Iraq: Thousands of protesters storm parliament building in Baghdad for second time in a week

·2-min read
Supporters of Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr storm Parliament (REUTERS)
Supporters of Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr storm Parliament (REUTERS)

Thousands of protesters in Iraq stormed parliament on Saturday for the second time this week.

The followers of influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed into parliament to protest government formation efforts led by his rivals, an alliance of Iran-backed groups.

The scenes, in which at least 125 people were wounded according to a health ministry statement, came after similar protests on Wednesday.

Iraqi security forces initially used tear gas and stun grenades to try to repel the demonstrators.

Once inside, the protesters declared an open-ended sit-in and claimed they would not disperse until their demands were answered.

Parliament Speaker Mohammed Halbousi suspended future sessions until further notice.

Demonstrators had earlier used ropes and chains to pull down cement barricades leading to the gate of Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and embassies.

The action comes after Al-Sadr’s party was not able to form a government despite having won the largest number of seats in the federal elections held last October.

The populist cleric has used his followers as leverage against rivals and ordered them to occupy the parliament in the past.

Al-Sadr’s rivals in the Coordination Framework — an alliance of Shiite parties backed by Iran and led by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki — showed signs of internal divisions in response to the protests.

At first, it called for “peaceful" counter-protests to defend the state.

“Civil peace is a red line and all Iraqis must be prepared to defend it in all possible, peaceful, means," the alliance said.

Later, Hadi al-Amiri, an alliance leader, issued a statement inviting our “dear brother" al-Sadr to “a serious dialogue” over the political stalemate.

The United Nations expressed its concern of further instability and called on Iraqi leaders to de-escalate.

“Voices of reason and wisdom are critical to prevent further violence. All actors are encouraged to de-escalate in the interest of all Iraqis," it said.

In a speech, caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi also called for restraint.

“The political blocs must sit down and negotiate and reach an understanding for the sake of Iraq and the Iraqis," he said.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting