An Iraqi Shiite fighter from the Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades), a group formed by Iraqi Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, on the back of a vehicle leaves Baghdad for the city of Samarra, some 120 kilometers north of the Iraqi capital, to fight against ISIS on March 15, 2015. Photo: AFP/Sabah Arar
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Saraya al-Salam militia of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr entered Kirkuk last month only to provide security to its residents and not to take control of territories, says the group’s spokesperson, and that they aim to be incorporated into the Iraqi army.
“We didn’t enter Kirkuk to control territory,” Safa al-Tamimi, a commander and spokesperson for Saraya al-Salam told Rudaw TV on Saturday. “Rather, we went there to protect the security of the people of the city, and convey the message of peace, love and certainty.”
Al-Tamimi said that upon entering Kirkuk, his militia group was welcomed by the city’s Kurdish, Turkmen and Arab communities. He also said they want to integrate the Hashd al-Shaabi forces with the Iraqi army and security forces.
Al-Tamimi said the main objective of the Saraya al-Salam from day one has been to support the Iraqi army.
“We have always been a supporting group within the Iraqi army and security establishments.” Al-Tamimi maintained. “Our only objective has been to support the Iraqi army and neutralize the danger against sacred places that were attacked by ISIS militants.”
“This has been our aim since our establishment, since ISIS attacked Iraq in 2014.”
Sayara al-Salam militiamen were part of the overall Iraqi incursion into Kirkuk and other disputed territories in October.
Al-Tamiki said that his group has carried out no armed activity since entering the region and that they have reassured all parties of their intentions.
“We have done no military activities in Kirkuk and every party knows this,” he said. “We reiterate that we will always be a guarantor for the entire nation of Iraq,” al-Tamimi detailed.
On reports of human rights abuses al-Tamimi said that all militia groups should not be lumped together, and that some of the violations might have been perpetrated by individuals.
“Not all the units of the Hashd al-Shaabi forces are responsible for these violations if there had been any,” he said. “The wrongdoings should have been on a personal level, if some disorganized and disobedient units have done something wrong.”
“The Hashd al-Shaabi commanders were doing their best to prevent these individual violations.” Al-Tamimi said.
Al-Tamimi claimed that their leader, al-Sadr, wants his and all other militia groups to be incorporated into government forces and come under the prime minister’s control.
“Since the formation of the Saraya al-Salam, Muqtada Sadr has been calling for the Hashd al-Shaabi units to be under the command of the commander-in-chief of the armed forces,” he explained. “In his first statement, his request was that we form a military unit that is part of Iraq’s security forces.”
“This is our request too, and we hope this happens. We hope that organized units are incorporated into the Iraqi army and security forces. And this is to reach the high aim which is to raise the Iraqi flag and that of its army.”
On November 7, Sadr called upon his Saraya al-Salam militia group to pull out their forces from the city of Kirkuk within 72 hours.
Sadr explained then that the administrative affairs of Kirkuk as well as all the others “have to be handed over to the security forces.”