ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi Parliament on Thursday voted to recognize the top Shia cleric’s fatwa from June 2014, which led to the formation of Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias as a “national occasion.”
Following the emergence of the Islamic State in Mosul in 2014 and, shortly after, its expansion to other Iraqi cities and the vicinity of Baghdad, Iraq’s top Shia cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, on June 13 of that year, issued a fatwa against the jihadist group, calling on people to take up arms and defend the country.
The issuance of the religious decree came as the Iraqi army collapsed and the threat of the Islamic State quickly rose as it advanced on multiple Iraqi cities.
The fatwa encouraged dozens of armed Shia groups, many of which are trained and supported by Iran, to form the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
Iraqi forces have considerably relied on the militia group in many battles against the Islamic State, namely in Tikrit and surrounding areas of Fallujah.
A member of the Iraqi Parliament told Kurdistan 24 that lawmakers voted unanimously to consider “June 13 of each year a national occasion due to the issuance of the fatwa of Jihad and the formation of the Hashd al-Shaabi.”
The Parliament also recommended the Iraqi Council of Ministers “complete the project and include the day to the list of national holidays based on Article 12 of the Constitution.”
Sistani has enormous influence and sway on millions of Shia Muslims in Iraq. He rarely interferes in Iraqi politics but continues to have a considerable impact over public opinion in the country.
On the other hand, the PMF have been a controversial issues, accused by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International of having committed war crimes during their fight against the Islamic State.
Nevertheless, at the beginning of 2018, the militia group was formally inducted into Iraq’s security forces apparatus.
Editing by Nadia Riva