Social media users online are expressing their solidarity with the people of Iraq.
Tensions have soared in Iraq after influential Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr stepped down from political activities, leading to violent protests by his loyalists.
Al-Sadr’s decision came after months of unrest in Iraq, with his supporters calling for new elections and the dissolving of the current Iraqi parliament. He also announced the closure of all institutions linked to his movement.
Soon after, protesters stormed the Iraqi presidential palace in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone as security forces fired tear gas to disperse them.
Medical sources in Iraq told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that the death toll rose to 30 as 700 people were wounded, including 110 members of the security forces.
Responding to the latest escalations in Iraq, the army announced an indefinite, nationwide curfew on Monday night, as the Associated Press (AP) reported.
Clashes later erupted between Saraya Salam, an Al-Sadr aligned militia, and the Popular Mobilisation Forces security group, a state-sanctioned organisation consisting of majority Shia militias backed by Iran.
The Iraqi Army’s 9th Division later joined in the fighting, according to the AP.
Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi called for an “urgent investigation” into the latest violence, saying the use of violence by security forces is “strictly prohibited”.
Meanwhile, Iran cancelled all flights to Iraq and all land border crossings as Kuwait called on its citizens to suspend all travels to Baghdad. Turkey has also issued a travel alert as the Emirates airline cancelled flights between the UAE and Iraq.
In a statement on Tuesday, Qatar called for calm.
“The State of Qatar expresses its deep concern about the developments in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, and calls on all parties in Iraq to calm down, avoid escalation, prevail the voice of wisdom and exercise the utmost restraint,” the statement read.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stresses the need to resolve differences through political dialogue and peaceful means in order to achieve the aspirations of the brotherly Iraqi people for stability and prosperity,” it added.
Social media users globally and in commented on the latest unrest in Iraq while expressing their solidarity with the country.
Commenting on the decades-long struggles of Iraqis, Amanie Geha, a Qatar-based presenter at Al Araby TV, tweeted, “Our oppressed Arab peoples.”
Al Jazeera Arabic presenter Haitham Abou Saleh tweeted,”The language of weapons is an illogical choice in resolving political differences, and it only brings more loss. Wisdom is required and the language of reason prevails. May God help Iraq and the Iraqis.”
Joining the social media commentary, beIN Sports journalist, presenter and commentator Hafid Derradji expressed his prayers for Iraq.
“It seems that the fighting in Iraq is a fight for Iraq, unfortunately, because chaos does not extinguish strife, and does not solve the accumulated problems,” tweeted Derradji.
Beyond Qatar, prominent Iraqi singer Rahma Riad tweeted,”I wish for peace for a land that was created for peace and has never seen peace. May God protect Iraq and his great people.”
From London, Abdel Bari Atwan, writer and author, said, “I have not left the TV screen all night to watch the bloody and painful events that are happening in Iraq. We do not take sides against another. We are all our people.”
“But we do not exonerate America, which invaded and occupied Iraq, and always looks forward to completing the process of finishing it off and igniting the fuse of a civil war in which everyone will lose. May God protect Iraq,” Atwan added.
In Lebanon, Lebanese educator Mahdi Mansour tweeted, “Iraq is the heart of the Arab world, its people, its history and its present are in danger, grief is great, but hope is greater with the awareness of its people. May God protect the Iraqis heart by heart.”
Iraq’s power struggle
Clashes had erupted in Baghdad last year between government forces and those supporting Iran-backed political parties after the latter lost dozens of seats in parliament following a general election in October.
In November, Al-Kadhimi, an ally of Al-Sadr, survived an assasination attempt in a drone attack. Two of the drones were intercepted and thwarted by security forces but a third hit Al-Kadhimi’s residence, without any deaths.
Supporters of the Sadrist movement had stormed the Iraqi parliament building last month, forcing Al-Kadhimi to put all meetings on hold indefinitely.
Iraq has been grappling with a political deadlock since the latest elections, as Sadr refused to negotiate with his Iran-backed Shia rivals. Sadr has long expressed his opposition towards Iranian interference in Iraq’s politics.
The UN mission in Iraq described the violence as an “extremely dangerous escalation”, urging all parties to “refrain from acts that could lead to an unstoppable chain of events.”
Meanwhile, White House National Security Council John Kirby said Monday’s events are “disturbing”, as quoted by Reuters. The Washington official also called for dialogue in the country while saying there is no need to evacuate its embassy staff, located in the Green Zone.
Since the overthrow of former leader Saddam Hussein in 2003 by the US in a deadly invasion, there have been several alliances in Iraq’s parliament that comprise of both Sunnis and Iraqi Kurds.
Iraq ranks among the most corrupt countries in the world, as per the Transparency International index. Currently it ranks 160 out of 180 countries.
Fighting corruption has been among the key demands by millions of Iraqis who flocked to the streets during the 2019 protests. Civilians also demonstrated against unemployment and a lack of basic services.
Iraq has struggled for years since the US invasion, in which the country’s health ministry said at least 151,000 were killed between 2003 and 2006. However, the total number of civilian casualties remains disputed.