Baghdad: More than 100 injured in clashes as protesters storm Iraqi parliament

Crowds of angry protesters loyal to the powerful cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have broken into the secure area where government offices are located, despite security forces using tear gas and water cannons to disperse them.

The protesters then stormed parliament, according to the Iraqi State News Agency (INA). Videos circulating on social media appeared to show people waving the Iraqi flag as they passed security through the doors of parliament.

At least 125 people were injured, including 100 civilians and 25 military personnel, according to the Ministry of Health.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) described the recent escalation of tensions as “deeply worrying”.

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

Outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi on Saturday urged protesters to be “calm, patient and rational”.

“We all need to work together to stop those who are accelerating this problem, and everyone should know very well that the fires of incitement will burn everyone,” Kadhimi said.

The Prime Minister stated that the solution is possible through constructive dialogue, saying: “The dilemma is political, and its solution is political, and the solution is possible through sincere and constructive dialogue and making concessions in the interest of Iraq and the Iraqis.”

The protests began after Mohammed Shiya al-Sudani was formally nominated on Monday to lead the country by the Coordination Framework, the largest Shia alliance in the Iraqi parliament.

Protesters cheer after entering the Iraqi parliament on Saturday.
Protesters, seen here on July 30, broke through Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone for the second time this week.

His appointment followed the massive resignation of the parliamentary bloc of al-Sadr, a group of more than 70 lawmakers that withdrew from the governing body last month in an apparent show of power after months of political deadlock.

Iraq has struggled to form a new government since the parliamentary elections in October; Sadr’s own attempts to form a government previously foundered amid opposition from rival blocs.

“If the Sadrist Bloc Stays” [in parliament] If there is an obstacle to the formation of a government, all legislators of the bloc are honorably willing to resign from parliament,” Sadr said in a televised address in June.

The cleric, who positions himself against Iran as well as the United States, is immensely popular. His bloc’s success in the October vote threatened to sideline the Iran-affiliated Shia blocs that have long dominated the oil-rich country’s politics.

Iraqi protesters break into parliament and condemn new prime minister's appointment

On Wednesday, al-Sadr told protesters in the parliament building that their “message” had been received and that they should return home.

“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,” he tweeted.

Prime Minister al-Kadhimi’s outgoing government also issued a statement calling on sadrists to “immediately withdraw from the Green Zone”, preserve public and private property and follow the instructions of the security forces.

“The security forces will work to protect state institutions and international missions and prevent any disruption to security and order,” al-Kadhimi added.

Aqeel Najim reported from Baghdad, Hamdi Alkhshali reported from Atlanta and Eyad Kourdi reported from Gaziantep. Obaida Nafaa in Dubai and Alex Stambaugh in Hong Kong contributed coverage. Ivana Kottasová wrote in London.

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