Following the withdrawal of Muqtada al-Sadr supporters from the protest squares in Iraq, demonstrators are returning to make their voices heard.
Thousands of young people, many of who are university students, have taken back to the protest squares in Baghdad and across southern Iraq following the withdrawal of the “Blue Helmets”, who are security forces loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist Movement.
“Our demonstrations demand dignity and have restored the confidence of the Iraqi people. These demonstrations prove that the Iraqi youth and the Iraqi students are loyal to their homeland”, stated Ameer Ahmad, one of the organisers of the student protests.
Initially, clashes had taken place between the protesters and the Blue Helmets loyal to Al-Sadr following the appointment of Mohammed Allawi as prime minister-designate of Iraq. The appointment of Mohammed Allawi caused controversy in Iraq and led to further protests wherein demonstrators condemned the move and saw it as a way for the political establishment to perpetuate the status quo.
While protesters expressed their opposition to the appointment of Allawi, Al-Sadr and his followers demonstrated their support for the appointment, leading to clashes between the two camps across southern Iraq. The clashes left a number of people dead, specifically in Najaf, where seven protesters were killed.
The withdrawal of the Blue Helmets and the return of demonstrators to the protest squares means that protesters will be continuing to demonstrate freely against the government and the appointment of Allawi as prime minister-designate without interference from Sadrist supporters.
The position of Al-Sadr throughout the protest movement, which was initially launched on 1 October 2019, has been inconsistent. He initially backed the protesters and, on occasion, has dispatched units from the Blue Helmets to protect protesters during demonstrations. Nevertheless, Al-Sadr recently withdrew his support for the protesters and the recent bout of violence between the Blue Helmets and demonstrators following the appointment of Allawi as prime minister-designate further estranged Al-Sadr from the protest movement.