Saudi Press

Saudi Arabia and the world
Sunday, Oct 01, 2023

Rival Shia groups square off over Iraq leadership vacuum

Rival Shia groups square off over Iraq leadership vacuum

Thousands of Moqtada al-Sadr’s followers prayed outside parliament in a show of support for the populist leader who has called on the judiciary to dissolve parliament by the end of next week.

Rival Iraqi factions took to the streets of Baghdad to call for a new government with supporters of religious scholar Moqtada al-Sadr demanding early elections and his Iran-backed opponents saying the results of last October’s poll should be honoured.

Thousands of al-Sadr’s followers prayed outside parliament on Friday in a show of support for the populist leader who has called on the judiciary to dissolve parliament by the end of next week.

Hours later, supporters of Iran-backed groups opposed to al-Sadr rallied on the edge of the fortified Green Zone, where parliament and foreign embassies are located, insisting they should form the new government based on the October election.

Followers of al-Sadr stormed the parliament last month and have since been holding a sit-in outside the assembly building in the Iraqi capital.

The rivalry between the two sides shows the deep divisions within Iraq’s Shia community, which makes up about 60 percent of Iraq’s population of more than 40 million people. Unlike Iran-backed groups, al-Sadr wants better ties with Arab countries, including Sunni powerhouse Saudi Arabia, which is Iran’s main rival in the region.

Al-Sadr has also been a harsh critic of widespread corruption in the oil-rich country torn by decades of US-led war and subsequent violence, with a crumbling infrastructure, an impoverished majority, and a lack of basic services.

Al-Sadr, whose camp won the most votes in parliamentary elections last October, has not been able to form a majority government and after eight months of deadlock and jockeying with rival factions, he abandoned those attempts.

Members of al-Sadr’s parliamentary bloc resigned but instead of allowing his rivals — the Coordination Framework — to try and form a government, al-Sadr has demanded parliament be dissolved and early elections are held. It is unclear whether he has any legal basis for those demands.


‘Occupation of parliament’

Friday’s protest and counter-protest were the latest in a series of demonstrations that have raised fears of unrest if the political deadlock continues.

Religious and political leaders command the loyalty of huge numbers of people and militia groups operate independently from the central government. The impasse, now in its 10th month, is the longest in the country since the 2003 US-led invasion wreaked havoc on the political order.

“We are protesting against the occupation of parliament and those who threaten the judiciary,” said university student Abbas Salem who was part of the rally Friday by Iran-backed groups.

Salem carried a poster of a top Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani and a top Iraqi Shia militia leader, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in a US drone raid in January 2020. He said he worries if al-Sadr forms a government, he will disband the Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella of mostly Iran-backed Shia militias.

Another protester, Ahmad al-Maliki, 52, said they are opposed to al-Sadr followers’ “occupation of parliament” and added Iraq needs a new government as soon as possible.



‘No going back’


Meanwhile, al-Sadr’s supporters in Baghdad and most Iraqi Shia-dominated provinces — except for the holy cities of Najaf and Karbala — held their own rallies and performed Friday prayers outdoors in a show of strength.

In Baghdad, most were dressed in black to mark the Muslim month of Muharram and some wore white capes symbolising burial shrouds and their willingness to die for their cause.

“You will not break Iraq as long as Sadr is here,” an imam told the crowd from a big red stage set up outside parliament. “There is no going back from this revolution … and the people will not give up their demands.”

In the intense summer heat, men picked their way through the worshippers and sprayed them with cold water. Some carried portraits of al-Sadr and his father, also a prominent Muslim scholar, as well as Iraqi flags.

Al-Sadr counts millions of Iraqis among his followers and has shown he can still stir up gatherings by hundreds of thousands of supporters, mostly working-class Shia Muslims, if he needs to exert political pressure.

Hamid Hussain, a father of five, said, “I am here to call for an early election and make sure that all the corrupt faces are excluded from the upcoming elections… I became unemployed because of the corrupt parties.”

As night fell, protesters supporting the pro-Iran groups started setting up tents to begin an open-ended sit-in until their demands are met.

“Today we will stage a sit-in …The people cannot handle another election … we are tired,” said Mohamed Yasin, 35, day labourer.



Newsletter

Related Articles

Saudi Press
Close
0:00
0:00
Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Steve Jobs' Son Launches Venture Capital Firm With $200 Million For Cancer Treatments
Israel: Unprecedented Civil Disobedience Looms as IDF Reservists Protest Judiciary Reform
Google reshuffles Assistant unit, lays off some staffers, to 'supercharge' products with A.I.
End of Viagra? FDA approved a gel against erectile dysfunction
UK sanctions Russians judges over dual British national Kara-Murza's trial
US restricts visa-free travel for Hungarian passport holders because of security concerns
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Political leader from South Africa, Julius Malema, led violent racist chants at a massive rally on Saturday
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
'I am not your servant': IndiGo crew member, passenger get into row over airline meal
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Spanish Citizenship Granted to Iranian chess player who removed hijab
US Senate Republican Mitch McConnell freezes up, leaves press conference
Speaker McCarthy says the United States House of Representatives is getting ready to impeach Joe Biden.
San Francisco car crash
This camera man is a genius
3D ad in front of Burj Khalifa
Next level gaming
BMW driver…
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Swedish Embassy in Baghdad Engulfed in Flames Amidst a Firestorm of Protests
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Today, we're unveiling the splendor of one of Saudi Arabia's most exclusive and stunning retreats – the Jeddah Yacht Club
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Muslim Tycoon Asif Aziz Receives Approval for the Transformation of the iconic London Trocadero Landmark into Mosque
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
Europe is boiling: Extreme Weather Conditions Prevail Across the Continent
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu Hospitalized Due to Dehydration Amidst Summer Heatwave
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Saudi Arabia Joins the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia
The Renowned Crown Prince Camel Festival Set to Return to Taif on Aug. 1
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
×