MANAMA — Two Shiite demonstrators were killed in clashes with Bahraini police, sparking calls to step up anti-government protests on Tuesday and a walkout from parliament of the main Shiite opposition bloc.
The Islamic National Accord Association which has 18 seats in the 40-member house has “suspended its membership” in the Shiite-majority kingdom’s parliament, a member, MP Khalil al-Marzooq, told AFP by telephone.
The decision was taken because of “the deterioration in security and the negative and brutal way in which (the authorities) dealt with the protesters, killing two of them,” he said.
Fadel Salman Matrouk was shot dead in front of a hospital on Tuesday where mourners gathered for the funeral of Msheymah Ali who died of his wounds after police dispersed a protest in a village east of Manama on Monday, he said.
Marzooq said both men were “martyrs.”
The interior ministry said “some of the people participating in the the funeral on Tuesday clashed with forces from a security patrol,” leading to Matrouk’s death.
“An investigation is under way to determine the circumstances surrounding the case,” it said.
The interior ministry also announced the death of a protester late on Monday “due to his wounds” and opened an inquiry into whether police resorted to “unjustified use of arms” in dispersing the protest in Diya village.
News of the two deaths prompted activists, who posted pictures of both men on a Facebook page, to call for a huge turnout at their funerals and to step up anti-government protests.
Witnesses told AFP that protests were held on Monday in a string of Shiite-majority villages to the west, east and north of the capital as well as in the historic Balad al-Qadim quarter of Manama city centre.
Turnout at the rallies ranged from between a few dozen to hundreds of people, they said.
“There were no arrests during the the demonstrations, but the police in some cases clashed with the protesters,” a police official told AFP.
Security forces were deployed in force along main roads into Manama in a bid to head off rallies called on the Internet, mirroring similar online initiatives around the Arab world.
The Facebook page which called for a February 14 uprising, inspired by the protests which ousted the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, had attracted more than 22,000 “likes” by Tuesday.
A message on the page read: “This is your chance to open the way for political and social reforms in line with changes taking place in the Middle East.”
As in other Arab countries, tech-savvy Bahrainis are using the Internet to issue social demands for the government to create jobs for a growing number of unemployed young people and increase wages.
“Bahrainis are not less courageous than other people,” said Marzooq who accused security forces of “deliberately” killing the two protesters.
The Shiite opposition bloc supports the demonstrations “but will not call for them because we want the world to see that those making the change are Bahrain’s youths” and not any political parties, he said.
Twenty-five Shiite activists, facing terrorism charges, are on trial in the tiny Gulf state, ruled by the Sunni Al-Khalifa family of King Hamad, which retains a tight grip on the premiership and key ministries.
In the 1990s, the Arab state which faces Iran across the Gulf waterway, was plagued by a wave of Shiite-led unrest that has abated since 2001 reforms restored parliament.
But the Shiite opposition opposes the elected house’s legislative powers being shared with an appointed upper house and accuses authorities of trying to alter the archipelago’s demographic make-up by naturalising Sunni immigrants.