Rab’allah militia parades through Baghdad, issues list of demands to PM

A convoy of armed militia fighters drove through the Iraqi capital on Thursday and issued a list of demands for Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, whose ears they threatened to cut off
A militia calling itself Rab'Allah paraded through Baghdad on March 25, 2021 and threatened Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. (Photo: Telegram)
A militia calling itself Rab'Allah paraded through Baghdad on March 25, 2021 and threatened Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. (Photo: Telegram)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An armed militia group took to the streets of Iraq’s capital Baghdad on Thursday threatening the country’s prime minister and demanding a reduction of the US currency exchange rate and the passing of the budget, according to a statement from the group.

In a parade in the eastern part of Baghdad, Rab’allah (God’s Fellows) militia members, holding light and medium weapons, poured into the streets in a show of force.

Mask-clad fighters read a statement threatening the Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, political parties in the country, and the United States.

“We warn some entities and political parties that hinder the ratification of Iraq’s budget bill for their gains,” according to the group’s statement posted to their propaganda channel on the Telegram messaging service. It also warned that they would “no longer stay silent” if the public’s demands are not fulfilled, particularly in Iraq’s southern provinces.

Rab’allah also expressed its support for Iraqi members of parliament who recently demanded the reduction of US-to-Iraqi dinar exchange rate – a measure the country’s financial authorities took to reduce the budget deficit.

Rab’allah is associated with the Hashd al-Shaabi, an umbrella of mostly Iran-aligned Iraqi militias also known by the English name Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).

Members of the militia also raised images of Iraq’s premier Kadhimi, whose face photo was put a footprint on, threatening him “it is time to cut your ears.”

"It is time to cut your ears," reads a flyer threatning Iraq's premier Mustafa al-Kadhimi, March 25, 2021. (Photo: Telegram)

Kurdistan 24 could not independently verify the images.

“It is likely to trip off a Sadrist reaction,” said Michael Knights, a Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “That is already starting on [PMF-linked Telegram channel] Sabereen where Moqtada's criticism of the parade is getting a reaction,” he said, referring to powerful cleric and politician Moqtada al-Sadr’s comments on Wednesday when he condemned continued threats to security in Iraq and uncontrolled use of weapons.

Rab’allah itself is “more Kata’ib Hezbollah-leaning,” Knights told Kurdistan 24. “It may suffer a public and media and hawza backlash from something this openly thuggish and 2006-style, so they’ll quiet down and change tacks back to unarmed protest.”

The militia attacked the Kurdistan Democratic Party office in Baghdad in October, setting fire to the office and the Kurdistan flag. In November, Rab’allah was blamed for an assault on an Asian massage center in the center of Baghdad when young men clad in face masks beat two women working inside with batons.

The KDP Foreign Relations Office said Thursday: “Welcome to the new Iraq: the militias have stormed the streets of Baghdad threatening the PM, and the US, defying the security forces and demanding changes to the devaluation of the Iraqi dinar. Who is in charge in Iraq; the government, the Parliament or the militias?”

Editing by Joanne Stocker-Kelly