Al-Sadr urges fresh protests Friday against elections commission

Iraqi security forces fire tear gas after supporters of Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr tried to approach the heavily fortified Green Zone during a protest at Tahrir Square in Baghdad,Iraq February 11, 2017. REUTERS /Alaa Al-Marjani

Baghdad ( Influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called for a second round of protests condemning what he believes to be an impartial national elections commission after a first round of demonstrations turned deadly.

Al-Sar, in a statement on Thursday, ordered his supporters to stage a “silent demonstration” in Baghdad’s central Tahrir arena, calling upon security forces to “protect the demonstrators”.

“Revolutionaries have given evidence to their obedience and discipline…I hereby urge them to make their protest tomorrow in Tahrir Arena a silent one ….for our fair demands,” Sadr said in his statement.

Last Saturday, protests against the formation of the country’s electoral commission and the elections law heightened in tensions to turn into clashes with security that left five protesters, as well as one security member, dead.

Al-Sadr, who had championed massive anti-corruption protests against the government of Nouri al-Maliki in 2014, is now denouncing Iraq’s electoral commission as corrupt and under influence of Maliki, his bitter political rival who is believed to enjoy Iran’s backing. Opponents to the electoral law say it fails to include all of Iraq’s political and social stripes.

During Saturday’s demonstrations, rockets reportedly landed near the Green Zone, a heavily-guarded complex for Iraqi government buildings, foreign embassies, international missions and organizations. Sadr’s loyalists denied responsibility for launching the missiles.

“If the assault against the Green Zone days ago was carried out by an affiliate with the Sadrist Current….i command him to turn himself in to concerned authorities within maximum 72 hours,” Sadr said, warning that such an action could undermine his movement’s “peaceful reform” agenda.

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