Hundreds of thousands take to the streets in Baghdad
Hundreds of thousands of people have followed the call of the Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr and are demanding the immediate withdrawal of all foreign forces on Baghdad's streets.
After the killing of the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the deputy commander of the Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militia, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the Iraqi parliament decided for the withdraw of all foreign troops from the country. After the USA and the anti-ISIS coalition have already declared that they will not abide by the decision, he Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr called for large demonstrations to implement the decision. Since the early hours of the morning, hundreds of thousands of people have now been gathering in Baghdad's streets demanding that the parliamentary decision be implemented.
A message of greeting from al-Sadr was read out by his military advisor Kadim Isavi. In it, the Shiite leader announced that the resistance would be suspended temporarily "until the last foreign soldier has left the country".
Al-Sadr demanded that Hashd al-Shaabi be placed under the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of the Interior, saying that otherwise the militia alliance would be under the sole command of the Prime Minister. Al-Sadr has supported the protests against the country's political elite and in particular against the resigned but still provisionally in office Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
He called on the foreign powers not to interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs. He also made an appeal to the neighbouring states to respect Iraq’s sovereignty. He at the same time called for the protection of foreign embassies and the punishment of the attackers on the US embassy and other representations.
The influential Shiite scholar Ali as-Sistani opposed today's demonstration which is supported by pro-Iranian forces. Among the supporters is Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a faction of Hashd al-Shaabi that is particularly close to Iran, which was placed on the terrorist list by the US earlier this month.
The leader of the militia Qais Khazali called on all people regardless of ethnicity, faith and gender to resist the "occupation" of Iraq.