Iraqi Shiite cleric Al-Sadr urges followers to continue protest

Baghdad, Jul 31 (EFE).- Popular Iraqi Shiite cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr on Sunday urged his followers – who on the weekend once again occupied their country’s Parliament and whom he called “revolutionaries” – to continue their protest and to look at it as an opportunity to change the political and electoral system.

“The spontaneous and peaceful revolution that liberated the Green Zone (the fortified Baghdad district where the legislative seat is located) is a golden opportunity for all people who were burned by the fire of injustice,” said Al-Sadr in a message on his Twitter account.

“It’s a great opportunity to fundamentally change the political system, the Constitution and the elections,” he added without clarifying how he intends to achieve those reforms.

Al-Sadr – who last Wednesday, when his supporters for the first time invaded Parliament to protest against the prime ministerial candidate proposed by their pro-Iranian Shiite rivals – after a little over two hours called on the protesters to leave the premises, but he had remained silent since on Saturday afternoon they once again occupied the legislature.

But in the message posted on Sunday afternoon, although he did not give them direct instructions, he urged his followers to continue with their protest and called on other groups in Iraqi society to support “the revolutionaries.”

“Rise up to demand reforms in your country … Don’t lose the opportunity or there will come a moment of regret. … The current revolution is Sadrist,” he said.

Simultaneously, one of his advisers issued another statement giving the demonstrators instructions including how to organize themselves inside the parliamentary building.

The occupying protesters, after spending the night in the building, on Sunday morning began calling on their group to prepare for a long mobilization, setting up tents and security committees and distributing food, while Iraqi security forces, following Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazemi’s orders to hold back, let them freely enter and leave the legislative seat.

Al Sadr, who is adept at mobilizing the poorest elements of Iraq’s Shiite population, expressed his hope that no recurrence of “the tragedy of losing the first golden opportunity in 2016” would happen this time. On that occasion, the cleric’s Shiite followers also invaded Parliament calling for reforms but ended up withdrawing peacefully.

The Sadrist Bloc won Iraq’s legislative elections last October, securing 73 seats in the 329-seat, but politically fragmented, lower house of Parliament, but Al-Sadr ordered them to resign in June after lawmakers from the Shiite opposition pro-Iranian faction blocked votes to elect a new president due to lack of a quorum.

Meanwhile, the leaders of that opposition group accused Al-Sadr of planning a coup d’etat and called on their own supporters to demonstrate on Monday against the takeover of Parliament.

EFE ah-ar-ppa/psh

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