Saraya al-Salam Vacates Protest Hub in Baghdad's Tahrir Square

Sadrist paramilitary group evacuates iconic protest hub in Baghdad, signaling potential shift in Iraq's political dynamics.

Trim Correspondents
Updated On
New Update
Saraya al-Salam Vacates Protest Hub in Baghdad's Tahrir Square

Saraya al-Salam Vacates Protest Hub in Baghdad's Tahrir Square

Saraya al-Salam, the military wing of the Sadrist movement, has evacuated the Turkish Restaurant building in Baghdad's Tahrir Square, which served as a key hub for protesters during the 2019 Tishreen demonstrations against government corruption and poor public services. The building, located in the eastern Bab al-Sharqi district overlooking the heavily fortified Green Zone, had been under the control of Saraya al-Salam members following deadly clashes that erupted during the protests.

A member of Saraya al-Salam handed over the Turkish Restaurant to security forces on Monday in coordination with the authorities, though no further details were provided about the circumstances of the evacuation. The building had become a symbol of the protest movement, with demonstrators using it as a gathering point and makeshift headquarters.

Why this matters: The evacuation of the protest hub by Saraya al-Salam marks a significant moment in the aftermath of the 2019 demonstrations that shook Iraq. It signals a potential shift in the dynamics between the Sadrist movement, its armed affiliates, and the Iraqi government as the country continues to confront political instability and calls for reform.

Saraya al-Salam is a powerful Shia armed group affiliated with the Sadrist movement led by influential cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. The group was formed in 2014 from the remnants of the Mahdi Army, which fought against U.S. forces in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. Saraya al-Salam has since played a prominent role in various military operations, including the fight against the Islamic State.

The 2019 Tishreen protests saw thousands of Iraqis take to the streets to demand an end to endemic corruption, unemployment, and poor public services. The demonstrations were met with a harsh response from security forces and armed groups, resulting in hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries. The Turkish Restaurant became a focal point of the protests in Baghdad, with Saraya al-Salam taking control of the building amidst the unrest.

The handover of the Turkish Restaurant to security forces comes as Iraq continues to face significant challenges, including a stalled government formation process following the 2021 elections and ongoing tensions between rival political factions. The move by Saraya al-Salam could indicate a desire to de-escalate tensions and facilitate a return to stability, though the long-term implications remain uncertain.

Key Takeaways

  • Saraya al-Salam evacuated the Turkish Restaurant, a protest hub in Baghdad.
  • The building was under Saraya al-Salam's control after 2019 Tishreen protests.
  • Evacuation signals potential shift in Sadrist movement's dynamics with Iraqi govt.
  • Saraya al-Salam is a powerful Shia armed group affiliated with Moqtada al-Sadr.
  • Move could indicate de-escalation of tensions, but long-term implications unclear.