Iraq: Pro-Sadr Protesters Invade Parliament for Second Time

Iraq: Pro-Sadr protesters invade parliament for a second time

Ten months after the legislative elections in Iraq, the political crisis continues and gives rise to demonstrations near parliament, as was the case a few days ago. (Archives)

For the second time this week, thousands of supporters of the influential Shiite political leader Moqtada Sadr invaded the Iraqi parliament on Saturday, which they intend to occupy until further notice after another day of demonstrations in a country in the midst of a political crisis.

Waving Iraqi flags, portraits of Moqtada Sadr and flags with religious insignia, thousands of demonstrators crowded the hall of parliament before entering the hemicycle, waving victory signs and taking selfies in a good-natured atmosphere, reported AFP journalists on the spot.

The political deadlock is total in Iraq, which awaits the appointment of a new president and a prime minister 10 months after the October 2021 legislative elections.

Kingmaker and troublemaker on the political scene, Moqtada Sadr has launched a campaign of maximum pressure against his opponents, rejecting their candidate for the post of head of government.

Protesters had briefly occupied parliament on Wednesday, and on Saturday they announced a sit-in [which will last] until further notice, according to a brief statement from the Sadrist Movement.

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Moqtada Sadr.

Lying on the carpet in the corridors or leaning against the pillars, some demonstrators were killing time on their cellphones, others were fanning themselves with cardboard boxes or had taken off their shirts to remain in their undershirts, according to an AFP journalist.

On Saturday morning, several thousand demonstrators gathered in front of a bridge in Baghdad scaled concrete blocks erected to block the way, finally managing to enter the green zone, despite tear gas fire from the security forces and the water cannons that have been deployed, AFP noted.

The demonstrators reject the candidacy for the post of Prime Minister of Mohamed Chia al-Soudani, considered close to the former head of government Nouri al-Maliki, historical enemy of Mr. Sadr.

In the gardens of parliament, Sattar al-Aliawi, 47, says he is demonstrating against a corrupt and incapable government, he believes, that will be formed by opponents of Mr Sadr.

We do not want Mr. Soudani, assures this official. The people totally reject the parties that have ruled the country for 18 years, he says. We will have a sit-in under the dome of parliament, we will sleep here.

Former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki

A 52-year-old former minister and former provincial governor, Mr. Soudani is the candidate of the Coordination Framework, an alliance of pro-Iran Shiite factions bringing together the formation of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and representatives of the Hachd al-Chaabi, former paramilitaries integrated into the regular forces.

If he has now decided to keep the pressure on his opponents, Mr. Sadr had nevertheless left the task of forming a government to them, causing his 73 deputies to resign in June: they represented the first force within the Parliament of 329 deputies.

In a statement issued on Saturday, the Coordination Framework blasted the attacks on constitutional institutions following the incursions into parliament.

In turn, the coalition called on the popular masses […] to demonstrate peacefully to defend the state and its legitimacy.

Continued political escalation increases tensions in the streets, current Prime Minister Moustafa al-Kazimi said in a statement.

A total of at least 100 protesters and 25 members of the security forces were injured Saturday on the sidelines of the demonstrations, according to the Ministry of Health.

We are here for a revolution of reform […] to make victorious the people and Sayyed Moqtada Sadr the leader, launched Haydar al-Lami, a demonstrator met in the center of Baghdad.

The corrupt, we don't want them, and we don't want to try those we have already seen [in power], he told the ;AFP. They bring us nothing. Since 2003 until now, they are the same; they harmed us.

During the night from Friday to Saturday, Sadr's supporters ransacked the offices of Mr. Maliki's Daawa party in Baghdad as well as the premises of the Hikma Current , the formation of politician Ammar al-Hakim, which is part of the Coordination Framework, according to a security source.

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