Bahrain Police Attack Funeral With Tear Gas, Killing Second Protestor
Security forces using tear gas and guns designed to take down birds killed a second demonstrator in Bahrain on Tuesday morning.
The second death in as many days of protests inspired by the Egyptian Revolution is likely to draw even more people to the streets.
The tiny island nation in the Persian Gulf is led by Islamic monarch belonging to the Sunni sect. Protestors say the king favors Sunnis, which are a minority in the country, and want to bring more democracy to Bahrain.
On Monday, police clashed with protesters in the capital, Manama, as well as Duran and Sanabis, launching tear gas, shooting live bullets and beating some protestors.
The protestor who died during those clashes--Ali Abdulhadi al-Mushaima--was shot in the back while running away from security forces [see this photo of his dead body. Warning: graphic.]. The protestor who died Tuesday morning was attending his funeral when security forces charged in. The government has promised to investigate the first death.
A group called “the Revolution of 14th February in Bahrain” has organized the protests on social networking website Facebook. The start of the unrest coincided with the birth of the constitutional monarchy in 2002.
Eighty percent of the Prime Minister’s cabinet is filled with members of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa’s royal family. The Shiite opposition group--another branch of Islam--wants to see more diversity in the cabinet and greater power be instilled in the parliament. Shiites make up 70 percent of the country, but have only a 45 percent share in parliament. They also own siginificantly less wealth than Sunnis. Bahrain's entire voting population is about the same size as the voting population of a single Congressional district in the United States. Half of Bahrain's population of 1.2 million is made up of foreigners. The security forces are heavily dominated by foreigners.
Despite the king offering each Bahraini family just over $2,500 USD and the promise of food and social welfare subsidies to alleviate the burden of rising food prices in the country, opposition protesters are not content.
Bahrain has the fastest growing economy in the Middle East because of its oil reserves. The country is an American ally. It is home to a crucial U.S. air base and U.S. Navy fleet.
"Bahrain gives Washington a base in the very heart of the Gulf from which it can protect and monitor the movement of 40% of the world's oil through the Strait of Hormuz, spy on Iran and support pro-Western Gulf states from potential threats," The National Post reported.
Sunnis worry that stronger influence from Shiites would put the country into a greater alliance with Iran. That scenario would likely have America worried too. King Hamad has blamed Iran for causing havoc in the Middle East and, according to WikiLeaks cables, wants their nuclear program to be stopped.