Iraq’s anti-terror resistance group Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, has held a military parade in the eastern Diyala province to mark the seventh anniversary of its formation.
The parade began on Saturday morning at the Abu Montazer al-Muhammadavi base, northeast of provincial capital Baqubah, with PMU commanders, government officials and martyrs' families as well as religious, cultural and social figures in attendance.
It is the first military parade by the resistance group involving infantry, combat and support units.
Speaking before the parade, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi said, “I salute the children of Iraq, the hero children of Hashd al-Sha’abi, on the anniversary of its establishment. The children of Hashd al-Sha’abi are the children of the government, and they continue any efforts that serve our nation and homeland."
"You and security forces defeated terrorism, and there are many things ahead of you. Hashd al-Sha’abi will be preserved with your vigilance, order and expertise. Alongside you, we will restore Iraq's historical role in the region. I salute you for your courage and the sacrifices of the martyrs and their families,” he added.
In a TV program on Friday, PMU chief Falih al-Fayyadh stressed that the parade will strengthen the group’s power and discipline.
Hashd al-Sha’abi is a military institution affiliated to the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces and operates under the Joint Operations Command, he said, noting that the Iraqi nation comprises the core of the pro-government group, which is supported by a fatwa (religious decree) issued by the Iraqi religious authority.
Hashd al-Sha’abi is a government-sponsored umbrella organization composed of around 40 factions of volunteer counter-terrorism forces, including mostly Shia Muslims besides Sunni Muslims, Christians and Kurds.
Its formation goes back to the summer of 2014, shortly after Daesh, the world’s most notorious terror group, managed to occupy swathes of territory in Iraq.
The lightning gains made by the terrorists caught the national army of Iraq off guard, pushing government forces to the verge of collapse and leaving the Arab state in disarray.
On June 15 that year, Iraq’s prominent Shia cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani intervened to help rebuild the national army, and issued a fatwa that called on all Iraqi people to join forces with the army in the face of the Daesh threat.
The historic fatwa led to a mass mobilization of popular volunteer forces under the banner of Hashd al-Sha’abi. The force then rushed to the aid of the army and took the lead in many of the successful anti-terror operations, which ultimately led to the collapse of Daesh’s territorial rule and the liberation of the entire Iraqi land in December 2017.
In November 2016, the Iraqi parliament recognized Hashd al-Sha’abi as an official force with similar rights as those of the regular army, therefore legally establishing it as part of the National Armed Forces.
However, the US, which is occupying parts of Iraq, has long been seeking to dissolve Hashd al-Sha’abi and constrain its role. It has also targeted resistance fighters in a bid to resuscitate Daesh.