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VIDEO: Moqtada al-Sadr, a symbol of anti-US resistance in Iraq

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks during a news conference in Najaf, Iraq, on May 17, 2018.
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks during a news conference in Najaf, Iraq, on May 17, 2018. © Alaa Al-Marjani, Reuters (File photo)

For months, Iraq has been rocked by anti-government demonstrations, and now a crisis between the United States and Iran. One man stands at the centre of these events: Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shiite cleric who was the big winner of the 2018 legislative elections. FRANCE 24 reports.

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Hundreds of thousands gathered on January 24 to protest American troop presence in Iraq, at the call of Moqtada al-Sadr.

“Moqtada al-Sadr is a symbol of resistance. He is famous for having resisted the Americans and the Islamic State in Iraq. With him, Iraq belongs to the Iraqis,” said one protester, Saad al-Dahlaki.

A nationalist and a reformist, Sadr today leads the majority bloc in parliament, with its stronghold in Sadr City, east of the capital, Baghdad.

Each street corner in Sadr City displays the portrait of the Shiite cleric, flanked by his father and his stepfather. All considered to be descendants of Prophet Mohammed.

In the 2000s, Sadr also distinguished himself as a warlord fighting against the occupying American forces.

But his detractors accuse him of incessant reversals and political opportunism. After initially supporting anti-government protests, Sadr has recently distanced himself from the movement.

Since the American strike against General Qassem Soleimani, Sadr and his supporters have made the fight against the United States their priority.

“The Americans are our greatest enemy. Today, the Peace Brigades are ready to take up arms and will fight if Moqtada Sadr asks them. All honourable Iraqis should request that they leave,” said the highest tribal authority in Sadr City, Sheikh Nafaa al-Atwani.

Click the player above to watch the full report by Lucile Wassermann and Jack Hewson.

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