Spiritual supporters must withdraw from Iraqi parliament

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BAGHDAD (TBEN) — Followers of an influential Shia cleric who camped in the Iraqi parliament building for the fourth day in a row were ordered Tuesday to vacate the building but continue their protest outside.

In a tweet, a representative of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr told hundreds of loyalists to leave the parliament building in Baghdad’s capital within 72 hours. They were told to move their protest outside the grounds but to remain within the Green Zone, where Iraqi government offices and foreign embassies are located. The sit-in was on its fourth day Tuesday.

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Al-Sadr and his party were winners in October’s parliamentary elections, but failed to gain a majority to form a government. His followers stormed parliament on his orders on Saturday to prevent the Iran-backed Coordinating Framework Alliance from voting in a new government after naming Mohamed al-Sudani as prime minister.

Tuesday’s move is a de-escalation on the part of al-Sadr, but far from dissolving the protests. It comes a day after his rivals in the Framework alliance staged a protest that many feared would lead to street fighting between loyalists from the rival Shia factions. The protesters withdrew on the orders of Qais al-Khazali, a leading member of the Framework.

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Shia officials told The The Bharat Express News that Kader al-Sadr had made a proposal to withdraw from the parliament building. In return, the parliament building would remain closed to lawmakers.

Al-Sadr’s followers have camped in the parliament building in the heavily fortified Green Zone since thousands stormed the building on Saturday, demanding reforms and denouncing the Iran-backed alliance. Al-Sadr’s representatives have called on supporters in Iraqi provinces to protest in their towns and villages in support of the parliament sit-in.

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Al-Sadr’s followers were also ordered to hold mass prayers Friday at the Victory Arch, a monument also located in the district.

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