Iraq Protesters Urge Ayatollah to Intervene After Najaf Violence

Accusing Sadr of 'massacres,' some see Sistani as last chance

Still reeling from a violent clash in the holy city of Najaf, Iraqi protesters are calling on Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the top religious leader in the country, to step forward and intervene, saying he is the “last chance” they have after Moqtada al-Sadr’s followers quit the protests and ultimately attacked them.

In Najaf, the protest camps were torched, and over 100 casualties were reported, with demonstrators accusing Sadr’s supporters of attacking them and trying to force them off the streets.

Ayatollah Sistani is on the side of the protest movement, but rarely gets directly involved in politics. Protesters suggested he declare Friday a “million-strong march against the government.”

That’s not generally Sistani’s style, but if he made such a call, it’s clear it would lead to massive marches. He has long wielded power with care, which has enhanced his gravitas on the rare occasions he has stepped forward. While he’s likely to use Friday’s sermon to again condemn violence against protesters, it remains highly unlikely he’ll do anything so aggressive as organize his own marches, particularly with the PM-designate newly appointed, and early elections supposedly coming.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.