A senior leader’s decision to leave politics has caused some of the worst violence in Baghdad in years, resulting in at least 23 deaths. As Moqtada al-followers Sadr’s fought with security personnel and militias that were supporting Iran, gunfire and rocket fire erupted.
After weeks of demonstrating in front of the parliament, Mr. Sadr has ordered his followers to leave.
Since the inconclusive elections in 2021, Iraq has been in a state of stagnation.
After Mr. Sadr, one of Iraq’s most prominent personalities, announced his departure from politics on Monday, the violence broke out.
Despite having the most seats after the elections in October, his group was unable to create a new coalition government with the second-largest bloc, which was primarily made up of parties with support from Iran.
Formerly a friend of Iran, Mr. Sadr has changed his attitude to become a nationalist who wants to stop US and Iranian meddling in Iraq’s domestic affairs.
The militia led by Mr. Sadr known as the Peace Brigades, militias backed by Iran, and members of the Iraqi security forces have been engaged in combat.
The city’s Green Zone, a strongly protected region that is home to diplomatic missions from other countries, has seen the majority of it concentrated there. Due to the confrontations, the personnel of the Dutch embassy was compelled to transfer to the German mission.
In reaction to the upheaval, Iran has shut its borders with Iraq, while Kuwait has advised its residents to leave the nation immediately.
All of the victims were followers of Mr. Sadr, according to Iraqi doctors, who told the AFP news agency that 380 people were hurt.
In response to the current scenario, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres urged for “urgent actions to de-escalate the situation” through a spokeswoman.
On Tuesday, Mr. Sadr issued an apology to the Iraqi people for the bloodshed and told his supporters to stop protesting.
“This is not a revolution because it has lost its peaceful character,” he said in a televised address. “The spilling of Iraqi blood is forbidden.”
The army then removed the national curfew that has been in place since Monday after he finished speaking.
For the past 20 years, Moqtada al-Sadr, 48, has dominated Iraqi public and political life.
In the aftermath of the 2003 war that deposed Saddam Hussein, his Mehdi Army emerged as one of the most potent militias that battled the US and the new Iraqi army.
One of the largest militias in the paramilitary Popular Mobilisation Forces is still known under the name Peace Brigades, which he later changed.
The suffering of everyday Iraqis, who are tired of the sectarianism and pervasive corruption that have dogged their politics for two decades, lies at the heart of this catastrophe. It has given those advocating aggressive action and a solution more political room.
The conflict between the groups of Iraq’s majority Shia population, which is competing for power over both the nation and the state, is the direct cause of this tension. The longest time without a government has occurred as a result of the hung election outcome.
Millions of people support Mr. Sadr, and hundreds of them have set up camp outside the legislature after twice storming it in protest of the gridlock in politics in July and August.
The spectacle of his fans diving into a government palace’s pool on Monday served as a reminder of his ability to rally his base, and the escalating demonstrations are evidence of his reputation for taking drastic action. The UN has issued a warning that the future of the state is in jeopardy, which is more worrisome given how swiftly the violence has increased in Baghdad.
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