Middle East

Tens of thousands gather to show off power of Iraqi saddle

Yesterday in Baghdad’s Green Zone, tens of thousands of people took part in mass prayers in a renewed power struggle after opponents of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr conditionally backed a call for early elections. A longtime political and religious force in the oil-rich but war-torn nation, Sadr has been in political conflict with rival alliances for months.
Worshipers gathered in a large open space within the normally safe Green Zone. The square houses government and diplomatic buildings, including the parliament, which his supporters began occupying on 30 July. Sadr’s followers chanted it in prayer.
“No, I am against corruption.” Hundreds of people returned after prayers near the Capitol, whose air-conditioned halls and marble floors have been in use since last Saturday. Finding the door locked and the building vacant, they continued their sit-in in the complex’s gardens, as requested by the movement.
On Tuesday, various signals emerged from the Sadr camp calling for a sweep in parliament. Sadr’s mass prayer meeting follows his call for early elections. Despite the fact that the last national poll was only conducted about 10 months ago, it is possible that the rival bloc conditionally states that it is possible.
Since then, post-election negotiations between Sadr, the largest faction in parliament, and other factions have failed to produce a new government, prime minister and president. It continues to be plagued by corruption, crumbling infrastructure and unemployment.
As a result of past deals, the Sadlists also have representation at the highest levels of government ministries and have been accused by their opponents of being as corrupt as any other political force.
Sadr’s supporters, however, are ready to follow him almost blindly and see him as an advocate for the anti-corruption struggle.
Addressing the lectern and leading prayers, the Imam supported Sadr’s call for early elections. “Iraq is a prisoner of corruption,” said the Imam, condemning the “scandalous deterioration of public services, health and education.”
Sheikh Ali Al-Atabi, 38, joined the crowd in supporting Sadr. Atabi explained that calling people to Friday prayers is “part of his repertoire” when he “want to use people for something.”
A similar call to prayer and pressure tactics took place from Sadr in mid-July, drawing hundreds of thousands of worshipers to Sadr City, a Baghdad district named after his assassinated father. Qasem Abu Mustafa, 40, described the recent rally as a “thorn” piercing “enemies demanding elections and reforms in the legislature”.
The faithful were mostly men, but some women used umbrellas to protect themselves from Baghdad’s 42-degree Celsius heat. Some waved Iraqi flags and held portraits of their leaders.
“Whatever Mr. Sadr thinks, we stand by him,” said civil servant Abu Mustafa. Sadr had the most support in parliament in his October elections, but was far from a majority. In June, 73 lawmakers resigned to break the deadlock. This made the Coordination Framework, a competing bloc, the largest in Congress.
The coordinating framework’s nomination of former minister Mohammed Shea al-Sudani as prime minister has angered Sadr Brock and prompted an occupation of parliament by his supporters. The United Nations has warned that tensions could rise as armed groups are linked to various political factions in Iraq.
On Wednesday, Sadr called for the dissolution of parliament and a new poll. The Coordination Framework said late Thursday that they were open to the idea, signaling a potential escalation.
But it also suggests that the occupation of Congress must end, stating that “a national consensus on the issue and the provision of a safe environment” are prerequisites for such polls.
The coordination framework includes lawmakers from the party of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a longtime enemy of Sadr, and lawmakers from Hashd al-Shaabi, a former pro-Iranian paramilitary network now integrated into the security forces. is included.
Parliament Speaker Mohammed Al-Harbusi, a member of the minority Sunni community, expressed his support for the new elections on Twitter. “It is impossible to ignore the will of the masses,” he said.

http://www.gulf-times.com/story/722267/Tens-of-thousands-gather-in-show-of-force-by-Iraq- Tens of thousands gather to show off power of Iraqi saddle

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