A state of emergency has been declared in Baghdad after supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed the Green Zone and entered the parliament building, The Guardian reported.
Hundreds had gathered to protest the failure of Iraqi lawmakers to approve new ministers, following weeks of turmoil when the prime minister Haidar al-Abadi tried to replace party-affiliated MPs with technocrats. The MPs failed to convene for a vote to approve the measures.
The protesters reportedly gained access to the Green Zone – a heavily fortified area of government buildings and embassies – after attaching cables to the concrete walls and pulling them down.
Footage from within the parliament building shows scores of protesters chanting, one of them shouting, “You are not staying here. This is your last day in the Green Zone,” according to AFP.
Iraq’s special forces have yet to be called in to bolster security, saying the ongoing events are still being treated as a protest, not as “something regarding terrorism.”
For years government posts in Iraq have been based on filling ethnic and religious quotas, something the protesters sought to end. Prime minister Abadi’s move to replace MPs has been blocked by political parties who rely on control of ministries for funding.