Hundreds of Iraqi protestors stormed the Baghdad Parliament building in the Green Zone in response to the nomination of an Iran-backed Prime Minister.
The demonstrators were protesting the ex-provincial Governor, Mohammed Shia al-Sudani. Shia al-Sudani, a former minister, was nominated by Iraq’s Coordination Framework which is backed by Iran.
Current Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi asked the activists to “immediately withdraw” from the building, warning in a statement that security forces on site would ensure “the protection of state institutions and foreign missions, and prevent any harm to security and order.”
Iraqi protestors storm the parliament in Baghdad. pic.twitter.com/c7Oe8rGww3
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Said security forces were on site, but members of Parliament were not present at the time of the demonstration.
Initially, Iraqi Police utilized water cannons to stop the advancing protestors who were at the time tearing down cement barriers. The protestors eventually defeated the barricades and moved through the Green Zone and assembled outside of Parliament, many of whom were chanting, “Al-Sudani, out!”
According to Mahmoud Abdelwahed, a reporter on site for Al Jazeera, the Iraqi protestors who traveled from multiple cities wanted “to convey their message that they are against corruption, against corrupt politicians.”
He continued, “They say the country has suffered many years of corruption and mismanagement. They say they will continue to protest peacefully here.”
Many of the protestors carried portraits of Muqtada al-Sadr, a former contender for Prime Minister, who recently withdrew from the running. Al-Sadr tweeted a statement advising protestors “to return safely to [their] homes,” and that their message has been heard.
The Tweet effectively deescalated the protestors who shortly after began moving peacefully into the Parliament building under the close supervision of security forces on site.
According to Al Jazeera, “The incident, and al-Sadr’s subsequent show of control over his followers, carried an implicit warning to the Framework party of a potential escalation to come if the government forms with al-Sudani at the helm.”
Al-Sadr advocates stormed the Bagdad Parliament previously in 2016 where they staged a sit-in demanding political reform.
Yerevan Saeed, a research associate at Washington’s Arab Gulf States Institute said, “Obviously, it is a very dangerous game. [This] could plunge the country into intra-Shia civil strife.” He also stated that al-Sadr is motivated to prove to his oposition that he’s still “politically relevant.”