Though the situation is calming in recent hours, a state of emergency has been declared in the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad after thousands of protesters demanding political reform stormed the heavily fortified Green Zone, and many forced their way into the house of parliament.
Protesters have been out in force for months, backing Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, and demanding reforms including the installation of a technocrat cabinet. Prime Minister Hayder Abadi nominated such a cabinet, but parliament has failed to vote on it for weeks now, and indeed has failed to have an organized session with a quorum in over a week that didn’t involve throwing water bottles.
The protesters forced their way into the Green Zone after the latest parliamentary session, which once again failed to reach a quorum to allow for a vote on any new cabinet members. The Iraqi military has announced that the city is “closed” and that no one is allowed to enter Baghdad under any circumstances for the time being.
Sadr was critical of the moves against the protesters, saying that the political leadership wants to suppress the reform movement. The call for a technocratic cabinet, despite being endorsed by Abadi, has been opposed by virtually his entire State of Law bloc, as well as the major Kurdish parties. It is supported by Sadr’s faction, along with the Sunni Arabs, though their minority is even smaller than before since the last parliamentary election came after much of the Sunni Arab part of the country had fallen to ISIS.