Sistani: No Excuse for Iraq Security Forces to Fail to Protect Protesters

Protesters 'hopeful' of support from top religious leader

Iraq’s top religious leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, used his Friday sermon to not just criticize violence against protesters, but to single out the nation’s security forces for failing to protect the demonstrators.

“There is no excuse for shirking that duty,” Sistani’s representative said, adding that the security forces need to not only protect protesters and protest camps, but also identify attackers and rabble rousers.

On Wednesday, followers of Moqtada al-Sadr were accused of attacking and burning the protest camp in Najaf. Protesters called for Sistani to declare a “million-man march” protest in response.

And while this is well short of that, Sistani reiterating that violence against them is unacceptable was still praised by the protesters, who say they are “hopeful again” from Sistani’s support, calling him the most consistent figure on the protest movement.

It isn’t clear, however, that this really changes things. Sistani was already opposing violence very publicly, and just reiterated that, while several groups oppose the protesters, and the security forces show little inclination to stop that.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.