Skip to main content

Will Sistani be able to control popular mobilization forces?

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has distanced himself from politics, while stressing the need for the Iraqi government to build a strong state in which all sects feel equal.
Volunteers, who have joined the Iraqi Army to fight against predominantly Sunni militants, carry weapons and a portrait of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani during a parade in the streets in Baghdad's Sadr city June 14, 2014. An offensive by insurgents that threatens to dismember Iraq seemed to slow on Saturday after days of lightning advances as government forces regained some territory in counter-attacks, easing pressure on the Shi'ite-led government in Baghdad.  REUTERS/Wissm al-Okili   (IRAQ - Tags: CIVIL
Read in 

Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, issued a fatwa on June 13, 2014, encouraging Iraqis to take up arms to defend "their country and their people and their holy places" as well as join the security forces. This fatwa, known as the "righteous jihad fatwa," came after the Islamic State (IS) occupation of Mosul, Salahuddin, Anbar, Diyala and Kirkuk and its threats to occupy Karbala, Najaf and Baghdad, and was a major turning point in the war.

In response to the fatwa, hundreds of thousands of youths, particularly in the Shiite areas, have answered the call of duty. Subsequently, on June 15, the Iraqi government declared the establishment of the all-volunteer popular mobilization forces. Since then, the organization, which Shiite factions have joined, has managed to liberate many of the IS-controlled areas in southern Baghdad, Diyala and Salahuddin.

Access the Middle East news and analysis you can trust

Join our community of Middle East readers to experience all of Al-Monitor, including 24/7 news, analyses, memos, reports and newsletters.


Only $100 per year.