Protesters take over the Iraqi parliament in this screen grab from a Rudaw video.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi MPs trapped inside the parliament building for several hours as angry protesters stormed the compound on Saturday have now been freed, and around 70 of them--Kurdish and Sunni MPs--arrived in the Kurdistan Region, where they described today’s events.
Khasro Goran, a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leadership council left the Iraqi capital by plane and reached Erbil International Airport Saturday evening.
“There was supposed to be a meeting in parliament at 11:00,” Goran told Rudaw at the airport. “The Prime Minister was supposed to come to the parliament and introduce the rest of the [shuffled] cabinet for approval.”
Goran said that many MPs were absent for the session as 105 MPs were “on strike” over the announced changes to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s cabinet.
Only some 50 or 60 MPs attended the session, noted Goran, which was not enough for the vote on the new cabinet. The Speaker of the parliament postponed the meeting until next week.
“Soon afterwards protestors entered the parliament and most of the MPs left the parliament quickly,” Goran said, adding that Kurdish MPs were advised to get to the Baghdad airport as quickly as possible.
The MPs, as far as Goran is aware, were not in danger from the protesters because they were able to leave so quickly. “We were not threatened, but if we had stayed inside the parliament, we would have been hurt by some people,” he said.
Hundreds of angry protestors stormed the Iraqi parliament on Saturday following a speech by radical Shiite cleric Muqtada Sadr who has been threatening to storm the Green Zone and “bring down” the government unless PM Abadi implemented rapid reforms.
Goran described the protesters as Sadr supporters who, “want to impose their ideas.”
“They [Sadrs’ supporters] constitute 8 to 9 percent of the parliament and they want to impose their idea on the rest of the parliament, which is impossible,” he continued. “They have scared people many times saying that they will attack the parliament.”
“We don’t accept anyone to impose their ideas on us,” Goran added.
Another Kurdish MP who returned to Erbil from Baghdad, Salim Shabak, told Rudaw, “Now is the right time for Kurds to separate from Iraq.”
Former Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, called the storming of the parliament dangerous and called for all Iraqis to stand against it.
Maliki also criticized Abadi for trying to announce a new cabinet during protests which make it difficult for all lawmakers to attend the vote. “That is not reform when there are threats and representatives of the people cannot go to the parliament to express their ideas.”
Many of the protestors chanted slogans against former PM Maliki, accusing him of corruption and demanding his trial.
President Fuad Massum has called for calm.