Iraqi parliament in Baghdad stormed by protesters

Iraqi parliament in Baghdad stormed by protesters

Thousands of supporters of an influential Shia cleric burst into Iraq’s parliament on Saturday for the second time in a week to protest government-forming efforts spearheaded by Iran-backed groups.

Iraqi security forces initially used tear gas and sonic bombs to repel the protesters, inflicting several injuries, witnessed by journalists for The Associated Press. The health ministry said it had taken in 60 injured patients.

An expected parliamentary session did not take place and there were no lawmakers in the hall.

Following calls by cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, protesters used ropes to tear down concrete barricades leading to the gate of Iraq’s Green Zone. The district houses official buildings and foreign embassies.

Demonstrators then occupied the parliament building and hoisted the Iraqi flag and portraits of al-Sadr. It was the second time in three days that the cleric had ordered his followers to stage a sit-in in the Green Zone. The protests are a pressure tactic used by the cleric to derail government-forming efforts by his political rivals in the Coalition Framework, an Iran-backed coalition of Shia parties.

Iraqi Parliament
The demonstrators were supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
AP

Acting Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi directed security forces to protect the protesters and urged them to keep their protest peaceful, according to a statement. Inside the parliament building, the defense of the security forces became less intense, and many were seen sitting and chatting with protesters.

Some demonstrators moved from Parliament to the Judicial Council building.

“We have come today to remove the corrupt political class and prevent them from holding a parliamentary session and to prevent the framework from forming a government,” said Raad Thabet, 41. “We respond to the call of al- Sadr followed.”

Iraqi Parliament
The demonstrators tore down barricades on Iraq’s Green Zone.
AP
Iraqi Parliament
The demonstrators occupied the parliamentary floor and showed pictures of Muqtada al-Sadr.
AP

Al-Sadr’s party ended government-forming talks in June, giving its rivals in the Coordination Framework Alliance the majority they needed to move the process forward.

Many protesters wore black to mark the days leading up to Ashura, which commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Mohamed and one of the most important figures in Shia Islam. Al-Sadr’s messages to his followers have used the important day in Shia Islam to stoke protests.

Al-Sadr has used his large grassroots following as leverage against his rivals.

Hundreds of his supporters stormed the parliament building on Wednesday after the Framework alliance named Mohammed al-Sudani as its nominee for prime minister and signaled its willingness to form a government despite his threats.

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