SUPPORTERS of the Coordination Framework, a coalition of Shia parties, protest near Baghdad’s Green Zone on Monday.—Reuters
SUPPORTERS of the Coordination Framework, a coalition of Shia parties, protest near Baghdad’s Green Zone on Monday.—Reuters

BAGHDAD: Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad on Monday in counter-protests as rival supporters of Moqtada Sadr extended their occupation of parliament into a third day.

Almost 10 months after Iraqis went to the polls, a political standoff pits two key factions of the Shia political scene, between Sadr with a following of millions, and the powerful pro-Iran Coordination Framework.

“The people will not allow a coup,” read placards held by supporters of the Coordination Framework as they gathered on a main street leading to the Green Zone, the home of parliament, which Sadr’s supporters have been occupying since Saturday.

“It is the parliament of the people, of all Iraqis, not the parliament of a select group,” said 25-year-old protester Ahmed Ali, condemning the storming of government institutions.

Police fired water cannon at crowds in a bid to prevent them from crossing a bridge leading to the Green Zone, inside which thousands of Sadr supporters maintained their protests, waving flags and carrying placards of their leader.

Sadr’s supporters on Saturday breached the normally high-security Green Zone — also home to government buildings and embassies — in protest at a prime ministerial nomination by the Coordination Framework.

Defend the state

Followers of the Coordination Framework urged supporters not to enter the Green Zone, saying their objective was to “defend the state and its legitimacy”.

After some two hours, the counter-demonstration announced they were dispersing. “They wanted to show their political strength, to show that they too have a base that can take over the Iraqi street,” said political scientist Ihsan al-Shammari, from the University of Baghdad.

In multi-confessional and multi-ethnic Iraq, government formation has involved complex negotiations since a 2003 US-led invasion toppled military dictator Saddam Hussein.

In this case, the protracted political deadlock has left the country without a government, a new prime minister or a new president.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2022

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