The protesters then stormed parliament, according to the Iraqi State News Agency (INA). Videos circulating on social media appeared to show people waving the Iraqi flag as they passed security through the doors of parliament.
At least 125 people were injured, including 100 civilians and 25 military personnel, according to the Ministry of Health.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) described the recent escalation of tensions as “deeply worrying”.
“Voices of reason and wisdom are critical to prevent further violence. All actors are encouraged to de-escalate in the interest of all Iraqis,” UNAMI said in a tweet.
Outgoing Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, currently commander-in-chief of the armed forces, has called for peace and protesters “not to let the situation escalate”.
In a statement Saturday, he asked protesters to abide by the orders of security forces, stressing that security forces “have a duty to protect official institutions and emphasized the need to take all legal measures to maintain order”.
The protests began after Mohammed Shiya al-Sudani was formally nominated on Monday to lead the country by the Coordination Framework, the largest Shia alliance in the Iraqi parliament.
His appointment followed the massive resignation of the parliamentary bloc of al-Sadr, a group of more than 70 lawmakers that withdrew from the governing body last month in an apparent show of power after months of political deadlock.
“If the Sadrist Bloc Stays” [in parliament] If there is an obstacle to the formation of a government, all legislators of the bloc are honorably willing to resign from parliament,” Sadr said in a televised address in June.
The cleric, who positions himself against Iran as well as the United States, is immensely popular. His bloc’s success in the October vote threatened to sideline the Iran-affiliated Shia blocs that have long dominated the oil-rich country’s politics.
On Wednesday, al-Sadr told protesters in the parliament building that their “message” had been received and that they should return home.
“A revolution of reform and rejection of injustice and corruption. Your message has been received. You have terrified the corrupt. Pray and return home safely,” he tweeted.
Prime Minister al-Kadhimi’s outgoing government also issued a statement calling on sadrists to “immediately withdraw from the Green Zone”, preserve public and private property and follow the instructions of the security forces.
“The security forces will work to protect state institutions and international missions and prevent any disruption to security and order,” al-Kadhimi added.
Aqeel Najim reported from Baghdad, Hamdi Alkhshali reported from Atlanta and Eyad Kourdi reported from Gaziantep. Obaida Nafaa in Dubai and Alex Stambaugh in Hong Kong contributed coverage. Ivana Kottasová wrote in London.