Followers of Iraqi cleric Sadr rally near Baghdad’s Green Zone
BAGHDAD – Reuters
REUTERS photoThousands of Iraqis staged a protest outside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on March 18 to demand measures to stem corruption, heeding a call by influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
At around 11 a.m. March 18, riot police stood aside and allowed leaders of the demonstrators to cut and pull aside barbed wire barriers to allow them to cross a bridge that leads to the zone, which houses government offices, the parliament and embassies.
“Let’s get rid of them, they’re all thieves!”, chanted the demonstrators as they rushed across the bridge, aiming to hold their weekly Friday prayer at a Green Zone gate that leads to the parliament building.
The Interior Ministry earlier said it had not authorized any sit-down protest, amid concern about clashes with the forces guarding the zone.
Sadr on March 17 rejected calls to cancel the protest, calling the Green Zone “a bastion of support for corruption.”
The cleric wants Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to replace cabinet ministers with technocrats unaffiliated with political parties in order to counter the systemic political patronage that has abetted corruption.
The authorities beefed up security in Baghdad, deploying additional checkpoints and police patrols.
Many bridges and roads into and inside the capital were blocked, making circulation nearly impossible near the central district, while helicopters hovered overhead.