To date most of the protests are taking place in parts of the country with Shia majorities. Not just in the Shia area of Baghdad, but also in the south of the country, in Nasriya or Diwaniya and Hilla. There, the rallies are aimed at local Shia politicians, but also against the central government in Baghdad dominated by Shia parties. Shias are holding their own political leaders accountable.

The protest is also targeting Iranian-backed Shia militia that set the agenda in administrative offices and ministries. The actions of the militia often come across as arbitrary and self-serving, most being merely concerned with lining their own pockets. Posts and services are assigned to allies or in exchange for bribes. In this capacity they are the epitome of corruption, which is then linked to Iran. The protesters also accuse these militia of being behind the heavy-handed response to the demonstrations.

It is interesting that the nation’s top Shia cleric Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani has indirectly backed the protesters and called on the government to respond to the calls for reform.

Endemic corruption

To date, all demands from the people that corruption be tackled have gone unanswered and nothing has been achieved in the process, explains Al-Sistani. Apparently not all Shia spiritual leaders in Iraq are automatically puppets controlled by neighbouring Iran.

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