2015–2018 Iraqi protests

2015–18 Iraqi protests
Iraqi protests in central Baghdad on 11 March 2016
Date 16 July 2015 – present
(3 years, 1 month, 2 weeks and 4 days)
Location Iraq (since 30 April 2016: Green Zone, Baghdad)
Caused by Corruption
Growth of ISIL
Iranian intervention in Iraq
Methods Demonstrations


  • Protesters occupy Iraqi parliament building
  • State of emergency in effect in Baghdad as of 30 April 2016[1]
  • Roads entering into Baghdad closed[1]
Parties to the civil conflict
Sadrist Movement
Other protesters
Lead figures

The 2015–18 Iraqi protests started on 16 July 2015 in Baghdad and most of Iraqi cities, mainly in the central and southern provinces.

2015 protests

On 16 July, clashes between police and demonstrators led to the death of one young man, with two others wounded.[2]

On 2 August, hundreds took to the streets in the southern cities of Nasriyah and Najaf to protest over poor living conditions, including power shortages, and urged authorities to fight widespread corruption.[3]

On 7 August, tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets to demand changes to the government in central Tahrir Square and jammed the main streets around it, some calling on Prime Minister Abadi to fire corrupt ministers.[4]

2016 protests

On 30 April 2016, thousands of protesters entered the Green Zone in Baghdad and occupied the Iraqi parliament building. This happened after the Iraqi parliament did not approve new government ministers. The protesters included supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada Al Sadr. Although Iraqi security forces were present, they did not attempt to stop the protesters from entering the parliament building.[5]


In 2014, Iraq's election led to a fractured parliament and inability to quickly form a government. Following frustration at the lack of progress, Moqtada al-Sadr promised to lead a sit-in near parliament within the Green Zone in calling for reforms to end corruption.[6][7] Despite attempts by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to re-shuffle his cabinet,[8] he carried out the threat[9][10] for a short period before calling on his supporters to disperse.[8] The political instability in the country has been disconcerting to foreign governments,[11][12] especially amongst rumours of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki political maneuvering.[13][14] The U.S. had earlier called for the replacement of al-Maliki as prime minister as a condition for fighting ISIS.[15][16] A few days before the protests, parliament failed to reach a quorum to approve new ministers to replace the current government.[17] Al-Abadi warned that a failure to form a new government would hurt the war against ISIS.[18]

Breaching of Green Zone and parliament

Shorty after al-Sadr ended a news conference in Najaf where he condemned the political deadlock and warned that "either corrupt [officials] and quotas remain or the entire government will be brought down and no one will be exempt from that" and that he would take a two-month withdrawal from public life as he was "waiting for the great popular uprising and the major revolution to stop the march of the corrupt;"[18] though he did not order his supporters to enter the Green Zone, Shia protesters breached the barricades at the Green Zone and stormed the Iraqi parliament building.[17] After crossing a bridge across the Tigris River, a guard at a checkpoint reported that the protesters had not been searched before entering, while television footage showed them waving the flag of Iraq whiles some were standing on top of concrete blast walls at the outer barrier to the Green Zone.[19] They chanted "the cowards ran away," in reference to MPs leaving parliament.[20] While there were scenes of rioting,[10] other protesters shouted "peacefully, peacefully" as they tried to contain the destruction. Some of the protesters pulled barbed wire across a road leading to one of the exits from the Green Zone, while several vehicles believed to belong to MPs were attacked and damaged.[17] While there were no clashes with the security forces, an army special forces unit was dispatched with armoured vehicles and all entrances to the city of Baghdad were shut "as a precautionary measure to maintain the capital’s security," according to an unnamed security official, although no curfew had been imposed. Hundreds of protesters were seen dancing, waving Iraqi flags and chanting pro-al-Sadr slogans, while others appeared to be breaking furniture.[18] Security was also increased at state institutions such as the headquarters for the Central Bank of Iraq and the airport.[21]

Other protesters were said to be convening at the road to Baghdad International Airport to stop politicians from leaving the city and/or the country.[22]


President Fuad Masum called on the protesters to leave the parliament building but added: "Burying the regime of party and sectarian quotas cannot be delayed." Sheikh Muhanad al-Gharrawi, an al-Sadr spokesman, also said that al-Sadr had called on his supporters to evacuate the parliament building and set up tents outside. "Negotiations are ongoing between security and government officials and protesters’ representatives to make sure their demands are met."[18]

2017 protests

On 11 February, at least five protesters and two policeman have been killed in Baghdad when thousands of people took part in a rally. At least 320 protesters and seven police officers were wounded as violence gripped the rally. Late on that day, there were reports that six or seven Katyusha-type rockets were fired at the Green Zone from within Baghdad. No people claim responsibility and there no casualties reported.[23] Moreover, Iraqi security forces had sealed off routes leading to the capital’s fortified Green Zone after the protests.[24]

On 24 March, thousands of anti-government protesters filled up the streets of downtown Baghdad with Muqtada al-Sadr threatened to boycott the upcoming provincial elections, urging followers to join a "reform revolution."[25]

2018 protests

On 15 July, protests erupted in southern and central Iraq with protestors burning the headquarters of Kataib Hezbollah in Najaf and also sacked the city's airport. Protestors in southern Iraq have blockaded the border with Kuwait and have also occupied several oilfields, in response to the mass unrest the Iraqi Army redeployed forces in the north that were engaging ISIL and the White Flags group to the south to counter the rise in unrest.[26] In response to the unrest flights from Iran, Kuwait and Jordan to Najaf were diverted.[27] During the protests in Basra two demonstrators were killed by Iraq's security apparatus, and protesters in Sadr City stormed the headquarters of the Iranian backed Badr Organization.[28]

On 16 July, protestors in Basra began burning pictures of Khomeini and continued to storm the political offices of the Islamic Dawa Party, Badr Organization, and the National Wisdom Movement, the protestors also demonstrated against Iranian drainage of the Shatt al-Arab waterway which cause water in southern Iraq to become saline.[29][30]

By 19 July, there had been 8 reported deaths among the protestors since the recent government crackdowns on the increasing violence.[31]

On 21 July, a Badr Organization militiaman killed a 20-year-old protestor in the city of Al Diwaniyah.[32][33][34]

See also


  1. 1 2 "State of emergency declared in Baghdad as protesters take Iraqi parliament". Washington Post. 30 April 2016. Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  2. Harith al-Hasan (2015). "Social Protest in Iraq and Reality of the Internal Shia Dispute". Al Jazeera.
  3. "Iraqis protest over power outages and poor services". Al Jazeera.
  4. "'We've had enough': Baghdad protests challenge Iraq's prime minister". The Washington Post.
  5. "Thousands of protesters storm Iraq parliament green zone". AFP. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  6. "Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr calls for Baghdad sit-in". aljazeera.com. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  7. "Thousands demonstrate at Baghdad's Green Zone". muscatdaily.com. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  8. 1 2 "Thousands Of Iraqis Answer Moqtada al-Sadr's Call To Protest". ndtv.com. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  9. Saif Hameed. "Moqtada al-Sadr's followers begin anti-corruption sit-in in Baghdad". in.reuters.com. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  10. 1 2 "Water bottles thrown in Iraqi parliament as thousands take to streets". middleeasteye.net. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  11. "The political crisis rocking Baghdad and why it matters for the war on ISIS". vox.com. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  12. "In Saudi visit, Obama works to calm Gulf tensions with US". New Milford Spectrum. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  13. "Iraq's former Prime Minister Maliki said behind troubles in parliament". middleeasteye.net. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  14. "A Constitutional Coup". Kurdish Globe. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  15. "Iraq's Maliki: I won't quit as condition of US strikes against Isis militants". theguardian.com. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  16. "Why we stuck with Maliki — and lost Iraq". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  17. 1 2 3 "Thousands of protesters break into Baghdad Green Zone". Samaa TV. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  18. 1 2 3 4 "Sadr followers storm into Baghdad's Green Zone, political crisis deepens -". Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  19. "Hundreds of protesters storm Baghdad's Green Zone: Witnesses". economictimes.indiatimes.com. Retrieved 2016-04-30.
  20. "Iraqi Shia protesters storm parliament, demand end to corruption". Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  21. "Latest Trading & Business Videos - Commodity Online". Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  22. "Anti-corruption protesters storm Baghdad's Green Zone, enter parliament". RT International. Retrieved 1 May 2016.
  23. "Violence grips protest rally in Baghdad". Al Jazeera. Retrieved 12 February 2017.
  24. "Thousands of Iraqis protest in central Baghdad to press for reforms". Kurdistan24. Retrieved 11 February 2017.
  25. Ali Abdul-Hassan. "At Baghdad rally, Iraq cleric threatens to boycott elections". Philly.com.
  26. "Mass protests sweep Iraq, target pro-Iran militias and parties". Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  27. "Iran flights to Iraq's Najaf redirected to Baghdad: Iranian state TV". Reuters. Retrieved 16 July 2018.
  28. "Two protesters killed in clashes with Iraqi police as unrest spreads in south". ABC News. 16 July 2018. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  29. "VIDEO: Iraqi protesters burn pictures of Khomeini in Basra". english.alarabiya.net. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  30. "Iraqi protesters burn pictures of Khomeini in Basra". Al-Arabiya. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  31. Turak, Natasha (19 July 2018). "More turmoil in Iraq as deadly protests ravage oil-rich south". CNBC. Retrieved 20 July 2018.
  32. Catherine, John (21 July 2018). "Badr militia security guard kills Iraqi protester". Kurdistan24. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  33. "Two killed in protests on Friday: Iraq health ministry". Rudaw. 21 July 2018. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  34. "One Killed as Iraqi Protests Rage on". Asharq al-Awsat. 20 July 2018. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
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