jawher 298.88
(photo credit: Yisroel Pinchas/‘Pashut’ magazine)
Just two days after winning the Tiberias Marathon and speaking about how "people should live together in harmony," Kenyan-born runner Mushir Salem Jawher was stripped of his Bahraini citizenship Saturday for competing in Israel. The first athlete from an Arab country to compete in an Israeli marathon, Jawher won the race after completing it in just over two hours and 13 minutes. His comments in The Jerusalem Post on Friday alerted Bahraini authorities. "When I decided to come I didn't know it was history for me to be in here, but when I arrived [I was] told no other athlete had competed in Israel," said Jawher, a Catholic. "For me, it was no problem and I hope to come back and compete next year." But while he celebrated afterward and declared that he was "very proud" to have run in Israel, Bahrain's Athletic Union said in a statement Saturday that it had received the news that a Bahraini national competed in Israel with "shock and regret." "The union deeply regrets what the athlete has done," the statement said. A committee of sport and government authorities decided to strike Jawher's name off the sport union records and strip him of his Bahraini nationality, the statement said. It said Jawher had entered Israel with his Kenyan passport and added that the runner's Bahraini citizenship was revoked because he had "violated the laws of Bahrain." On Sunday, Israeli Athletic Association Chairman Shlomo Ben-Gal announced that he would be sending a letter to the International Association of Athletics Federation requesting it support Jawher. "According to the international treaty, an athlete has the freedom to compete at any event he chooses to and there can be no discrimination for political reasons," Gal rightly said. "We believe that sports should be above all political considerations, and that athlete s and sporting events can bridge and connect between countries across the world." Jawher was born in Kenya in 1978 and moved to Bahrain in 2003, according to the International Association of Athletics Federation. The tiny Persian Gulf kingdom of Bahrain has no official ties with Israel but is a close political ally of the United States. The oil-refining and banking island also hosts the US 5th Fleet. Jeremy Last contributed to this report