Baghdad: Supporters of Shia leader Sadar stormed Rashtrapati Bhavan. Politics

Baghdad: Supporters of Shia leader Sadar stormed Rashtrapati Bhavan.  Politics

After Shia leader Sadar announced his return ,

Protesters stormed Baghdad’s Rashtrapati Bhavan

The situation in Iraq’s capital Baghdad is getting worse once again.

After violent demonstrations in recent weeks, supporters of influential Shia leader Muktada Sadar (47) stormed the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Monday afternoon.

The government building is normally located in the heavily guarded green zone, where representations of many western countries are also located.

Sadar announced his retirement from politics on Monday morning and closed all his party offices, with his supporters calling for nationwide protests.

Supporters of Muktada Sadar at Rashtrapati Bhavan in Baghdad's Green Zone

Supporters of Muktada Sadar at Rashtrapati Bhavan in Baghdad’s Green Zone

Photo: ALAA Al-Marjani/Reuters

Demonstration of Moktada Sadar supporters in Green Zone

Demonstration of Moktada Sadar supporters in Green Zone

Photo: ALAA Al-Marjani/Reuters

“I had decided not to get involved in political matters, but now I am announcing my final retirement and closure of all facilities,” Sadar said on Twitter on Monday. Religious institutions directly linked to him have been excluded. “If I die or be killed, I pray to you.”

There is a curfew in the entire country due to the protest. Roads inside the Iraqi capital have been closed and all security forces are on alert.

Security forces fired tear gas shells on the grounds of Rashtrapati Bhavan to disperse the protesters. According to Iraqi sources, at least 15 protesters were killed.

Security forces fired tear gas shells in the grounds of Rashtrapati Bhavan

Security forces fired tear gas shells in the grounds of Rashtrapati Bhavan

Photo: Ahmed Al-Rubay/AFP

Sadar’s supporters had arrived by the end of July. Iraqi parliament stormed, have been occupying this area since then. Last week he briefly blocked entry to the country’s Supreme Court. On the posters, he called for the dissolution of Parliament, fresh elections and the fight against corruption.

Iraq in crisis

Iraq has been in deep political trouble for months. After the parliamentary elections about ten months ago, it intensified even more.

Sadar’s movement emerged as the clear winner at the time, but was unable to secure the crucial two-thirds majority required for the presidential election. A new government can be formed only with the support of the head of state. This led to a political deadlock.

In recent weeks, supporters of Sadr have repeatedly opposed the candidacy of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani for prime minister, which was put in place by a coalition of pro-Iranian Shiites – the so-called coordination framework.

Shia leader Muktada Sadro

Shia leader Muktada Sadro

Photo: ALAA Al-Marjani/Reuters

Sadar emerged as the strongest force with his coalition from parliamentary elections in October and is considered a “kingmaker” when it comes to filling top positions.

It remains to be seen whether Sadr will eventually – as he claims – withdraw from Iraqi politics. He had already announced in 2014 that he would retire from politics two and a half months before the then parliamentary elections.

Sadar comes from a family of prominent clerics. After the US military invaded Iraq in 2003, he founded a militia, the “Mahdi Army”. Sadar meanwhile lived in Iran.

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