Protesters storm Iraq parliament again amid unrest over Iran-backed groups


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THE GUARDIAN

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Thousands of protesters have breached Iraq’s parliament for a second time this week.

The protesters, who are followers of an influential Shia cleric, are demonstrating against formation of the next government by Iran-backed parties.

About 125 people – 100 civilians and 25 members of the security forces– were injured in the violence, the Ministry of Health said.

Iraqi security forces used teargas and sound bombs to try to repel the demonstrators. As the numbers inside the parliament swelled, the police backed off.

An expected parliament session did not take place and there were no lawmakers in the hall.

Earlier in the day and heeding the calls of the cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the demonstrators used ropes to pull down cement barricades leading to the gate of Iraq’s Green Zone, which houses official buildings and foreign embassies.

“We came today to remove the corrupt political class and prevent them from holding a parliament session, and to prevent the [Coordination] Framework [alliance] from forming a government,” said Raad Thabet, 41. “We responded to al-Sadr’s call. We will go to the Green [Zone], no matter the cost.”

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Sadr’s party exited government formation talks in June, giving his rivals in the Coordination Framework, an alliance of Shia parties backed by Iran, the majority they needed to move forward with the process.

Many protesters wore black to mark the days leading to Ashura, which commemorates the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet Muhammad and one of Shia Islam’s most important figures. Sadr’s messaging to his followers has used the important day in Shia Islam to kindle protests.

Sadr has used his large grassroots following as leverage against his rivals.

On Wednesday, hundreds of his followers stormed the parliament building after the Framework alliance named Mohammed al-Sudani as their nominee for the premiership and signalled their readiness to form a government despite Sadr’s threats.

Later on Saturday, the Coordination Framework called on its supporters to conduct “peaceful” counte…

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