Sadr supporters in Baghdad attack ministries as pressure builds against Iraqi PM

Sadr supporters march in Baghdad. Rudaw photo.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Iraqi forces tightened security in Baghdad, after angry supporters of firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr took to the streets of the Iraqi capital Sunday, attacking four ministries to press for demands that ministers be fired and Prime Minister Haidar Abadi stamp out corruption in his government.

“Followers of the Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr are protesting in Baghdad's Tahrir Square asking that the ministers of foreign affairs, education, justice, construction and housing resign,” said Hevidar Ahmed, the Rudaw correspondent in Baghdad.

“We are here at the request of Sadr, asking for reform and an end to corruption,” one protester told Rudaw. “We love Iraq, we no longer want to see corruption. Since 2013 we are dealing with corruption. We no longer can survive this. We want Iraq’s income and joy be distributed to everyone, without any difference between Kurds, Arabs or Yezidis.”

Another protester said: “Iraq is rich with oil, but its people are dying. No one knows where the income and the revenues are going. We are asking for equality and justice. We will support Sadr. Until he orders us to leave we will stay here. ”

Many of Sadr’s supporters arrived in Baghdad for the protest at the cleric’s request, the Rudaw correspondent said.

Security forces barred the gates of ministries to protect the lives of those inside. Some witness reported helicopters flying over the protestors.

The violence flared after a failed meeting of lraqi lawmakers, Kurdish and Iraqi political blocs that were looking for possible resolutions to end the crisis.
On Saturday, Sadr warned Abadi to come up with a technocratic government within 72 hours.

Sadr released a statement on Saturday supporting Iraqi lawmakers in their boycott of the government, calling it a move against discrimination.

He asked lawmakers to continue their action until problems are resolved.

The Iranian-backed leader also called on Iraqi ministers to resign as soon as possible.

According to the statement Sadr wants Abadi to resolve the current political problems and reshuffle his government within 45 days.

Sadr staged a sit-in last month inside Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone to put pressure on Abadi to reshuffle his cabinet.