Iraq’s Shia clerics to lead further anti-US demonstrations after Friday prayers

Anti-government protests are expected in Baghdad and a number of southern provinces of Iraq today despite the withdrawal of support

iraq protests

Photo: Halan Akoy/VOA

Anti-government protests are expected in Baghdad and a number of southern provinces of Iraq today despite the withdrawal of support by prominent Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr, who had previously called for a ‘million man’ march, reversed his decision on Friday. The move was supported by Iran, which has exerted increasing control over Iraq’s government since 2014. The protests, which mostly target domestic corruption and excessive American and Iranian influence, have left more than 500 dead and thousands injured since October.

Despite al-Sadr’s change of heart, hundreds of protesters were active over the weekend and early this week, prompting intense government crackdowns by Iraq’s security forces.

While the largely peaceful protest movement has no main leadership and faces the increasing use of violence and intimidation tactics by the Iraqi government, the wide gap between the group’s objectives and the realities in Iraq does not suggest that protests will cease in the near future. With the loss of a powerful ally in al-Sadr, who has declared that he will not intervene on their behalf, protesters will likely face more aggressive government crackdowns.

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