Colored tents and pots of rice, vegetables, meat and cold water

Baghdad... Two sit-ins with different demands and similar diaries

  • A man prepares food in the parliament courtyard to present it to the sit-in.


  • Tents inside the parliament to protect the sitters, the heat of the sun.



Despite the different demands between the Sadrist movement’s sit-ins and the coordination framework, the diaries of the protesters near and inside the Green Zone in Baghdad are similar: colored tents and large pots of rice, vegetables, meat, and cold water to resist the intense heat.

In late July, large numbers of colorful tents erected by supporters of the leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, were distributed in the vicinity of the Iraqi parliament, as an expression of his ability to mobilize the street amid a political dispute with his opponents.

The main demand of the protesters is the dissolution of parliament and the holding of early elections.

The coordinating framework responded by setting up a sit-in in the vicinity of the fortified Green Zone, where government institutions and diplomatic headquarters are located.

Organizers on both sides say that the organization and logistical support for the sit-in is provided by the Ashura processions rooted in the Shiite tradition in Iraq, which are mobile processions funded by donations, and provide food and drink.

Among these processions is the “Ahabbat al-Sadr” procession, after Muqtada al-Sadr and his father, Muhammad al-Sadr.

Fadel Rahman, one of the supervisors of the procession, which includes 25 people, told AFP: "We sleep here in tents, we brought pillows from our homes and came."

The man adds: “We offer main meals to the sit-in, from breakfast to lunch, and dinner. Tea is available, and cold water is available. The most important thing is cold water in this heat.”

And the man who works as a "tuk-tuk" driver and donated 250,000 dinars ($170) from his pocket to finance the procession with food confirms that his presence at this sit-in will continue until "we drive away the corrupt."

In the tents, the sit-down campers took cover from the sun, lying on small mattresses, some of them had a mobile air conditioner inside their tent, feeding them from the electricity that supplies Parliament.

In the courtyards of Parliament, juice, coffee and tea stalls, and water coolers were distributed, some slaughtered livestock for cooking from small stalls or tables, volunteers distributed bread or cheese, and in some cases, hot meals were distributed directly from pickup trucks.

In all, the Sadrist movement's sit-in includes about "70 processions," one of the supervisors told AFP.

The man, who preferred not to be identified, adds that they are providing the "sit-ins" with the food they need.

The value of the money that each procession spends daily to feed the protesters is estimated at about “six million dinars (4000 dollars)... and about 100 kilograms of rice, and other items such as veal, lamb, fruit and water.”

He points out, for example, that a donor from the Kurdistan region gave 12 sheep.

In front of the parliament's main door, Muhammad Hussein stands on a small white truck, shouting at the top of his voice to passersby to eat the rice, meat and beans he distributes.

"Every night I meet with my friends, and we decide what kind of food we will bring the next day," Mohammed tells AFP.

Muhammad's income per week does not exceed 40,000 dinars (27 dollars), but his hope that this sit-in would be a stepping stone to change prompted him and his friends to donate a little money to support the sit-in.

He says, "Each of us pays 20 to 15 thousand dinars and we buy what we can afford. We deduct from our children's money to provide food for the sit-in."

The man, who has six children, adds that he does all this in the hope that "Muqtada al-Sadr will erase the corrupt ones from existence, and let us rest."

On the road leading to the Green Zone, supporters of the coordination framework have been protesting for about a week, demanding the formation of a government that would provide basic services and improve the daily life of Iraqis.

It includes the coordination framework, especially the parliamentary Fatah bloc representing the pro-Iranian Popular Mobilization factions, and the bloc of former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, Sadr's historical opponent.

On one of the tents, a sign was placed that read: "State institutions must be respected, especially the legislative and judicial ones," apparently in response to al-Sadr's demand to dissolve parliament.

A source in the coordination framework, who preferred to remain anonymous, confirms that "the existing tents are the same as the tents for the processions."

He adds that "thousands of people affected by the delay in forming a government are ready to provide all kinds of support... What al-Mu'tasim needs does not go beyond food and drink."

Abu Ali Al-Kazemi, one of the sit-in, says that all these needs are secured "at our own expense... We cook ourselves and provide services to people, the clans support us, and the houses near the sit-in support us."

The 45-year-old says that "life is disrupted in Iraq now because of that occupier of parliament," stressing that the sit-in will continue until "our legitimate demands are met, especially the formation of a government." 

• The needs of the sit-in are provided by the "processions"... and the support of the clans and houses adjacent to the sit-in.

• In the courtyards of Parliament, stalls were distributed juice, coffee and tea, and water coolers, and some slaughtered livestock for cooking from small stalls or tables, and volunteers distributed bread or cheese, and in some cases, hot meals were distributed directly from small trucks.

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