Iraq’s top cleric Sayyed Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has urged the end of bloodshed in the Arab country, warning of a civil war and chaos after dozens of deaths during the recent wave of protest rallies across Iraq.
In a statement on Friday, Ayatollah Sistani expressed regret over the continued clashes between demonstrators and security forces, which have resulted in the deaths and injuries of many innocent people from both sides and damages to public and private properties.
“The innocent blood shed during the past few weeks is very valuable to us, and measures must be taken to prevent further bloodshed,” the top cleric said.
“The country must be kept from slipping toward the edge of the precipice of a civil war, chaos, and destruction,” Ayatollah Sistani urged.
This is only possible if all parties join hands to resolve the current crisis in the country with good faith, he added.
The top cleric once again condemned any assault on the peaceful protesters and any unjustifiable violence, calling for investigation into those who use violence.
Ayatollah Sistani also warned any individuals and groups inside Iraq as well as regional and world countries against attempting to exploit the Iraqi people’s protests.
Hashd al-Shaabi says won’t interfere in rallies
Meanwhile, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units, also known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, announced that it will support the legitimate 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-Sha’abi, 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.
Muhandis, it said, has no base or house in Jadriyah and his office is the Hashd al-Sha’abi headquarters in the Green Zone of Baghdad.
The PMU played a decisive role in Iraq’s uphill 2014-2017 battle against the Daesh terrorist group. The Iraqi parliament on November 26, 2016 approved a law giving full legal status to Hashd al-Sha’abi 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.