‘No to Israel’: Firebrand Iraq cleric calls for mass anti-corruption protest
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‘No to Israel’: Firebrand Iraq cleric calls for mass anti-corruption protest

Tweeting against Jewish state, Moqtada Sadr urges millions of worshipers taking part in Shiite Islam’s largest pilgrimage to join demonstrations

Iraqi Shiite cleric and leader Moqtada al-Sadr, center-left, shows his ink-stained index finger and holds a national flag while surrounded by people outside a polling station in the central holy city of Najaf on May 12, 2018. (Haidar Hamdani/AFP)
Iraqi Shiite cleric and leader Moqtada al-Sadr, center-left, shows his ink-stained index finger and holds a national flag while surrounded by people outside a polling station in the central holy city of Najaf on May 12, 2018. (Haidar Hamdani/AFP)

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Crying ‘No to Israel,” Firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr on Tuesday urged millions of worshipers taking part in Shiite Islam’s largest pilgrimage to protest against corruption in Iraq, following deadly demonstrations.

Sadr, a politician whose list won the 2018 legislative elections, helped Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi form his government later that year.

But as the death toll rose in protests that rocked Iraq earlier this month, Sadr called on Adel Mahdi to resign and threatened to mobilize his supporters.

The official count puts the number of dead at 110, the vast majority protesters killed by live fire during the demonstrations against chronic corruption and unemployment.

An Iraqi protester waves the national flag during a demonstration against state corruption, failing public services, and unemployment, in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on October 5, 2019. (AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP)

On Twitter, Sadr called Tuesday evening for “Iraqis on the move” toward Karbala for the Arbaeen pilgrimage “to mobilize by the millions.”

“March draped in your shrouds… and chant on Arbaeen: No to America! No to Israel! No to the corrupt!” Sadr wrote.

The commemoration marks the end of a period of mourning for Imam Hussein, a founding figure in Shiite Islam.

The annual Arbaaen pilgrimage sees millions of worshipers, mostly Iraqis and Iranians, converge by foot on Karbala, 100 kilometers (60 miles) south of Baghdad.

Placards with anti-United States and anti-Israel messages are often seen in the crowd, though anti-corruption slogans are rare.

Last year, more than 15 million worshipers participated in the gathering, which is always held under tight security, as Sunni jihadists have in the past targeted Shiite pilgrims.

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