Baghdad cleric Al Sadr turns his back on prime min­is­ter as vi­o­lence es­ca­lates

The National - News - - NEWS - MINA ALDROUBI and PE­SHA MAGID Baghdad

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

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