Hundreds of protesters storm Iraq parliament in support of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr

Hundreds of supporters of powerful Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr danced and sang in parliament after storming Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone in protest at a rival bloc’s nomination for prime minister, The Guardian reported.

Police fired barrages of teargas in a bid to stop the protesters from breaching the gates of the heavily fortified Green Zone, but the crowds surged forward and entered parliament.

“I am against the corrupt officials who are in power,” said protester Mohamed Ali, a 41-year-old day labourer, one of the hundreds who entered the zone that is home to both government buildings and diplomatic missions, before later leaving peacefully.

The protests are the latest challenge for oil-rich Iraq, which remains mired in a political and a socioeconomic crisis despite soaring global energy prices.

Sadr’s bloc emerged from elections in October as the biggest parliamentary faction, but was still far short of a majority and, nine months on, deadlock persists over the establishment of a new government.

Crowds wandered around the parliament building waving national flags, taking photographs, chanting and cheering.

The prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhemi, called on the protesters to “immediately withdraw”, warning that the security forces would ensure “the protection of state institutions and foreign missions, and prevent any harm to security and order”.

But it took orders issued by the Shia leader Sadr before the crowds of protesters started to leave nearly two hours later.

“Revolution of reform, and rejection of injustice and corruption,” Sadr wrote on Twitter, in support of the protesters.

“Your message has been heard … you have terrorised the corrupt”, he added, calling on the demonstrators to say a prayer “before returning home safe and sound”.

 

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