Iraq’s top cleric has said that violence and chaos will only hinder true reforms as demanded by ongoing anti-corruption and economic protesters in Iraq, calling on demonstrators to counter violent rioters.
Addressing worshipers during Friday prayers in the holy city of Karbala, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani said protests are effective in hastening needed reforms on the condition that they “are not drawn to violent acts, chaos and destruction.”
“Conserving the peaceful nature of the protests and keeping them far from violence and destruction is very important and everyone needs to unite in achieving such,” a representative of Ayatollah Sistani said as he delivered the top cleric’s sermon.
The top cleric added that the protesters should not allow rioters to infiltrate the rallies and target “security forces and destroy public and private property” just as protecting the lives of protesters is the responsibility of the security forces.
During his statements, Ayatollah Sistani also said that a new prime minister must be chosen “without any foreign interference” and partisan politics after the incumbent Adel Abdul-Mahdi tendered his resignation a week ago.
“We hope a new head of government and its members will be chosen within the constitutional deadline” of 15 days since the resignation was approved in parliament on Sunday, Ayatollah Sistani said.
Abdul-Mahdi announced his resignation last week after the top cleric called for the country’s lawmakers to “reconsider” their options amid ongoing demonstrations and the government’s inability to address them effectively.
On Thursday, a mass rally was held in the country’s capital city of Baghdad to show support for the top cleric’s earlier calls for peaceful protests.
The protesters also chanted slogans and carried placards decrying US, Israeli and Saudi meddling in the country.
Similar protests were being held in Baghdad and other cities on Friday.
The developments come as nearly two months of protests have rocked primarily Baghdad and the southern areas of Iraq. The protesters have been expressing frustration with a failing economy and have demanded reforms.
The rallies have, however, turned into violent confrontations on numerous occasions.
Since October 1, more than 300 people have been killed in the country, according to the Iraqi parliament’s human rights commission.