Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets of Baghdad on Monday in counter-protests, as rival supporters of Shiite Muslim cleric 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 Shiite political scene, between the populist Sadr with a devoted 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 cannons 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 the prime ministerial nomination by the Coordination Framework.
Sadr’s 73 lawmakers had made up the biggest group of parliament’s 329 lawmakers, but they were unable to cobble together a government.
In June, they quit, a move that made their pro-Iran rivals the largest bloc in the legislature.
But the Sadrist camp was outraged by the Coordination Framework’s recent nomination of former minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani for premier, prompting them to occupy parliament on July 30 for the second time last week.