In early 2016, weekend protests were becoming commonplace in the Iraqi capital city of Baghdad, with supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr demanding major reforms, and the installation of a new cabinet. Such protests were responded to with increased security, but no real reforms.
After this, the Abadi government began appealing to the Sadr supporters to give him an unspecified amount of time to make reforms, citing the ISIS war as requiring the bigger focus. This patience appears to have run out, however, as protesters returned this weekend, and were met with a violent crackdown.
Having abandoned the idea of ever getting a reformed cabinet out of Abadi, the Sadr supporters are now focusing on reforms to the electoral commission, with an eye toward out-competing Abadi’s large Shi’ite State of Law bloc with their own substantial Shi’ite bloc.
Over the weekend, officials reported two policeman killed and seven wounded. Five protesters were also reported killed, and at least 320 protesters were wounded, many of them severely so. Adding to the tensions, several rockets were fired at the Green Zone after the protests. Sadr supporters denied involvement, but with tensions rising, more violence seems likely to follow.