At least 20 people were killed in clashes outside the Parliament between security forces and Shiite militias supporting Sadr Movement leader Muqtada es-Sadr in Iraq’s capital Baghdad. Clashes are reported in the cities of Basra, Najaf, Nasiriyah and Hilla, as well as in the Green Zone, where government buildings and foreign embassies are located in Baghdad.
Some foreigners in the Green Zone were also caught in the middle of street clashes. Dutch Embassy staff moved to Germany’s diplomatic representation.
One of Iraq’s influential politicians, Shiite cleric Muqtada es-Sadr announced yesterday that he left politics completely and closed his political office, and his supporters raided the Presidential Palace.
Es-Sadr announced that he was going on a hunger strike until the violence in the country stopped.
Iraq’s interim prime minister and al-Sadr’s ally, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, declared a nationwide curfew of the clashes.
Es-Sadr’s supporters had been holding a sit-in for the dissolution of the Assembly for some time since July.
The Iraqi police called on the supporters of al-Sadr to “retire from the Green Zone immediately so that the blood of Iraqis is not spilled”.
Security officials also announced that clashes broke out between the Peace Brigades, the militia loyal to al-Sadr, and members of the Iraqi army.
Videos shared on social media show some fighters using heavy weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades.
Travel warning from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a travel warning to Iraq. “Considering that the security situation in Baghdad has started to deteriorate, our citizens are advised to refrain from traveling to the aforementioned city, except for mandatory conditions,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs advised Turkish citizens currently in Iraq to “stay away from areas where mass demonstrations are held”.
Iran also closed its borders with Iraq due to the conflict and urged Kuwaiti citizens to leave the country immediately.
A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was concerned about the events and called for “immediate steps to be taken to defuse the situation”.
Calm calls were also made from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the White House.
es-Sadr, who had repeatedly announced that he would withdraw from politics and reverted from his decision, used the phrase “last withdrawal” in his latest statement.
Es-Sadr told his supporters, “From now on, the use of slogans and flags belonging to the Sadrist movement is prohibited. Es-Sadr supporters will no longer be active in the media and social media,” he warned.
However, the fact that es-Sadr, who has been one of the most influential figures in Iraqi politics for the last 20 years, has resigned about 10 times and then returned to politics, has led some experts to comment that “he will come back after a while”.
Tension has not decreased in Iraq since 2019
Massive demonstrations started in 2019 on the grounds of high cost of living, difficulty in accessing basic needs and not ending corruption; The prime minister resigned. The governments that were formed afterwards and the elections held did not help to stabilize the country.
Although the “Protection of the Fatherland” bloc supported by es-Sadr won the majority in the parliament, it could not reach the number of seats to form the government on its own, in the last election held in October last year in Iraq, where the participation rate remained very low. As the blocs in the parliament could not come to an agreement, the new government could not be formed.
In June, es-Sadr called for the “resignation” of the bloc he supported in the Parliament, when negotiations on the “government with broad participation” failed. When the deputies who followed this call resigned, the majority of the parliament passed to es-Sadr’s biggest rival, the Cooperation Framework bloc.
This bloc was established under the leadership of the Shiite political parties, including the Fatah Alliance led by Hadi al-Amiri, who also commanded the Iranian-backed militia for a while, and the State of Law Alliance of Nuri al-Maliki, one of the former prime ministers, who is also known for his closeness to Iran.
Es-Sadr, while emphasizing his Shiite identity, is more nationalistic and follows a policy against the influence of foreign countries, especially Iran and the USA. The father and father-in-law of es-Sadr, who was also the head of the armed forces fighting against the US armies in the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, were also executed during the reign of Saddam Hussein, who was overthrown by the invasion.
When the Co-operation Framework bloc deputies, which became a majority in the parliament when Assad’s deputies resigned, tried to elect a new prime minister in July, es-Sadr’s supporters started a sit-in protest to dissolve the parliament and call for re-elections.
Es-Sadr, in his statement that he announced that he would “retire for the last time” from politics today, accused his political opponents of “not listening to his calls for reform”.
Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court will meet today to decide whether to dissolve the Assembly.