MANAMA, Bahrain — Dozens of mourners gathered in Bahrain’s capital on Tuesday to bury a Shiite woman who witnesses say died at the hands of the country’s military shortly after emergency rule was imposed last week.
The funeral was a reminder that emotions remain raw and tensions are still high between the Shiite majority, which make up the bulk of the opposition, and the kingdom’s Sunni rulers and their allies.
Bahrain descended into turmoil last month as opposition groups drawn heavily from the country’s Shiite minority took to the streets of the capital Manama to call for greater political reforms. The tiny island nation plays host to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet, and its rulers maintain close ties to Saudi Arabia and other Western-backed Arab nations.
Bahia al-Aradi, 51, was driving on a main road in Manama looking for gasoline when she was shot in the head last Wednesday as she approached a military checkpoint, according to witnesses who came to her aid from nearby houses. They said they were also shot at by the military vehicles parked on a highway overpass.
The woman’s brother, Habib al-Aradi, 36, said Bahia was on the phone with her younger sister when she was shot. The sister heard gunshots before the line went silent.
He said the family was told they were able to pick up al-Aradi’s body from the main civilian hospital, Salmaniya, only this week. A death certificate seen by an Associated Press reporter was issued by the Bahrain Defense Force Emergency Hospital, a military facility. It listed the cause of death as severe brain injury.
“This is not the real reason why she died,” Habib al-Aradi said. He said he wants the military to explain what happened to his sister. “We cannot trust this army anymore.”
The military hasn’t commented on al-Aradi’s death.
Mourners at al-Aradi’s funeral demanded revenge and chanted “Death to Al Khalifa” — a reference to the country’s ruling dynasty — as they carried her body to Manama cemetery.
Human rights groups say al-Aradi’s death brings to at least 20 the number of people killed, including two members of Bahrain’s security forces, since protests began Feb. 14.
Meanwhile, an organizer of a Kuwaiti medical convoy blocked from entering Bahrain said the team is ready to try again if it gets official clearance.
Dr. Adnan Fadeq said the convoy returned to Kuwait on Monday after being told it could not cross from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain, which is under martial law after more than a month of anti-government protests.
Fadeq said no reason was given for the denial of permission to the convoy, which included 53 medical personnel and 21 ambulances. Bahraini authorities also have not commented.
A Saudi-led Gulf military force is in Bahrain aiding the Western-backed monarchy in quelling the Shiite-led opposition protests.