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 The demonstrators streamed through the Green Zone's defenses.  (Photo: Reuters)

Iraqi Protesters Storm Parliament, Break Through Green Zone

Development marks 'climax of weeks of political turmoil'

Andrea Germanos

Iraq's political unrest continued on Saturday as hundreds of protesters waving Iraqi flags breached the fortified Green Zone in Baghdad and stormed the parliament.

Iraqi military announced a state of emergency in Baghdad, though, according to reporting by BBC News, "there has been no serious violence so far."

The protesters were described in various media reports s being followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

MSNBC reports that protesters have been "demonstrating for weeks at the gates of the Green Zone," with calls for the government to take on reforms and tackle corruption.

But Saturday marks "the first time the fortified zone housing government buildings and the U.S. Embassy has been penetrated since 2003," CNN reports.

The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad tweeted Saturday that its staff had not been evacuated and that Iraqi government officials were not on its grounds.

According to Al Jazeera, the events mark "the climax of weeks of political turmoil in Iraq that has seen MPs hold a sit-in, clash in the parliament chamber and seek to dismiss the speaker, halting efforts by Haider al-Abadi, the prime minister, to replace party-affiliated ministers with technocrats."

Referring to the absent lawmakers, some protesters reportedly chanted, "the cowards ran away."

For "Iraqis who have lived through the reign of Saddam Hussein, the American occupation and the current turmoil," the New York Times reports, "the Green Zone has long symbolized tyranny, occupation and corruption." The Times' reporting also notes, "The ease with which they penetrated the rim of the Green Zone suggested that security forces were supportive of the protesters, as there were no reports of shots fired."

Video of the events can be seen below:

Euronews has video as well:

Describing the Shiite cleric last month, Ibrahim al-Marashi, an assistant professor at the Department of History, California State University, San Marcos, wrote, " In Sadr's latest political incarnation, he has embraced the politics of protest to become both an anti-politician and king-maker."  Al-Marashi added that Sadr "has proved himself as a shrewd political operator, elevating himself from relative obscurity in 2003, to a cult-of-personality and Shia sub-culture status that will remain as a fixture in Iraq's chaotic politics."


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