Tuesday, February 7, 2023

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Protests turn violent as Iraq experiences havoc, Al Sadr on hunger strike

New Delhi: The death toll in Iraq’s clashes between supporters and security forces over the announcement of Shia cleric Muktada al-Sadr to quit politics has risen to 20. According to the Sputnik news agency, more than 300 people were injured in the clashes. Muktada al-Sadr on Monday announced her decision to quit politics as thousands of her followers stormed Iraq’s presidential palace.

Al Sadr announces hunger strike

According to media reports, Muktada al-Sadr announced a hunger strike until the security forces stop using weapons. After the Shia cleric announced his resignation from politics, security forces were sent to the presidential palace as al-Sadr followers broke barricades outside the government building in support of him. Immediately after this curfew was imposed.

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UN Secretary General appeals to refrain from violence

On the other hand, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged immediate steps to avoid any violence. The Secretary-General’s spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said in a statement that the UN chief was monitoring the protests. They are concerned about the reports of casualties. They appeal for peace and restraint.

Dujarric said the Secretary-General urges all parties and leaders to rise above their differences and move forward constructively in a peaceful and inclusive dialogue without delay.

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Sadar supporters attacked the Parliament House in July

Earlier in July, several Iraqi protesters stormed the parliament building in Baghdad to protest the nomination of the prime minister by rival Iran-backed parties. The protesters were opposing the candidacy of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani for the post of prime minister, because they believe he is too close to Iran.

Al Sadr’s faction won 73 seats in the October 2021 election in Iraq. The al-Sadr faction became the dominant faction in the 329-seat parliament, but talks to form a new government stalled and al-Sadr stepped down. There is a deadlock over the formation of the new government.

There were massive protests in 2019 amid public anger over corruption and unemployment. In 2016, al-Sadr supporters stormed parliament in a similar fashion.

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