Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units, also known as Hashd al-Shaabi, says it supports the demands of protesters without interfering in the country’s political situation.
In a statement on Thursday, the PMU stressed that it is not going to meddle in the public demonstrations as it is a force tasked with ensuring the security and integrity of Iraq and defending the country against terrorism.
The statement further dismissed rumors circulating on social media against Hashd al-Shaabi, the latest of which was about the deployment of military vehicles from the house of PMU commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad’s Jadriyah neighborhood in order to crack down on protesters.
However, it added, Muhandis has no base or house in Jadriyah and his office is the Hashd al-Shaabi headquarters in the Green Zone of Baghdad.
The PMU played a decisive role in Iraq’s uphill 2014-2017 battle against the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group. The Iraqi parliament on November 26, 2016 approved a law giving full legal status to Hashd al-Shaabi fighters.
The ongoing demonstrations in Iraq follow a previous bout of anti-government protests in early October over corruption, unemployment and lack of basic services.
More than 200 have been killed and thousands of others wounded since the protests erupted, with security forces using tear gas and rubber bullets against those taking to the streets.
As part of efforts to meet the anti-corruption demands, the Iraqi Supreme Anti-Corruption Council announced on Friday that it has issued arrest warrants for a minister, a provincial council chief, five lawmakers, two former ministers, and 60 local officials for corruption.
Also in Thursday remarks, Iraqi President Barham Salih said the country’s embattled Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi is ready to step down if a replacement is found, emphasizing that a snap parliamentary election will be held once a new electoral law is passed.
Early elections cannot be held until a new electoral law is passed, Salih said, adding that he expected a bill to be introduced in parliament by next week.
It took more than six months of negotiations before Abdul-Mahdi was appointed a year ago, and finding a successor all the political factions can agree to will not be easy.