Protests pressure region
Demonstrators clash with police on funeral route
CAIRO – Thousands of mourners in Bahrain took part this morning in a funeral procession for a man killed Monday in the first Egypt-inspired protests to reach the Gulf.
Riot police initially used tear gas to try to block the funeral cortege for 21-year-old Ali Abdulhadi Mushaima, but then fell back and allowed it to proceed from a hospital in Bahrain’s capital Manama.
Mushaima was killed during clashes with security forces Monday trying to halt marches to demand greater freedoms and political rights from the ruling monarchy in Bahrain – a strategic Western ally and home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.
At least 25 people were treated for injuries.
Also Monday, protesters faced club-wielding security forces Monday in Yemen and Iran in what experts said may be shaping up as a pro-democracy wave ignited by the revolts that drove Egypt and Tunisia’s autocratic rulers from power.
There were unconfirmed reports of several deaths and hundreds of arrests in Tehran, where anti-government marchers chanting “death to dictators” staged their largest demonstration in more than a year.
The Obama administration spoke out for the Iranian protesters, in contrast to relatively mild initial statements it issued when unrest erupted there after disputed presidential elections in 2009.
“Let me very clearly and directly support the aspirations of the people who are in the streets in Iran today,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said after a Capitol Hill meeting with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
“What we see happening in Iran today is a testament to the courage of the Iranian people and an indictment of the hypocrisy of the Iranian regime, a regime which over the last three weeks has constantly hailed what went on in Egypt,” Clinton said.
The turnout in Tehran was especially surprising, given the executions and other harsh penalties meted out to people arrested in protests there after disputed June 2009 elections.
News reports put the crowds at tens of thousands, the largest since December 2009, when Iranian authorities crushed protests. Press TV, the state-run English-language television channel, said small groups of protesters “disrupted order in the Iranian capital Tehran,” provoking counterprotests by government supporters.
Cell-phone videos posted on Twitter, YouTube and other social networking sites showed crowds chanting anti-regime slogans.
In Yemen, security forces and pro-regime groups clashed for the fourth straight day with university students, journalists and others demanding democratic reforms and the ouster of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled the poor nation at the tip of the Arabian peninsula for 32 years.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said protesters were attacked “apparently without justification.”
U.S. officials are deeply concerned about Yemen, where an affiliate of al-Qaida has been making inroads. Saleh also faces an uprising in the north by a Shiite sect and a secessionist movement in the south, which was independent until 1990.