Funeral Processions Mix With Violence in the Arab WorldFeb 18, 2011 – 1:44 PM
Violence mixed with funeral processions and anti-government demonstrations today, with more deaths reported in Bahrain, Libya and Yemen.
Tens of thousands of defiant demonstrators swarmed main streets and squares in North Africa and the Middle East, as calls for change sweep the region on the heels of popular revolts in Tunisia and Egypt.
In Bahrain, at least four people were killed when protesters clashed with security forces near the capital's Pearl Square, CNN reported, citing witnesses. The Associated Press reported that at least 50 people were injured after soldiers opened fire on protesters and that some of the victims were being treated for gunshot wounds at the main hospital. The U.S. Embassy was put on lockdown due to the protests, The State Department said.
At least one helicopter opened fire on the fleeing protesters and then at a Western reporter, The New York Times said.
In Yemen, witnesses say that a grenade was thrown at anti-government protesters, BBC News reported.
Today is the first day of the weekend across most of the Muslim world, and pro-democracy rallies are the culmination of a week or more of similar protests in Bahrain, Yemen, Libya and Jordan. As faithful file out of mosques after Friday prayers, they're joining forces with marchers demanding more freedoms.
Security Forces Open Fire on Protesters in Bahrain
Bahrain Protests: A Day in Disturbing Images [VIDEOS]
US Embassy Personnel in Bahrain Under Lockdown
Opinion: Let's Not Pull a 'Mubarak' in Yemen, Bahrain
Need a Map of Bahrain? Here's a Geography Lesson [PHOTOS and VIDEO]
Huge Crowd Jams Cairo for One-Week Anniversary of Revolution
Iranian Demonstrators Call for Execution of Opposition Leaders
Shiite cleric Sheik Isa Qassim spoke of Thursday's violence at prayers today, referring to the security forces' crackdown in the capital Manama as a "massacre" that aimed to quash free speech.
"The people were lying down peacefully, spending a calm night at the Pearl Roundabout under an open sky. Men, women, children and babies, all have been brutally attacked in a way to prevent escape and to inflict maximum suffering," the sheik said, according to CNN.
"This massacre makes it clear that the government in Bahrain is the most brutal among the governments of the Arab world," he added.
In Egypt, a huge mass of people gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where an 18-day standoff led to President Hosni Mubarak's ouster one week ago today. The mood today was festive, celebrating victory and also vowing to hold Egypt's new military rulers to their promises of reform. The Guardian reported that about 1 million people had massed in the square today.
But the mood was more somber in Bahrain and Libya, where mourners are burying dozens killed in violent crackdowns by government forces. Early today, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi joined the crowds in the capital Tripoli but did not speak publicly, Reuters reported.
Twenty-four people have died in Libya during the protests, BBC News reported, citing human rights activists.
In Bahrain, protesters first took to the streets last weekend calling for better opportunities for the country's majority Shiite Muslims, who've long been ruled by a Sunni Muslim monarch. But after violent crackdowns, they've increased their demands, calling now for a toppling of the country's ruling family.
Crown Prince Sheik Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa appeared on national TV and promised dialogue with the protesters, but only once calm had returned, the BBC said.
The prince, who is also deputy chief of the army, called on all protesters to withdraw from the streets.
Yemen's own uprising showed no signs of abating in its eighth day today, as pro-democracy protesters continued their calls for President Ali Abdullah Saleh's ouster after 32 years in power. Protesters set fire to a government building, and a demonstrator was shot dead overnight, The Associated Press reported. Social media dubbed today the "Friday of Rage," and tens of thousands demonstrated, with some marching on Saleh's presidential palace.
"We have been living for 30 years without purpose or hope," a preacher told the crowd at a university mosque in the capital Sanaa, according to AP. Saleh has promised not to extend his current term when it ends in 2013, but protesters say they want reform before then.
In Jordan, protesters are calling for more public freedoms and lower food prices on the seventh straight day of demonstrations. The kingdom's rallies have been more peaceful than those in neighboring countries, with demonstrators demanding more rights but not the toppling of their largely popular king.