Iraqi Shia cleric declares support for Sunni uprising

Ayatollah Mahmoud al-Sarkhi

Iraqi Shia leader Ayatollah Mahmoud Al-Hassani Al-Sarkhi has declared his support for the Sunni uprising in Iraq, stating they have been “oppressed”.

Ayatollah Al-Sarkhi, who opposes Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki as well as Iran, said that he had warned of this revolution several years ago.

He insisted that this is a “revolution of pure Iraqi Sunnis”, not foreigners, referring to ISIS. He described the call by Al-Sistani to fight the rebels a “satanic fatwa leading to bloodshed”.

The cleric called for the Sunni rebels not to take a sectarian pathway for their revolution and to be inclusive for all “the oppressed people”. Comparing the Sunni community with the Shias, he said: “Like us, they have tribes, symbols, dignity, in addition to persistence.”

About the Iraqi army, he said that the Iraqi soldiers were brought up on sectarian bases, “not love of their country, nationality and conscience”. Most of them joined the army for the sake of the salary, he explained.

Al-Sarkhi called on the corrupt rulers to leave their positions and make room for those who deserve to rule on the basis of justice among people and citizens regardless to their sects. He predicted that the “worst” is yet to come.

Al Sarkhi is considered one of Iraq’s most radical Shia clerics. Formerly a member of Saddam Hussein’s army, some doubt his scholarly credentials and he is not thought to have a significant following by his opposition.

In June 2006, his followers attacked the Iranian consulate in Basra and tore down its flag in protest over criticism of their leader broadcast on Iranian television.

And in April 2012, his followers were involved in clashes with supporters of Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani.

On July 3, 2014 Iraqi police and armed forces attempted to arrest al-Sharkhi in Karbala, leading to clashes between his supporters and government forces that killed 45 people.

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