Top Iraq cleric al-Sistani urges restraint to avoid protests ‘chaos’

A poster of the popular cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Baghdad. (File photo: AFP)

Iraq’s Shia Muslim spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, urged both protesters and security forces on Friday to exercise “restraint” to keep renewed demonstrations from degenerating into “chaos.”

Protesters set fire to offices belonging to a Shia political party and a Shia militia group in Iraq’s southern Muthanna province on Friday, police sources said. Security forces attempted to dispel the demonstrators with tear gas.

Al-Sistani’s weekly sermon was delivered by his representatives shortly after two demonstrators died in renewed protests in Baghdad on Friday.

Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi said in Thursday's address that a government collapse would drag Iraq into further turmoil.

“The resignation of the government today without a constitutional alternative, will lead the country into chaos,” he said.

Sistani’s weekly sermon was delivered by his representatives shortly after two demonstrators died in renewed protests in Baghdad on Friday.

He called on demonstrators to stay peaceful and said security forces should “deal with them with the utmost restraint.”

“The authority’s insistence that protests must remain peaceful, without any violence, stems not only from its interest in keeping protesters and security forces from being hurt but also from its extreme care for the country’s future,” he said.

“Chaos and ruin,” he warned, would “pave the way for more external interference”.

His sermon appeared to echo the package of reforms put forward by Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi, including an anti-corruption campaign, a job creation drive and improved social welfare.

Sistani, who is widely revered among Iraq’s Shia majority, had given Abdul Mahdi until October 25 to respond to protester demands to fight corruption and unemployment.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:00 - GMT 07:00
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