Iraq divided over new law officially recognizing militias

Published November 27th, 2016 - 10:54 GMT
A Christian PMU soldier stands in a newly-liberated Catholic Monastery, southeast of Mosul (Safin Hamed/AFP)
A Christian PMU soldier stands in a newly-liberated Catholic Monastery, southeast of Mosul (Safin Hamed/AFP)

Opinion is divided in Iraq after a law was passed recognizing the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU), the country’s coalition of largely Shia militias, as an official force with army privileges.

On Saturday, Iraq's Parliament approved the law, bringing the PMU officially under government control, and stipulating its reorganization through the army after the liberation of Mosul. The bill drew the majority of its support from Shia blocs, while some MPs from Iraq’s Sunni minority boycotted the vote, refusing to recognize an armed force other than the police and army. 

Some are worried that this new legislation could create a situation like that of the PMU’s sponsors, Iran, where the conventional army is eclipsed in size and strength by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

The PMU have also come under fire from Amnesty International and local activists, with accusations of human rights abuses against Sunni Muslim civilians. 

Nonetheless, the coalition of more than 40 militias, which was formed in response to Daesh’s takeover of large swathes of the country in 2014, retains considerable popular support.

Attitudes towards the decision were sharply divided on social media, as this survey conducted by RT suggests:

Vote: Is this new #PMU law a reason for the deepening of political and military divisions in Iraq? (49% yes, 51% no, with 6 hours left)

There are those who are strongly opposed to the PMU, and to any official recognition of them:

The PMU law in Iraq is an official announcement of the occupation of the country by Soleimani’s Militias [Qasem Soleimani is the leader of Quds Force, an Iranian military division], this is not what counts as a state, and it has not been one. It is simply an arena for Iranian abuse.

The PMU is a sectarian institution which fulfilled a fatwa, how can we give them an unconstitutional legal veneer, they will not be controlled by the law.

However, many were happy to celebrate the announcement alongside their “heroes”:

Watch the celebrations of the heroes after the legal decision recognizing their rights today in Iraqi parliament. The heroes deserve participation.

#Abu_Mahdi_Engineer [the commander of the PMU] called the heroes of the #PMU in the field to make them happy with the news of the adoption of the PMU law 

The PMU are currently engaged alongside government troops and Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the fight against Daesh in northern city Mosul. The underlying sectarian and ethnic divides between the currently unified troops are a source of worry for the future of the country following the liberation of the final Islamist stronghold there. Many are beginning to question what role the militias will play in a Daesh-free Iraq.


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