Iraqi leaders call for restraint as post-election violence escalates
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi leaders called for restraint late Friday after violent clashes broke out as supporters of Iran-aligned militias attempted to storm Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone as part of protests against the results of October's parliamentary election.
Read More: Iraqi security forces, supporters of Iran-backed militias clash in central Baghdad
Later in the evening, new confrontations erupted close to the Green Zone, where Iraqi police fired into the air to disperse the militia affiliates. Earlier, the Iraqi health ministry rejected reports of deaths due to the violence.
مراسلنا: إطلاق نار متقطع وسط احتجاجات الرافضين لنتائج الانتخابات في مدخل المنطقة الخضراء ببغداد#العراق pic.twitter.com/4uZjqYCmuS— Kurdistan24 عربية (@arabick24) November 5, 2021
"Peaceful demonstrations for the sake of electoral challenges should not turn violent and undermine the state," said Muqtada al-Sadr, a self-styled populist Shia cleric whose political alliance came in first place in the Oct. 10 vote.
Sadr also condemned violence against peaceful protesters, claiming further that his "national majority" government would defend demonstrators from harm. The clashes that broke out are "reprehensible," he added.
The prime minister of Iraq's caretaker government, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, pleaded with the protesters to "avoid violence" and "resort to dialogue" to communicate their rejection of the election results.
Kadhimi also defended the way the security forces handled the situation. "Respect for human rights, especially the right to demonstrate and express opinions, is one of the basic principles that the government has committed to."
أنصار القوى الرافضة لنتائج الانتخابات يرشقون قوات الأمن بالحجارة وسط #بغداد#العراق pic.twitter.com/XL16LNcY1z— Kurdistan24 عربية (@arabick24) November 5, 2021
Shortly after the premier's statement, the leader of the pro-Iran Fatah Alliance, Hadi al-Amiri, denounced police violence against what he asserted were "peaceful demonstrations."
The Fatah Alliance is projected to have come in fifth place in the election with about 17 seats in the 329-seat legislature, according to official preliminary results announced by the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC).
The IHEC has denied claims of widespread fraud and said recently that a manual recount of 25 percent of all votes had yielded the same outcome as declared in the preliminary results.
The coalition is made up of political representatives of Iranian-backed militias and had 48 seats in the last parliamentary session. Fatah leaders have repeatedly alleged election fraud since the vote date.
"We condemn and denounce in the strongest terms, and we follow with great anger the hideous state of repression by the government authorities against peaceful demonstrators who object to the theft of their voices and falsification of results," Amiri said.
He also demanded an immediate investigation by judicial authorities into "those who ordered the firing of live rounds" at protesters.
The Shia political leader called on the protesters, whom he claimed had shown "the most wonderful forms of discipline and wisdom," to "exercise restraint."
The National Coalition, led by the one-time Iraqi premier and vice president Ayad Allawi, called for calms on all sides in a neutral tone statement. The