TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Iraq's top Shiite cleric Grand Ayatollah Seyed Ali al-Sistani said the Arab country’s volunteer forces should be incorporated into state bodies.
In a message delivered at the Friday sermon in the holy city of Karbala through one of his representatives, Ayatollah Sistani said the country’s popular forces, who helped eradicate Daesh (ISIL) from the Arab country, should be brought under the control of the government and incorporated into Iraq’s state security bodies.
He added that they should also hand over their weapons to the government.
“The victory over Daesh doesn’t mean the end of the battle with terrorism,” Sistani’s representative Sheikh Abdulmehdi al-Karbalai said, according to Reuters.
“The security apparatus should be supported by the fighters who took part in the war on Daesh,” he further said.
“It is necessary to absorb the fighters in the official and constitutional structures,” Sistani said in the sermon, adding that “the fatwa should not be used to achieve political aims”.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi quickly reacted to Ayatollah Sistani’s sermon in a statement from his office “welcoming his call against using volunteers and fighters in political campaigning”.
The secretary general of Badr Organization, Iraq’s biggest Shiite Muslim paramilitary group, recently told his fighters to take orders from the national military and sever their relations with the group’s political wing, which holds 22 seats in the Iraqi parliament.
The senior Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) commander also called on its fighters to "clear cities of all signs of militarization."
On November 24, Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, a PMU branch which has about 10,000 fighters, also said it respects the decisions of the national army, hinting that it will act on an order to hand heavy arms back when the counter-terrorism battles end.
In 2014, the Daesh terror group managed to make sweeping territorial gains in Iraq’s western and northern parts. Shortly afterwards, Ayatollah Sistani issued a fatwa, calling on all Iraqi citizens to defend their country in the face of terrorists.
The fatwa helped Shiite fighters, Sunni tribesmen as well as Christian and Yezidi volunteers gather under one umbrella of PMU, commonly known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, to reverse Daesh’s gains.
In the early days of Daesh emergence, Iraqi government forces, overwhelmed by the terror group’s lightning advances, suffered heavy blows on the battle ground.
However, Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters helped the army regain strength and reverse Daesh’s gains.
The Iraqis finally managed to retake all the lost territory last month with the help of volunteer forces and Iranian military advisors.
The Iraqi parliament last year recognized Hashd al-Sha’abi as an official force with similar rights as those of the regular army.