Iraq’s powerful Shia leader and politician Muqtada al-Sadr announced he is quitting political life for good and closing his political offices in a move that could further inflame tensions in the country.
The statement, published on Twitter on Monday, comes amid months of protests by al-Sadr’s supporters backing his call for the dissolution of the Iraqi parliament.
“I hereby announce my final withdrawal,” al-Sadr said adding “all the institutions” linked to his Sadrist movement will be closed, except the mausoleum of his father, assassinated in 1999, and other heritage facilities.
The announcement was quickly met with escalation from al-Sadr’s supporters, who entered the Republican Palace with several thousand other al-Sadr loyalists heading towards the Green Zone.
After protesters broke into the government’s headquarters, Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi suspended cabinet sessions until further notice, state news agency Iraqi News Agency (INA) reported.
Supporters, who have gathered at a sit-in since the end of July near the Iraqi parliament, also approached a counter-protest held by al-Sadr’s Shia rivals, leading to fears of an outbreak of violence between the two groups.
Meanwhile, after the protestors stormed the government headquarters, The Iraqi army, announced a Baghdad-wide curfew that went into effect at 3:30pm (12:30 GMT) saying “A full curfew in the capital Baghdad affects all vehicles and citizens.”
It should be remebered that “Al-Sadr has often returned to political activity after similar announcements, although the current political deadlock in Iraq appears harder to resolve than previous periods of dysfunction.”