Iraq cleric Moqtada Al Sadr freezes his movement for at least a year to fight 'corruption'

Shiite cleric closes Twitter account and says only religious arm of his organisation will continue to operate

Moqtada Al Sadr has been an influential figure in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. AFP
Powered by automated translation

Moqtada Al Sadr, one of Iraq’s most influential religious and political figures, has announced that he is freezing his Sadr movement except for its religious institutions — for at least a year ― to fight internal corruption.

He also closed his Twitter account.

In a tweet, the Shiite cleric said that a continuation in leading the movement while it had some corrupt people within “would be a sin”.

This is not the first time Mr Al Sadr has made such a far-reaching announcement.

In August last year he retired from politics after months of parliamentary deadlock.

Mr Al Sadr’s bloc won the highest number of seats during parliament elections, in October 2021, but months of wrangling with pro-Iranian factions meant he was unable to form a government of his choosing, which for the first time would have included Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish elements.

The standoff gave Iraq its longest period without a government. In June last year, Mr Al Sadr told all of his MPs to resign as “a sacrifice from me for the country and the people to rid them of the unknown destiny”.

A month later he announced his “definitive retirement” from politics and the closure of all political functions of his movement.

His supporters stormed the Green Zone, which houses government buildings and embassies, and at least 30 people were killed and hundreds injured in violent clashes with security forces and Iran-backed militias.

Mr Al Sadr has been a powerful figure in Iraq’s politics since the US invasion of the country in 2003, and has helped shape many changes over the past two decades.

His anti-American stance made him popular among Iraqis.

But his fearsome Mahdi Army, which fought foreign troops, was also accused of carrying out sectarian violence.

He later dissolved it only to resurrect it in 2014 under a new name — the Peace Brigades — to help battle ISIS in Iraq.

In 2016, Mr Al Sadr led an anti-corruption protest movement that supported appointing a cabinet of independent technocrats, away from partisanship.

The Sadr bloc is considered by many as one of very few anti-Iran Shiite parties in a starkly divided political environment.

Since 2003 the Shiite leader has retired from political life eight times, going as far as stopping all political activities and closing his movement’s offices, only to return.

Updated: April 14, 2023, 12:23 PM