Iran cancels flights to Baghdad over turmoil
Iran cancels all flights to the Iraqi capital after demonstrators broke into the heavily-fortified government complex in the Green Zone in Baghdad, Head of Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization Saeed Ohadi says.
Ohadi said massive demonstrations in Baghdad on Saturday would certainly cause problems for pilgrimage flights to Baghdad.
“In coordination with [Iranian] airlines, we decided to transfer flights to holy shrines, which were scheduled to be made to the Baghdad airport, to the city of Najaf since today (Sunday) so that the pilgrims will face no problem,” Ohadi added.
He noted that Iran’s Hajj and Pilgrimage Organization also on Sunday suspended the dispatch of pilgrims to Baghdad’s northern neighborhood of Kadhimiyah to commemorate the martyrdom anniversary of the seventh Shia Imam Musa ibn Jafar al-Kazim (PBUH) for safety reasons.
He said pilgrims can travel to Kadhimiyah two days after the commemoration ceremonies which would be held on Tuesday.
On Saturday, Iraqi protesters moved into the Green Zone, a restricted area which houses key Iraqi government institutions, and attempted to ransack the parliament, where fierce debates have been going on over a cabinet reshuffle proposed by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Abadi was scheduled to seek approval for the remaining candidates of his new cabinet in parliament on Saturday. Lawmakers failed to reach a quorum and the session was rescheduled for next week. The postponement triggered the protests and forced Iraqi President Fuad Masum to call for an emergency session of political leaders on Sunday.
The demonstrators, reportedly supporters of the prominent cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, rampaged through several parts of the parliament building. Others chanted, “peacefully, peacefully” and tried to prevent the destruction.
Iraq has been the scene of a political turmoil in the past weeks over Abadi’s efforts to form a new cabinet.