Brawl in Iraqi parliament during voting session

Independent politicians taken to a room by security forces after death threats in parliament

Prime Minister-designate Mohammed Shia Al Sudani at the parliament during a confidence vote on his new government, on October 27, 2022. AFP
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A fight erupted during Iraq’s parliamentary session late on Thursday between independent politicians and members of the Iran-backed Co-ordination Framework.

The much awaited session came about a year since the country held a national election which was met by deadlock as various officials failed to agree on people to fill the top posts in government.

After a harsh verbal exchange between Alaa Al Rikabi, an independent politician and leader of the Emtidad movement and members of the Iran-backed Co-ordination Framework during the session, a brawl broke out.

The fight overshadowed Prime Minister Mohammed Shia Al Sudani's presentation of his Cabinet to parliament.

Mr Al Rikabi's new movement in parliament has faced tough times because the body has been dominated by establishment politicians and parties since the US-led invasion of 2003.

His party was formed out of mass protests in 2019. It called for an end to government corruption and for better public services such as health care, electricity, access to water and employment opportunities.

A video circulated on social media showed Mr Al Rikabi, who appeared to be in a dark room, saying that he was beaten up during the session and taken to a room inside the parliamentary building.

"They have threatened to kill us, the security forces have put us in a room to protect us. Let the people know that we have been subjected to violence inside the parliament, " Mr Al Rikabi said in the video.

He said he is with his colleague, politician Falah Al Hilali. They claim that they were hit by other politicians as they entered the parliamentary room.

"Our lives are in danger, we want the Iraqi people to know," he said.

The two men said the violence came as a direct result of their refusal to vote for the new Cabinet.

"New Iraqi prime minister's security have unlawfully detained opposition MP Alaa Al Rikabi and others from Emitdad movement in a small room inside Iraq's parliament building," said Ruba Ali Al Hassani, postdoctoral research associate at Lancaster University.

"It pains to say this, but this is just the beginning of Mohamed Shia's term. What will he do next?" Ms Al Hassani said on Twitter.

Security forces said they detained the two officials to protect them from potential danger.

Ms Al Hassani said: "You protect him by arresting those issuing death threats ... but since they are now in power, that's not going to happen."

Assault, threats and intimidation are not new phenomena in Iraq politics.

Updated: October 28, 2022, 1:44 PM