Thousands of people in Iraq have gathered to protest the recent failures of Iraqi MPs, who did not convene for a vote to approve new ministers.
The protest follows weeks of political turmoil in Baghdad, according to The Sun. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has made an effort to shake up the government, sparking heated reactions.
The left-leaning Independent has alleged that the Shia protests mark the disintegration of an Iraqi regime established with little legitimacy “in the wake of a US invasion.”
“The storming of the parliament building in Baghdad by protesters chanting the name of populist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is a sign that the political system built up since the US invasion in 2003 is disintegrating.”
A state of emergency was declared when supporters of a Shia cleric, Moqtada al-Sadr, entered the Green Zone. The protesters eventually stormed the parliament building.
[The Green Zone is] the most secure part of Baghdad that houses embassies and government buildings.
It was Mr. al-Sadr who made the call for Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to commit to a plan to replace ministers with non-partisan technocrats, according to the BBC. MPs in parliament have refused to approve the change for several weeks.
The refusal to convene for a vote recently was the last straw, sparking what the BBC calls a “Shia protest.”
Police arrived and the city was reported to be under control within hours. Officers ordered protesters to return to designated protest areas.
It is alleged that the protesters attached cables to the tops of walls around the Green Zone and pulled them down, collapsing the concrete structures. The rioters used this tactic to gain access to the Green Zone and parliament.
Footage has emerged showing groups of Iraqi protesters inside the parliament. People can be seen on both levels, waving flags and chanting.
“People gathered outside the heavily fortified Zone, comprising government buildings and foreign embassies. After crossing a bridge over the Tigris river they chanted: ‘The cowards ran away.'”
Protesters marched on the Green Zone soon after the end of a televised appearance by Shia leader al-Sadr.
Supporters point out that al-Sadr did not actually call for the storming of parliament during the televised address.
One protester, Ali Mohammed, spoke to reporters, saying that they stormed the Green Zone because they were fed up with the politicians’ failure to act, and decided to stage their own “sit-in parliament” for the people.
“The people have come to the right place, to rule themselves,” Ali Mohammed told Reuters.
“The people are now staging a sit-in inside parliament. Our legitimate and only demand is to dismiss the government and replace it with an independent cabinet of technocrats.”
The protesters allegedly tried to stop lawmakers who were attempting to flee the parliament building. Demonstrators appeared ecstatic to have entered the building and forbidden international zone — some even hammed for the camera, sitting in the chamber seats of the ejected MPs and posing for photos.
“Nearby foreign embassies are watching anxiously but there has been no serious violence so far.”
Sabah al-Numan, a spokesman for the Iraqi counter-terrorism forces, spoke to the Associated Press news agency, saying they regard the incident not as a riot or terrorist act but “as a demonstration”.
“We aren’t taking any part in this as it’s not something regarding terrorism.”
The United Nations Assistance Mission For Iraq has spoken out, expressing “grave concern” over developments in Baghdad. In a statement, UNAMI urged the Iraqi government and political leaders to engage in dialogue and try to resolve the conflict.
UNAMI condemned the use of violence, and stated that U.N. workers will continue to work from within the international zone, attempting to facilitate a solution.
[Photo by AP Photo/Anmar Khalil]