Clashes erupted between protesters and supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, who have been known as the 'Blue Helmets', following the appointment of Mohammed Allawi as Prime Minister.
The appointment of Mohammed Allawi caused controversy in Iraq and led to further protests who condemned the move and saw it as a way for the political establishment to perpetuate the status quo.
” He is rejected by the whole people. We do not want him and nobody wants him. We want [a prime minister] chosen by the people and we will not fear anyone. We took to the streets and demanded to hold accountable those who killed the demonstrators. We took to the streets to reject him because he is a partisan and political figure”, stated a protester in Baghdad.
Clashes ensued as a result, as supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, known as the ‘Blue Helmets’ demonstrated in favour of the appointment of Allawi and attacked protesters who opposed the new appointment. The Blue Helmets also took over the building of the Turkish Restaurant, which has thus far been a prominent symbol for the protest movement. The Blue Helmets began carrying pictures of Allawi and attacking protesters chanting against Allawi’s designation.
In order to distinguish themselves from al-Sadr’s Blue Helmets, protesters in Tahrir Square and other protest squares decided to wear red caps and call themselves the ‘Red Helmets’.
Sadr has called on the Blue Helmets to aid the security forces in dispersing protesters by forcefully reopening roads and schools as well as removing “instigators” from within the demonstrations.
In a recent development, a number of people were killed, with dozens injured, in clashes in Najaf after Sadr supporters stormed a protest camp in the city. The governor of Najaf province, Luay al-Yaseri, announced that there was an agreement for the Blue Helmets to be responsible solely for protecting schools and preventing acts of vandalism in cooperation with the security forces. He later stated that public buildings would be closed until further notice due to the unstable security situation. Clashes are also reportedly continuing between the two sides in the provinces of Baghdad and Dhi Qar.