Thousands of demonstrators storm the Iraqi parliament for the second time in a week

BAGHDAD – Dozens were injured when protesters broke into Iraq’s parliament for the second time in a week.

The country’s health ministry said 100 civilians and 25 security guards were injured after protesters flooded and surrounded Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, which houses official buildings and embassies, in all four directions.

The protesters, made up largely of supporters of influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, were demonstrating against efforts to form a new government led by Iran-backed groups.

After tearing down towering concrete walls with ropes, the protesters were hit by anti-riot squads who used hot water, tear gas and pepper gas against them.

The protesters are trying to remove concrete barriers and cross the bridge towards the Green Zone
Protesters try to remove concrete barriers to cross the bridge towards Baghdad’s Green Zone on Saturday.Ali Abdul Hassan/AP

Other protesters were seen walking toward the Federal Courthouse and the Supreme Judicial Council building.

A previously scheduled parliamentary session was canceled Thursday and there were no MPs in the building.

The country’s acting prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, directed security forces to protect the protesters and urged them to keep the protest peaceful.

“I urge everyone to be calm, patient and reasonable and not get involved in confrontations, and I urge citizens not to clash with the security forces and to respect state institutions,” he said in a statement.

The crowd rallied after calls from al-Sadr to protest the appointment of Mohammed Shiya al-Sudani as the official candidate for prime minister by the Coordination Framework, an Iran-backed coalition of Shia parties.

A man holds a national flag while protesting at Iraq’s parliament in Baghdad’s high-security green zone on Saturday.Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP via Getty Images

Al-Sadr, who recently resigned from the political process despite winning the most seats in October’s federal election, said on Wednesday politicians cannot elect a prime minister or government without involving him and getting his approval.

He left government-forming talks after months of stalemate when he failed to attract enough lawmakers to secure the majority needed to elect the next president.

The parties must first select a president before the current candidate, al-Sudani, can face parliament to be formally appointed as the next leader.

The leaders of the Coordination Framework replaced al-Sadr’s lawmakers after his departure and spurred the formation of the new government.

In his statement, Al-Kadhimi said, “Political blocs must assemble, negotiate and understand for the good of Iraq and Iraqis, and the language of betrayal and exclusion must be avoided, and a high and all-encompassing patriotic spirit must be displayed.” “

Many fear that this may have sparked the protests organized by al-Sadr’s large grassroots supporters and the current instability. The hot-tempered cleric is a harsh critic of Iran and the US, and was once the poster child for violent resistance to the US-led invasion of Iraq


Al-Sadr is also blamed for the mass killings of Sunni civilians through sectarian violence, which peaked in 2006 and 2007 in Iraq.

The Pentagon once said that the Mahdi Army, which al-Sadr formed in 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime, had “replaced al-Qaeda in Iraq as the most dangerous accelerator of potentially self-sustaining sectarian violence.”

In 2016, al-Sadr supporters similarly stormed parliament. They held a sit-in calling for political reforms after then Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi attempted to replace pro-party ministers with technocrats as part of an anti-corruption campaign.

Khalid Razak reported from Baghdad and Mithil Aggarwal from Hong Kong.

Associated Press contributed. Thousands of demonstrators storm the Iraqi parliament for the second time in a week

Fry Electronics Team

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