Thousands of supporters of Shi’ite populist cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed Baghdad’s fortified government zone and broke into parliament on Saturday for the second time in a week, leaving at least 125 people injured and escalating a political stand-off.
Protesters rallied by Sadr and his Sadrist Movement tore down concrete barriers and entered the Green Zone, which houses government departments and foreign missions, before breaking into parliament.
“We are calling for a government free from corruption … and those are the demands of the people,” one protester, Abu Foad, said among crowds of protesters carrying placards with Sadr’s photograph and national flags.
The scenes followed similar protests on Wednesday, although this time at least 125 people – including demonstrators and police – were wounded, according to a health ministry statement.
Sadr’s supporters threw stones and police fired teargas and stun grenades.
“We Iraqis have endured injustices because of those corrupt people,” said another protester Alaa Hussain, 49.
“I have two unemployed children who graduated from university and I am unemployed. There are no jobs and that is all because of corruption.”
Sadr’s party came first in an October election but he withdrew his 74 lawmakers from parliament after failing to form a government that excluded his Shi’ite rivals, most of whom are backed by Iran and have heavily-armed paramilitary wings.