Security forces tried with gunfire in the air to disperse the pro-Iranian demonstrators and bar them from entering the highly secured Green Zone, eyewitnesses reported on Friday. The protesters threw stones, as was shown by footage on social media.
According to the Ministry of Health, at least 98 security guards and 27 civilians were injured. The ministry also rejected reports of at least two deaths as false. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kasimi ordered an investigation. The demonstrators are mainly supporters of parties that are closely connected to the Shiite militias and are supported by Iran, which is also Shiite neighboring country. These parties lost most of their seats in the parliamentary elections four weeks ago. The winner of the election is the Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose bloc was by far the strongest force.
Pro-Shiite parties raised allegations of manipulation
The final election result has not yet been determined. Due to numerous objections, a recounting of the votes continues. The parties associated with the Shiite militias had raised allegations of falsifying votes after their losses and recently threatened to escalate the protests. The armed groups are part of Iraq’s official security forces, but they lead a life of their own. Observers see them as the extended arm of Iran.
Iraq has long been experiencing a serious political crisis. In autumn 2019, mass protests against the country’s political leadership and the poor economic situation broke out. Prime Minister al-Kasimi therefore moved the parliamentary elections forward by several months. Frustration with the political elite caused participation to drop to a record low of around 41 percent. Many stayed away from the vote because they did not expect any change in the balance of power.