KDP office in Baghdad torched by pro-Iran protesters after 'insulting' tweet
The Kurdistan Democratic Party's (KDP) offices in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad was set on fire on Monday by hundreds of pro-Iran protestors and loyalists of Iraq's top Shia religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, after a tweet by a former KDP parliamentary candidate was interpreted as critical and insulting to the cleric.
Naif Jardo Ahmed Al-Gargari, who ran as a KDP candidate during the 2018 Iraqi parliament elections and tweets under the name of "Naif Kurdistani" wrote in a tweet on Sunday: "I am with an Arabic clergy from the prophet's lineage…. and not with an Indian, Persian, or Afghan clergy who are not of the lineage but wear black turbans." Since Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, was born is Mashhad in Iran, al-Gargari's tweet was quickly understood to be referencing the senior cleric.
He then deleted the tweet and apologised, claiming that his account had been hacked.
Nevertheless, angry protestors quickly poured out into the streets of the Iraqi capital, and eventually burned down the office of the KDP's fifth branch.
The New Arab contacted KDP's official spokesperson, Mohamoud Mohammad, for comments but he was unavailable. The New Arab also attempted to contact Shwan Mohammad Taha, head of the KDP’s fifth branch in Baghdad, but he had no comment at this time.
However, the KDP had released a statement condemning Al-Gargari's tweet and emphasising that the former candidate "has no relationship or affiliation" with the party.
"We strongly condemn the abust that occurred yesterday by a person towards [the clergy]. Abuse of the sanctitites and supreme symbols cannot be accepted in any way, and it is a transgression of red line, stressing that such behaviours have no place in the culture and principles of the people of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party," Masoud Barzani, KDP's leader, said in a separate statement.
Rebar Ahmed, the interior minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), also announced that KRG's security forces had successfully arrested Al-Gargari on Monday for "insulting religious and national symbols".
The KDP is the ruling Kurdish party headed by Barzani, who recently formed an alliance with Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and several Sunni Arab MPs to form a national majority government that excludes pro-Iran parties and militias.
During the elections in October, Sadr's party had won the most seats. The newly formed alliance between Sadr, KDP, and the independent MPs, however, had failed on Saturday to collect a constitutional quorum of 220 Iraqi lawmakers necessary to elect their nominee, KDP's Rebar Ahmed, for the Iraqi presidency.