The government of Bahrain has taken away the citizenship of 31 opposition members due to security concerns.

According to a statement from the interior ministry published by state media, the activists had “caused damage to national security”. The Bahraini government says that according to a clause in its citizenship law, the “re-evaluation of nationality” is permitted if someone threatens the security of the country.

The decision follows the government’s ban on all rallies and public protests, a move that has caused concern among Western governments and human rights organisations.

The 31 protesters targeted include Jawad and Jalal Fairuz, both former MPs for the Shia group. Said Al-Shihabi, head of the Bahrain Freedom Movement and three Shia clerics were also included in the list published by the country’s interior ministry.

The government claims the affected people will have the right to appeal the decision.

Protests first started in Bahrain in February 2011, with demonstrators calling for greater democracy and an end to what they view as discrimination against the Shia Muslim population by the Sunni leaders.