Middle East News
Woman's death sparks new tension in Bahrain
Jul 16, 2011, 18:56 GMT
Cairo - The death of 46-year-old woman inside her home during clashes in her Shiite village between protesters and police sparked a renewed wave of unrest Saturday in Bahrain.
Thousands of mourners who marched in the woman's funeral in her village of Sitra turned their anger at the government - and the moderate opposition for participating in a national dialogue.
The talks are aimed at bringing all parties together to find a way out of the current political and security crisis, which has swept Bahrain since pro-reform protests broke out in mid-February.
The funeral march for the disabled mother of two, Zainab al-Juma, who died Friday, quickly turned into clashes with police after some of the mourners attempted to march again following her burial.
On Friday, while the key opposition group al-Wefaq was holding a rally on the outskirts of Manama to demand constitutional reforms that ensure equal voting rights, a separate rally was organized by a group that calls its self the February 14th movement in Sitra south of the capital.
Police had barred the Sitra rally and attempts by supporters to hold it lead to heavy clashes. Residents accused police of dealing heavy-handedly with protesters and residents.
According to Sitra residents, teargas rounds were fired directly into and near homes in the village. Fresh Youtube videos, which could not be independently verified, appeared to show police hurling teargas rounds at a home in Sitra.
Al-Juma, who was lying in her bed during clashes Friday evening just outside her house, suffocated after inhaling teargas in the room.
According to relatives, she was unable to move without assistance. They attempted to assist her waiting for medical care, which they say took more then an hour to reach the house.
Al-Juma was declared dead at the scene. Authorities said that she died of natural causes, unrelated to the clashes.
The relatives and al-Wefaq insist that her death was a direct result of the teargas.
On Sunday, al-Wefaq, which emphasizes that it does not support calls to bring down the regime, is expected to make a final declaration on whether to withdraw from the national dialogue, which Bahraini authorities suggested as a venue to formulate reform demands to be presented for review to the king, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa.
The opposition has maintained that the mechanisms of the dialogue were unfair.
Protests demanding political reform and greater freedoms in Sunni-ruled, Shi'ite majority Bahrain began on February 14. More than 30 people have been killed during government crackdowns on protesters, which included the use of live ammunition, activists say.
Four police officers were also killed in clashes, according to the Interior Ministry.
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