Iraqi supporters of the Sadrist movement hold national flags during a demonstration in Baghdad's Tahrir Square. Photo:AFP / Sabah Arar
BAGHDAD, Iraq — A number of Katyusha rockets have landed in and around the heavily-fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, where vital state institutions are located, Iraq’s Joint Command stated, while the Prime Minister Haider al-Aabdi has ordered launching an investigation into Saturday’s casualties incurred by angry protesters trying to storm the Green Zone calling for an overhaul of the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) which the protesters claim is partisan.
Iraq’s President Fouad Masum quickly announced on Saturday that the completion of a draft regarding the election law, a key demand of the protesters, in consultations with various parliamentary factions, and hoped that the MPs would pass it soon.
Public demonstrations in the Iraqi capital turned violent earlier on Saturday after police opened fire on them trying to break into the Green Zone.
Baghdad’s Governor Ali al-Tamimi, who is from the Sadr Faction, announced five people were killed and more than 300 injured , 7 of whom by by gunfire.
Supporters of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr marched on the streets of Baghdad and towards the government compound against corruption and demanding a change to Iraq’s election law.
Iraqi Joint Command said that a member of the security forces was killed, and seven others injured claiming that they seized light weapons and knives that had been held by the protesters.
The Joint Command said the rockets fired from the Baladiyiat and Falasteen areas landed in and around the Green Zone, without giving more details.
The office of the prime minister, Iraqi parliament, the IHEC, and the embassy of the United States, among others, are all located in Green Zone.
PM Abadi, who issued two statements today in relation to the chaotic scenes in Tahrir Square where the protests began, reaffirmed the right of the people for “peaceful demonstration.”
A statement from his office said that Abadi, as both the PM and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces, issued an order to open “a full investigation into the casualties that occurred among the security units and the demonstrators from today’s demonstration in Tahrir Square, and to prosecute those responsible for it.”
“These protestors are calling for the high electoral commission to be changed, which we believe is controlled by the ruling parties,” Sadr’s political spokesman Jawad al-Jiburi told Rudaw.
Ayad Shamari from Sadr’s faction in parliament told Rudaw that “The commission has lost the trust of people.”
“The Sadr Movement previously demanded that the election commission be changed as we believe the change is in the interests of the Iraqi people. This commission should be free from political interference. The protesters are demanding that the election commission, the election law, and the commission’s members be changed,” he added.
Sarbast Mustafa Rashid, the IHEC’s head, told Rudaw that he would defend the constitution that he represents, noting that he will not accept the accusations from the protesters that he is involved in any sort of corruption.
Rashid said in a statement on Wednesday that there are “legal procedures” to make changes both to the election law, and a change to the members of the commission, which could be done through the Iraqi parliament.
He expressed his surprise that the protesters are calling for such changes while the current term for the commission members expires in seven months.
The next provincial elections are due in September.