BAGHDAD — Hundreds of supporters of an influential Shia cleric stormed Iraq’s parliament on Saturday, the second time in a week, to protest government-forming efforts by Iran-backed groups.
Iraqi security forces used tear gas and sound bombs to try to repel protesters and injured several people witnessed by Associated Press reporters. An expected parliamentary session did not take place and there were no lawmakers in the room.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered security forces to protect protesters and asked them to keep their protest peaceful, a statement said.
Thousands of protesters, supporters of influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, used ropes to pull down cement barricades leading to the gate to Iraq’s Green Zone, which houses official buildings and foreign embassies.
They were responding to al-Sadr’s call to protest against the formation of the next government led by the Coalition Framework, an alliance of Shia parties backed by Iran.
“We have come today to eliminate the corrupt political class and prevent them from holding a parliamentary session, and to prevent the Cadre from forming a government,” said 41-year-old Raad Thabet. “We answered al-Sadr’s call. We will go to the Green (Zone). No matter the cost.
Al-Sadr’s party walked out of government formation talks in June, giving rivals in the framework alliance the majority they needed to move the process forward.
Many protesters wore black to mark the days leading up to Ashura, which commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad and one of the most important figures in Shia Islam. Al-Sadr’s messages to his followers used this important day in Shia Islam to trigger protests.
Al-Sadr used his broad supporters as leverage against his rivals.
On Wednesday, hundreds of his supporters stormed the parliament building after the Framework alliance nominated Mohammed al-Sudani as their candidate for prime minister and signaled they were ready to form a government despite his threat.