Sadrists rally in Baghdad, push for government reforms

Published April 26th, 2016 - 12:57 GMT
Controversial Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. (AFP/File)
Controversial Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. (AFP/File)

Thousands of supporters of Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have taken to the streets of Baghdad, urging the government to implement reforms amid growing division among political parties. 

The protesters on Tuesday joined people who have been holding a sit-in in Tahrir Square in central Baghdad since two weeks ago, in response to Sadr’s call for reform in the cabinet of Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

Protesters waved Iraqi flags and sang songs praising al-Sadr while chanting slogans against those blocking change in the political and economic system.

Local media said the gathering was the biggest in the capital in weeks as demonstrators filled a main road stretching nearly two km (1.3 miles) from Tahrir to the Green Zone, a heavily fortified area which is home to main government offices and the parliament. Security forces blocked off all other roads leading to the square with razor wire and concrete blocks.  

Iraq has been the scene of a political turmoil in the past weeks over Abadi’s efforts to form a new cabinet. A delay in the vote on a second list proposed by Abadi has also spurred a separate sit-in inside the parliament, with lawmakers close to rival parties demanding top political leadership including Abadi and parliament speaker Salim al-Jabouri, to step down. Followers of Sadr say those involved in the chamber sit-down are using the political turmoil to their benefit.

Jabouri had vowed to convene a meeting on Tuesday to decide on the cabinet reshuffle. Deputies close to Sadr’s bloc and Kurdish allies said they will attend the session despite the boycott by other political parties. 

“We are present today at parliament to attend a session whose main goal is the cabinet overhaul,” Dhiaa al-Asadi, who heads Sadr's bloc in the parliament, said, adding, “Salim al-Jabouri called for this session and he will head it. We will attend.”

The parliament meeting reportedly started with Abadi present in the chamber.

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