Thousands of Iraqis have descended into the streets of the country’s capital, Baghdad, in protest over a protracted political crisis. It takes place days after violent fighting between competing Shia factions raised concerns of protracted instability.
On Friday, large groups of apolitical protesters poured onto Al-Nusoor Square in the capital’s western regions. To demand a total political makeover, the protesters waved placards and national flags.
According to protesters, they came to the streets to call for the ouster of the entire political establishment, whom they hold responsible for corruption. “They are calling for justice for their colleagues who were killed at the hands of security forces in 2019,” a reporter asserted.
The country has been in a state of limbo for few weeks less than a year, during which time there has been no new administration, PM, or president. Since the elections in October, the major parties and movements have continued to dispute on how to build an alliance.
The Arab Spring slogans like “People want the fall of the regime” were heard in the place. The protesters expressed anger over Sadr movement’s inclination to foreign influence.
A few days ago, confrontations between Muqtada Sadr’s supporters and other factions transformed Baghdad’s Green Zone into a battleground. Embassy and government buildings are located in the Green Zone under heavy military protections.
On Thursday, the fighting spread to the south of the country, when nighttime skirmishes between Asaib Ahl al-Haq troops and fighters with al-Sadr affiliation claimed the lives of four persons.
US in Iraq
Sadr supporters kept on adding to the fuel of violence by provocative claims and requests. Among others, they called for fresh elections after their representatives in congress submitted their resignations following eight months of failure to form a government.
In a nation where Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish groups are all seeking for prominence and fearful of being sidelined, communal strife has been a recurring theme. However, the current conflict is between Shiite organizations, specifically Sadr’s party and other Shia parties supported by Iran, which continues to have major influence in Iraq.
After winning the parliamentary elections in 2021, Sadr’s party, he also declined to deal with the parties supported by Iran. Iraq has been stuck in a political impasse for the better part of a year as a result of the approach.
Despite the country’s oil reserves, many Iraqis live in abject poverty, and the UN estimates that 35% of the country’s youth are jobless. The nation is also plagued by frequent power outages, deteriorating government services, and current water constraints and famine.
After decades of war, political disorder, and the radicalism of the ISIS terrorist organization, the power void in Iraqi leadership was not to be taken as a distant expectation. The street fights are, though, the biggest risk to the future of the nation.
To stop his opponents from forging a coalition, Sadr’s followers burst into the Parliament back in July.
Despite having huge economic capacities, since the US invasion and the accompanying turmoil and civil war, Iraqi people has been suffering. The sunken economy of the nation is beset by 14% unemployment and a deteriorating infrastructure that frequently fails to provide the most basic necessities.
The current Iraq is the remnant of the American invasion which left extremism as the main gift there.