Fighters from Saraya al-Salam (“Peace Company”), the military wing of the Shia cleric al-Sadr, sit in a vehicle. After the escalation of violence in Iraq, the situation in the capital Baghdad has calmed down again. Photo: Murtadha Ridha/AP/dpa
Supporters of the influential Shiite preacher Muqtada al-Sadr followed his order on Tuesday and ended their protest camp at the parliament. TV pictures showed them dismantling their tents.
The UN mission in Iraq welcomed Al-Sadr’s “moderate statement”. “Restraint and calm are necessary for reason to prevail,” she wrote on Twitter. Acting Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kasimi tweeted that al-Sadr’s call to end violence was “the epitome of patriotism.”
The month-long power struggle between al-Sadr and his political opponents had previously turned violent. Militias from both sides fought in the heavily secured Green Zone in the center of the capital Baghdad. Al-Sadr then ordered his supporters to end their protest camp in the government district on Tuesday. In a TV speech, he said it made him sad what had happened. The security forces lifted the curfew in Baghdad.
Al-Sadr’s movement emerged as the strongest force in last October’s parliamentary elections. However, he failed to form a government. He refused to cooperate with the pro-Iranian parties. In this political stalemate, al-Sadr called for the dissolution of parliament and new elections, which his opponents oppose. At the same time, the preacher relied on the pressure of the street.