Iraqi cleric al-Sadr threatens continued occupation of parliament area


NOS News

Supporters of the influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr will continue to occupy the area around the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad until their demands are met. al-Sadr said in his first public appearance since parliament was stormed last Saturday.

He gave a TV speech from his home base Najaf. One of the demands is that the parliament be dissolved and new elections are called.

Iraqi politics is in a deep crisis due to disagreements in various groups. Since Saddam Hussein was ousted in 2003, Shias have provided the prime minister, Kurds the president and Sunnis the speaker of parliament. But after the elections in October last year, no agreement has yet been reached on who should fill those positions.

Extra-parliamentary opposition

Al-Sadr’s party became the largest in those elections, taking 74 of the 329 seats. However, he withdrew his parliamentarians in June after failing to form a coalition with Kurdish and Sunni parties. Al-Sadr said at the time that he would oppose the formation of a government that he does not like.

Other Shia parties, which, unlike al-Sadr, have good ties with Iran, subsequently proposed a prime ministerial candidate. It is an ally of a rival of al-Sadr. In response to that nomination, al-Sadr supporters stormed parliament twice, injuring more than a hundred.

Piece of the pie

According to al-Sadr, it is no longer possible to talk to the coalition of rival Shia parties. “Dialogue with them has yielded nothing but destruction and corruption, despite their promises and signatures.”

On Tuesday, al-Sadr called on his supporters to leave parliament. He does want them to stay in the so-called Green Zone: the highly secured area in Baghdad where many embassies and government buildings are located.

A counter-protest then started against the occupation of parliament. The UN fears that the political deadlock will turn into widespread violence. Dutch envoy Hennis said earlier that a small spark can “ignite” the situation: “It is a hard power struggle: who gets the biggest piece of the pie?”

These are images of Monday’s parliamentary occupation. There was no end in sight to the action at the time:

End of occupation Iraqi parliament not yet in sight: ‘Down with the corrupt elite’


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