Bahrain Protest Funeral 311.
(photo credit: Associated Press)
MANAMA, Bahrain— Thousands of funeral mourners called for the downfall of Bahrain's ruling monarchy as burials began Friday after a deadly assault on pro-reform protesters that has brought army tanks into the streets of the most strategic Western ally in the Gulf.
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The cries against Bahrain's king and his inner circle reflect an escalation of the demands from a political uprising that began by only asking for a weakening of the Sunni monarchy's hold on top government posts and addressing discrimination by the Shi'ite majority in the tiny island nation.
The mood, however, appears to have turned toward defiance of the entire ruling system after the brutal attack Thursday on a protest encampment in Bahrain's capital Manama, which left at least five dead, more than 230 injured and put the nation under emergency-style footing with military forces in key areas and checkpoints on main roadways.
"The regime has broken something inside of me ... All of these people
gathered today have had something broken in them," said Ahmed Makki Abu
Taki, whose 27-year-old brother Mahmoud was killed in the pre-dawn sweep
through the protest camp in Manama's Pearl Square. "We used to demand
for the prime minister to step down, but now our demand is for the
ruling family to get out."
Outside a village mosque, several thousands mourners gathered to bury
three men killed in the crackdown. The first body, covered in black
velvet, was passed hand to hand toward a grave as it was being dug.
Amid the Shiite funeral rites, many chanted for the removal of King
Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and the entire Sunni dynasty that has ruled for
more than two centuries in Bahrain, the first nation in the Gulf to
feel the pressure for changes sweeping the Arab world.
There were no security forces near the mosque on the island of Sitra, where three of those killed had lived.
The capital and other areas remained under the close watch of the
military and police — which includes various nationalities from around
the region under a policy by Bahrain's ruling system to give citizenship
and jobs to other Sunnis to try to offset the Shi'ites, who account for
about 70 percent of the population.