Iraq’s al-Sadr calls on supporters to end protests

New York: Powerful Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has urged his followers to end their protests and withdraw from the Green Zone in Baghdad after clashes killed 22 people and wounded more than 200 others.

At a televised press conference on August 30 in the Shia holy city of Najaf, south of the capital of Baghdad, al-Sadr apologized to the Iraqi people affected by the violence, stressing that he was hoping for peaceful protests, “not bullets and bombs”.

He called on his followers to “withdraw in 60 minutes,” including from the sit-in in front of the parliament, or he “will not recognize them”.

Immediately after his speech, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said in a statement that “it was decided to lift the curfew in Baghdad and the provinces,” as quoted by the Xinhua news agency report.

The overnight clashes erupted between Saraya al-Salam, or Peace Companies, loyal to al-Sadr, and militiamen believed to be affiliated with al-Sadr’s opponent from other Shia parties.

On August 29, al-Sadr’s supporters stormed some of the main government headquarters in the Green Zone following their leader’s announcement that he was quitting politics in protest against the corruption of political parties in the country.

Political tensions in Iraq have escalated in the past weeks between al-Sadr and his rivals in the Coordination Framework (CF), an umbrella group of Shia parliamentary parties.

The CF became the largest alliance in the Iraqi parliament after al-Sadr ordered his followers in the Sadrist Movement, the biggest winner of the October 2021 elections with 73 seats, to withdraw from the parliament.

During the past months, the continued disputes among the Shia parties have hampered the formation of a new Iraqi government, making it unable to elect a new President by a two-thirds majority of the 329-seat parliament under the constitution.

Image courtesy of (Photo: Wikipedia)

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