Demanding gov’t reform, Sadrists storm Iraq parliament

By Idris Okuducu

BAGHDAD (AA) – Supporters of prominent Iraqi Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone on Saturday before forcing their way into the parliament building where they broke windows and smashed furniture.

Most lawmakers were evacuated from the premises, although a number still reportedly remain inside.

Pro-Sadr demonstrators smashed barriers set up around the heavily-fortified Green Zone — which houses Iraqi state institutions and foreign diplomatic missions — and also damaged vehicles belonging to lawmakers.

In recent months, al-Sadr supporters have staged several mass demonstrations near the Green Zone to reiterate longstanding demands for sweeping government reform.

Last month, the firebrand Shia cleric’s supporters surrounded several government ministries in Baghdad to press for their demands.

Iraq has been embroiled in a deepening political crisis since March, when al-Sadr loyalists began staging protests in the capital to pressure Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi to appoint a government of “technocrats” untainted by corruption or sectarian affiliations.

The crisis escalated further earlier this month when MPs refused to allow Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri to chair a scheduled assembly session, accusing him of failing to summon al-Abadi to answer corruption allegations.

Iraq ranks 161st out of 168 countries on Transparency International’s “corruption perceptions index”.