BAGHDAD: Iraqi supporters of powerful cleric Moqtada Sadr withdrew on Tuesday from Baghdad’s Green Zone after he demanded an end to fighting between rival forces and the army that left 30 dead and hundreds wounded.
The violence that erupted on Monday pitted Sadr loyalists against Shia factions backed by neighbouring Iran, with the sides exchanging gunfire across barricades — violence the United Nations warned risked tipping the war-ravaged country deeper into chaos.
After Sadr’s speech was broadcast live on television, his supporters started dismantling encampments and clearing the Green Zone, where municipal workers began cleaning up shells and bullet casings left in the wake of the unrest.
The army lifted a nationwide curfew, with concrete barriers removed from main thoroughfares and traffic slowly starting to trickle back to its normal flow.
Sadr, a grey-bearded preacher with millions of devoted followers who once led a militia against American and Iraqi government forces, gave followers “60 minutes” to withdraw after which he would threaten to “disavow” those who remained.
“I apologise to the Iraqi people, the only ones affected by the events,” Sadr said in a speech from his base in the central city of Najaf.
“Shame on this revolution… Regardless of who was the initiator, this revolution, as long as it is marred by violence, is not a revolution,” he said.
Published in Dawn, August 31st, 2022