Christian militia hails al-Hashd al-Shaabi merger with national forces

Fighters from the Christian Babylon Brigade, a part of the volunteer al-Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary force.
Fighters from the Christian Babylon Brigade, a part of the volunteer al-Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary force.

Baghdad ( A Christian brigade, a part of volunteer-based, mainly-Shia al-Hashd al-Shaabi militias, hailed the Iraqi parliament’s vote on Saturday which legalized the existence of the militia as part of the Iraqi national armed forces.

Rayan al-Kildani, a representative of the Babylon Brigade, said in statements on Sunday that the approved law “protects fighters’ right and will act as an incentive for them through equalizing their salaries with security personnel’s.”

Commenting on objections to the law by mostly Sunni groups, Kildani said: “ There shall be debates and understandings with them on the law.”

The passing of the long-debated bill comes amid intense objections from Sunni groups within the parliament, most notably the Alliance of National Powers, led by Iraqi vice president Osama al-Nujaifi, who feared the law would give the militia unchecked powers and therefore stoke sectarian tensions. Opponents also maintain that the law undermines the United Nations-sponsored national settlement currently under political debate.

Nujaifi stated Saturday that his alliance declined to receive the draft settlement from UN representative in Iraq Yan Kubish.

Al-Hashd al-Shaabi was formed by a decree from Iraq’s top Shia clergy to combat the Islamic State militants who took over many regions of Iraq in 2014. The militia is currently engaged in fighting against ISIS on the side of the Iraqi government forces, and its involvement in the liberation of areas inhabited by Sunnis has aroused international and local fears of sectarian twists.

The law counts al-Hashd al-Shaabi as part of the national armed forces and subject to its supreme commander. Its text says personnel affiliated with the force should be disconnected with any other political, social or partisan affiliations. It gives an exclusive mandate to the supreme commander of the armed forces to decide on the distribution and deployment of the force among provinces.

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