Iraq protest parliament
Supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al Sadr gather during a sit-in at the parliament building, amid political crises in Baghdad, Iraq July 31, 2022. Image Credit: Reuters

Cairo: Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi has ordered work be halted on Sunday in all state institutions, a day after thousands of protesters stormed the parliament in Baghdad amid a deepening political crisis.

Iraq’s official news agency quoted the Cabinet’s General Secretariat as saying that Al Kadhimi directed work be suspended at state institutions nationwide except at security agencies and to cut staff reporting by half at service and health facilities.

The government statement did not give a reason for the step that comes amid rising tensions in the country.

Al Kadhimi on Saturday urged Iraqi political rivals to settle their differences through dialogue, warning against sedition.

The parliament, meanwhile, suspended its sessions until further notice as followers of powerful cleric Moqtada Al Sadr continue an open sit-in protest in the assembly located in the Green Zone, home to government buildings and foreign missions in Baghdad.

Volunteers distributed soup, hard-boiled eggs, bread and water to the protesters.

Iraq protest
Supporters of Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al Sadr eat lunch outside Iraq's parliament in the capital Baghdad's high-security Green Zone, on July 31, 2022, a day after storming it. Image Credit: AFP

Some had spent the night inside the air conditioned building - which dates from Saddam Hussein’s era - with blankets spread out on the marble floors.

Others took to the gardens, on plastic mats under palm trees.

At least 125 people were injured in the melee from protesters and security forces, according to health authorities. Despite tear gas, water cannon and baking temperatures that touched 47 degrees Celsius, they stormed the complex on Saturday after pulling down heavy concrete barricades on roads leading to Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone of diplomatic and government buildings.

The storming was the second in three days.

The unrest has fanned fears of wider conflict in Iraq.

UN chief Antonio Guterres late Saturday appealed to Iraqi stakeholders “to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation, avoid any further violence, and ensure the protection of peaceful protesters and State institutions”.

The protests are largely seen as a show of force by Al Sadr whose bloc garnered the largest number of parliamentary seats late last year.

Sadrists oppose the nomination of a pro-Iran rival candidate for the prime minister post.

Iraq has been mired in a political deadlock since last October when early parliamentary elections were held.

Rival factions have since failed to form a government in the country, which is grappling with economic woes.