Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) Iraqi Shia cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr has urged to subject paramilitary forces fighting the Islamic State to state control, further adding to the uniqueness of his stances from mainstream Shia politicians.
Delivering a speech to hundreds of thousands of his followers at al-Tahrir Square in Baghdad, al-Sadr urged to incorporate the Popular Mobilization Forces within the official Iraqi army and ensure it operates under the state’s oversight. He stressed on the importance of “placing weapons within the state’s hands exclusively”.
The Shia-led Popular Mobilization Forces were formed in 2014 as per an edict by Iraq’s top Shia clergy to combat IS militants. They won government recognition as a national force under the prime minister’s command, but have faced recurrent accusations of human rights breaches and stirred controversy over reports they crossed the borders into Syria to fight IS by the side of Syrian government troops.
The demonstrations on Friday were organized upon a call from al-Sadr to protest the electoral system designed for the local elections slated for early 2018, which he deems unfair. He had led protests over the past months condemning the formation of the panel tasked with supervising the elections. The demonstrations turned violent and left casualties at one occasion.