Members of the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi. Photo: Hashd al-Shaabi media office.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A spokesperson for Iraq's Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi rejected a call by firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Saturday who said that the Hashd forces must come under state control and be incorporated into the regular army.
“The Hashd al-Shaabi should function under the command of the state,” Sadr said in a video address to demonstrators who had gathered at Baghdad’s Tahrir Square at the cleric’s call. “And weapons should be in the hands of the state too.”
In response to Sadr's call, Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesperson of the Shiite paramilitary said the Hashd will not be dismantled as it is a main part of the Iraqi armed forces.
Last December, Iraq’s president signed into law a bill that was passed by the parliament recognizing the Shiite paramilitary as an official force with similar rights as the regular army.
Assadi also explained that only the Iraqi parliament is allowed to incorporate the Hashd into the Iraqi army or issue any decress about the group.
Many Sunni MPs and leaders have opposed the existence of the armed group and complained that it is replacing the Iraqi army and has conducted abuses against Sunni civilians in Anbar and Salahaddin.
The estimated 100,000-strong Hashd al-Shaabi participated in the Mosul offensive, clearing ISIS from a large swathe of territory west of the city, including some areas of Shingal, reaching the Syrian border.
The Hashd al-Shaabi was formed upon a call by Iraq’s grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in the summer of 2014 when ISIS captured several Iraqi provinces and he urged civilians to take up arms and fight.
Last week, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who is also commander of the armed forces, announced that the force will take part in the offensive to retake the largely Turkmen town of Tal Afar.
Abadi had earlier said the Hashd is a “neutral institution and will stay within the framework of the Iraqi state.”