Will Muqtada Sadr's Hunger Strike do Any Good in Iraq?

Published August 30th, 2022 - 07:34 GMT
Supported outside the government palace in Baghdad
Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gather outside the Government Headquarters in the capital Baghdad's Green Zone, on August 29, 2022. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)

ALBAWABA - Shia leader Muqtada Al Sadr has resigned but says he has also gone on hunger strike to stop the violence against his people, thousands of whom are going across Baghdad and have ransacked the presidential palace, the seat of government in Iraq. 

Iraq can now be described as a country in shambles with trigger happy security forces that have killed as many as 30 people and arrested more than 270 people in just 24 hours. It would not be an under-estimation to say Iraq is in chaos with many people ignoring the curfew that has been imposed on the country. 

Amid deadly unrest in Iraq, influential Shia cleric and Sadrist movement head Muqtada al-Sadr announced on Monday that he was staging a hunger strike until the violence came to an end, according to the official INA news agency and as reported by the Anadolu. But this as seen as one of the ongoing ploys adopted by the Shia cleric.

As expected, and as leader of a mass movement, Al Sadr's name is today trending on the social media, saying he will stop his hunger strike once demands are met and violence against his people end.

And there is another picture of the chrismatic Shia figure who leads thousands, not necessarily people from the Shia sect but the "down-and-trodden" the ordinary people. He said he would quit politics, but always came back. He did that in protest in 2013 and 2014 but always came back to the political process, fighting for the man-in-the-street and the people. 

This time around he said he would definitely retire from Iraqi politics but his decision to go on hunger strike is being seen as a political act. What will happen now is anybody's guess.

 

Al Sadrists got the highest number of seats at 73 in Iraq's last parliamentary elections held in October 2021. However, the country was never able to form a government due the existing political cliques in the 329-seat parliament. The Sadrists couldn't form a cabinet on their own and needed others that included a large number of other Shias - the so-called Coordination Framework - Sunnis and Kurds. 

Out of frustration and in the middle of last June all of the Sadrists MPs quit parliament. Muqtada Al Sadr said he would take his movement to the streets of Baghdad and Iraq and raided parliament recently but to no avail.

Members of the Coordination Framework which is a motely collection of other Shiite parties also decided to display their strength on the street in parallel to the Sadrists, explaining the present street chaos in Baghdad. 

What is the next stage, nobody really knows. The Sadrist MPs and movement want a new government to be formed but this is stuck because of the politicians in parliament who refuse to agree.

Iraq protests (AFP File Folder) 

Meanwhile Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi continues to lead in a caretaker capacity and so is the case for the Iraqi president Barham Salih whose ceremonial term has run out. 

The obvious question is now will the hunger-strike of Muqtada Al Sadr serve as a turnaround for Iraq or will the politicians just turn away and continue with their raucous in parliament, in Baghdad and around the country. 


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