20 May 2019
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4 killed in Sadrist anti-corruption protest in Najaf

Friday, 17 May 2019 04:31
Flames engulf Al-Bashir shopping mall in Iraq's holy city of Najaf, May 15, 2019. Photo: social media Flames engulf Al-Bashir shopping mall in Iraq's holy city of Najaf, May 15, 2019. Photo: social media

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Anti-corruption protests called by firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq’s holy city of Najaf turned violent on Wednesday night resulting in the death of four people.

Four people were killed and 17 wounded, according to Najaf’s Hakim Hospital, when security guards outside a mall owned by a former Sadrist opened fire on the crowd. 

Sadr, who leads the Sayirun alliance, the biggest bloc in the Iraqi parliament, had called on his supporters to take to the streets to protest against corruption within the ranks of his own Sadrist Movement.

The Political Board of the Sadrist Movement condemned “the use of armed force” for quelling “peaceful and civilized” protests. “We are closely monitoring recent developments in some provinces,” it said.

“Firing on unarmed and peaceful protesters is a crime and an outright violation of the basic principles of human rights and the freedom of expressions, the laws and constitution.”

“The martyrdom and the wounding of the peaceful protesters by the guards of the corrupt or the guards of the building and offices of the corrupt is intolerable,” it added.

The protests took place in front of the Al-Bashir shopping mall, which is reportedly owned by a Sadr Movement leader named Jawad al-Garawi. 

Garawi was allegedly expelled from the movement’s ranks on charges of corruption.

Salih Mohammed al-Iraqi, a Sadrist Movement leader with close ties to Sadr, had urged supporters to target the businesses of individuals accused of corruption. 

“If the corrupt want to return, we are standing in the way and we will prevail over them,” al-Iraqi wrote in a Facebook post on Wednesday night.

Adnan Awadh, a journalist working for the Alhurra TV, tweeted a video of flames engulfing the mall.

According to Awadh, the protesters set fire to the mall after the guards shot at them.

In a statement on Thursday, the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s Security Media Cell said: “Security forces have arrested five guards of the mall who had opened fire on the protesters.”

Protests have spread to other predominately Shiite provinces including Wasit, Babil, and Karbala, where demonstrators are targeting the companies and offices of sacked Sadrist Movement members. 

On Monday Sadr ordered the formation of a committee to gather information about his movement’s members working in governmental sectors.

“I no longer tolerate the defamation of my father’s reputation by you and the derailment of his path,” Sadr said, referring to his revered Islamic scholar father, Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr.

Sadr has not identified specific members of his movement involved in corruption.

The Sayirun alliance leader is an extremely influential figure in Iraqi politics. His Mahdi Army fought the post-2003 US occupation. During the reign of former prime minister Haider al-Abadi, Sadr regularly mobilized mass demonstrationsin the capital Baghdad against corruption. 

In Iraq’s May 12 election last year, Sadr’s Sayirun alliance of Sadrists, secularists and communists secured 54 parliamentary seats, with several candidates running on an anti-corruption ticket.

Although Sadr did not himself run for election, the result has given him profound influence over the new government, its appointments, and its agenda. 

Iraq is ranked among the world’s most corrupt countries, according to Transparency International. 

Source: RUDAW

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