Baghdad cleric Al Sadr turns his back on prime minister as violence escalates
Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al Sadr yesterday withdrew his support for Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, accusing him of failing to meet the demands of protesters as anti-government demonstrations raged for a third day.
Clashes between Iraqi security forces and protesters have left at least 63 people dead and more than 2,590 injured during the past two days, an official with Iraq’s Human Rights Commission told The National.
Members of the Saeroon bloc of MPs demanded the government resign and began a protest at Parliament.
“We are on our way now to Parliament for the sit-in, until the enactment of all reforms the Iraqi people are demanding,” said MP Badr Al Zayadi.
The bloc, which is the largest in Iraq, is tied to Mr Al Sadr, who also called for early elections to be supervised by the United Nations.
He was known to be the kingmaker of the current government after Saeroon secured a majority of seats in the elections in May.
On Friday, the protest movement that shook the country this month made its return.
On the first day, Mohamed Al Shafajy approached The National with blood dripping from his hands after witnessing the killing of a protester on Al Jumhuriya Bridge.
“The blood came from one of the martyrs whose life was cut by the order of the prime minister. They have Iranian militias killing Iraqi people,” Mr Al Shafajy said.
“These are the people’s protests. They don’t belong to any party or power.”
“In his latest speech, the prime minister said he would not target protesters,” Abdul Rahman Berzanji, in injured demonstrator in Baghdad said.
“I was hit by live bullets in the head and foot during the past two days. We are all here in
Tahrir Square standing against corruption.”
The Iraqi government must provide protection and security for people to safely demonstrate and to separate those who are trying to infiltrate the movement, said Ali Al Bayati, a member of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission.
“The government must establish direct dialogue with representatives of the protests to meet their requests,” Mr Al Bayati said.
Protesters are angry with the authorities for failing to put an end to their suffering and for not protecting them during the demonstrations, he said.
Hundreds of university students and women took to the streets of Baghdad yesterday to join the protest movement.
At yesterday’s demonstrations there was a high level of participation from women and girls who are still in school.
Tara Ali, 19, a pupil at Utba bin Ghazwan high school in Al Salhiah neighbourhood told
The National she used Instagram to set up a sit-in with her classmates.
Nearly 100 pupils gathered outside the school gates in solidarity with the protests.
Clashes between Iraqi security forces and protesters have left at least 63 people dead during the past two days