Hundreds of protesters stormed Baghdad’s heavily guarded green zone on Wednesday in response to the nomination of Iraq’s new Prime Minister, Mohammed Shiya al-Sudani. According to the Ministry of Health, over 125 people were left injured as protestors charged into government buildings, resulting in an increase in political tensions and worsening the already precarious political climate in the country. The protesters are said to be loyal supporters of the Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. The protest was deemed to be a part of his Sadrist Movement in an attempt to reclaim governing power.
“We are calling for a government free from corruption… those are the demands of the people,” a protester declared in an interview with Reuters news while carrying a placard with al-Sadr’s photograph.
Another protester said, “we Iraqis have endured injustices because of those corrupt people. I have two unemployed children who graduated from university and I am [also] unemployed. There are no jobs and that is all because of corruption.”
Sadr’s party came into power after the October 2021 elections but the leader recently withdrew 74 of his lawmakers from the parliament due to their inability to rid the government of his Shi’ite rivals. The withdrawal resulted in the formal nomination of Mohammed Shiya al-Sudani by the Coordination Framework to lead Iraq as the new prime minister. The unrest over the new appointment has boiled over into a protest.
Mahmoud Abdelwahed, an Al Jazeera correspondent reporting in Baghdad during the event explained that the protesters refused to leave until their demands were met and that they were successful in charging into the parliament and other government buildings. He said, “[w]hat’s new this time is that they’re not planning to leave until, as they say, their demands are met… They do not want the parliament to accept al-Sudani… they believe [he] is a replica of Nouri al-Maliki, the former prime minister, whom they accuse of corruption, many of them accuse him of ruining the country for two terms when he was prime minister.”
Later that Wednesday, al-Sadr called his followers to return home in a tweet, ending the protest. He wrote, “[a] revolution of reform and rejection of injustice and corruption. Your message has been received. You have terrified the corrupt. Pray, and return home safely.”
The future of politics in Iraq remains unsteady as the country has had to face difficulty maintaining a stable government since the elections last October. With many opposing blocks trying to take power in government, there is much turmoil circulating in the nation currently. It is essential that peaceful transitions of power take place and that non-violent protests are promoted by the leaders of Iraq.
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