The Shiite House: The Position of Religious Elite on the Iraqi and Lebanese Protests

ByMohammad Al-Sayyad

The Iraqi and Lebanese uprisings reflected the inherent philosophical and juristic dispute between the Shiite religious Marjayas. These disputes are  between the taqlidians  and the reformists, as well as Najaf and Iran.

The reformists whose roots can be traced back to Ayatollah Naini, the theorist of constitutionalism, aspire for  a civil state with  genuine  freedoms and popular sovereignty; They deal with the actual homeland and its  borders. In contrast, the fundamentalists of the Iranian religious elite view  the constitutional approachwith suspicion. They favor the anti-constitutional  Almostabedah  current led by Fazlollah Nouri. However, they are pragmatic in what they favour.

The disputes between the two currents are historical at the  philosophical and juristic levels. There are disputes regarding the role of governance in jurisprudence as well as disputes regarding various other political issues. One current seeks to establish a modern civil state that governs on the basis of laws stipulated in the constitution and through the use of institutions. The other  believes that it is necessary to  establish a religious state acting  on behalf of the Infallible Imam until he appears.

There is another  serious  dispute between the fundamentalist activists and the  reformists  (i.e. between  the Taqlids  themselves). The Taqlid  activists  who are Iranian religious loyalists  view the Najafi Taqlids with suspicion. They consider them as a negative element that opposes the sincere expression of the Husseiniya revolution. This dispute can be traced back  to Ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim and Khomeini while he was in Najaf.

However, the relationship between all of these currents  is not only limited  to doctrinal thought and convictions, but there are also  networks of political and economic interests and influence that have been established. These interests have become an influential determinant of the relationship between these currents.

If the Najaf supreme authority does not believe in the Guardianship of the Jurist, nor political action in the absence of the Infallible Imam, it does  express its opinion on pivotal events in Iraq. It is not usually  concerned about issuing statements on what’s happening outside Iraq. This however  contradicts the Iranian religious elite that believes in the Guardianship of the Jurist and its centrality  since it is perceived as an integral part of  the Shiite doctrine. Iran’s supreme leader dominates  all other jurists. The Najaf Marjaya  also does not believe in  the Guardianship of the Jurist, the Shura Council of Jurists, or in any theory that defines its powers or divides it.

This firm belief of the religious elite’s loyalists [who believe in the Velayat-e Faqih, i.e. the Jurist Guardianship] has motivated them to view  Iraqi Shiites, the Lebanese, and local Shiite groups as subjects of the supreme leader. It deals with them in the same manner that it does with Iranian society  in the framework of  guardianship.  Revolution, hegemony, expansion and sectarianism  are  priorities for the loyalists.

Therefore, we found deep  divergence  between the Shiite religious elites regarding  the October uprisings or  revolutions in Iraq and Lebanon. The Iranians did not pay attention to the suffering of the people; therefore, as usual,  they attributed the whole matter to conspiracy theories and external elements  responsible for fueling all the demonstrations that threaten their interests, security and borders. However,  local jurists from among the reformists and taqlidis supported these demonstrations because they were spontaneous. These demonstrations were triggered  by elite corruption, and Iranian domination in these two countries.

In this study, we seek to clarify  the positions of the clergy as well as the scholars of  the seminaries on  the October uprisings in Iraq and Lebanon, and the impact of these positions on the relationship between the Shiite sect and the Iranian religious elite.

Introduction: The Roots of the Uprisings

On October  1, 2019, the uprising in Iraq, which  was considered the biggest since the US invasion of 2003, erupted against corruption, unemployment, and Iranian hegemony. They  were concentrated in Baghdad and   the central and southern  cities of Iraq with  a high Shiite density. The demonstrators chanted slogans against Iran and the supreme leader, such as: “Iran out out.” They also burned pictures of Khomeini and Khamenei and some pro-Iranian leaders.[1]

The demonstrations extended to central Shiite capitals such as Najaf and Karbala, and agitated the public against Iran and the supreme leader. On October 28, security forces broke up a sit-in  protest in  Karbala, one of the central Shiite capitals, killing at least 14, and wounding more than 100 protestors.[2]  On November 3, Shiite  demonstrators attempted to storm the Iranian consulate in Karbala. They burnt the Iranian flag and  images of the supreme leader and chanted slogans against Iranian hegemony.[3]

The crisis dates back before October 2019. In September 2018, for example, large demonstrations erupted in Basra city against water pollution and corruption, and the lack of  water in the city due to the Iranian policy towards Iraq  of building dams and thus preventing  the flow of water to Iraqi lands. The demonstrators burned the Iranian consulate in Basra, and raised slogans denouncing Iran.[4] In addition, protests were  held in June 2019.[5] In August and September 2019, hundreds of Master’s degree and PhD graduates protested in front of the Iraqi government in the center of Baghdad. The security forces suppressed them and broke up their sit-in by force, and the Supreme Marjaya condemned the use of force against the protesters at the time. A fact-finding committee was formed to investigate the reasons and dimensions of the use of force against the protesters.[6]

At that time, the protesters nor their demands were seriously dealt with since the government bet on the factor of time and the demonstrations fading away. Remarkably, chants against Iran were reiterated  in most of these waves of protest that erupted  mainly in Shiite cities, or in areas of high Shiite density. However, demonstrations held in 2013 in cities with a high concentration of Sunnis did not include chants against Iran.

On the Lebanese level, another significant uprising erupted on Thursday evening, October 17, 2019, against the government, corruption and the introduction of new taxes. Just two days after the outbreak of the demonstrations, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah gave a speech on Saturday October 19. Nasrallah’s speech  rejected all the demands of the demonstrators, particularly: the formation of a technocratic government, or the holding of new parliamentary elections. Hassan Nasrallah clearly threatened to mobilise his supporters against the protesters. He said: “You will find us all on the streets and changing all the equations.”[7] The Lebanese army issued an official statement after Nasrallah’s speech, siding with the demonstrators, and confirming its solidarity with their demands.[8]

In response to Nasrallah’s threats, thousands  of protesters took to the streets in defiance. They  chanted against him, condemning him as one of  the corrupt figures.[9] It is noteworthy that the city of Nabatieh in southern Lebanon, which has a large Shiite population  and is affiliated with Hezbollah, witnessed massive demonstrations. This indicates the fragility of the popular incubators of Hezbollah, which it has sought to increase in recent years.[10]

I-The Position of the Iranian Religious Elites Towards the Iraqi and Lebanese Uprisings

Initially, the Iranian position regarding the Iraqi and Lebanese demonstrations diverged. On the one hand, it adopted  a hostile and  firm position against the Iraqi demonstrations, and  a calmer disposition towards the Lebanese demonstrations on the other hand. As both uprisings continued, the Iranian official position, represented by the highest religious and political authority Ali Khamenei, was sharper and more negative, as the uprisings threatened to limit  Iranian sectarian and political influence in the region, particularly if the main goals of the two uprisings- rejecting  sectarianism and quotas, and building a modern civil state- succeeded.

1.The Position of the Supreme Leader: Jurisprudence of Blood

In the beginning of the first wave of the Iraqi demonstrations on October 1, 2019, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, in an official tweet, said: “The enemies are seeking to drive a wedge between Iraq and Iran, to no avail.”[11] He completely disregarded the more than 100 martyrs who died during the first wave of demonstrations. This  raises deep questions about the jurisprudence of blood of  the ruling religious elite. If we review the religious and juristic sayings of these elites, we will find that bloodshed is justified and legitimized in the framework of preserving the Islamic state and the Guardianship of the Jurist.

Ayatollah Misbah Yazdi[12] believes that the use of force is mandatory to maintain the Islamic government, even if it has been rejected by more than half of the people. He said :  “A number is not a standard for maintaining  the government. Rather, the standard is when a number of followers of the Imam, peace be upon him, or the legitimate state of the jurist provide support for maintaining the government. Sometimes the percentages of these groups constitute 90 percent, 50 percent, or 40 percent of the people. He is the guardian jurist, who is commanded to maintain the Islamic government. As  long as there is a person who  can  maintain the Islamic government, he is obligated to maintain it. A number has no value any more.[13] The government must remain, even if it has only 10 percent of supporters, in any form and by any means.[14] If the Islamic goals can be achieved only through violence, then it  becomes necessary.[15]

In addition, extrajudicial killings must be implemented  without  reference to the court,[16] in order to protect the Islamic values of the state.[17] This can enable the guardian jurist to take over the state. He therefore has the power to choose who has the right  to live in the land or  otherwise. Every Iranian living on Iranian territory must believe  in the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist. According to Yazdi, “If you want to live in this country, you must accept the Islamic state even if it uses power against you . Whoever opposes the Islamic state is condemned and should be fought, even if only one person is left in this country.”[18]

If this reflects the ideology of the Iranian ruling religious elite towards the sanctity of the people inside Iran, it is clear that this position is even more brutal against protesters who threaten the influence of the Guardianship  of the Jurist in the region.

After the second wave of protests on October 25 which left over 60 people dead and more than 2,000 wounded, on Wednesday October 30, 2019, the Iranian supreme leader  commented on the demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon during the graduation ceremony of cadets held at Khatam al-Anbia Air Defense University. He said, “The rightful demands of the people can be met through the legal channels in their countries.”[19] He added, “The biggest blow that enemies can strike against any  country is to take away its  security, which they started  in some countries of the region. I recommend those who care about Iraq and Lebanon to address the riots and insecurity  inflicted  by America, the Zionist entity and some Western countries via the money of some reactionary countries.” [20]

Despite the Iranian supreme leader’s use of the word “riots” in his recorded speech which is available  on his official website, and after the outrage expressed by Iraqis over the use of this word, a member of the Assembly of Experts Sheikh Abbas al Kaabi denied the supreme leader’s use of this word: “His Eminence did not use the word (riots) in describing peaceful demonstrations and protests in Lebanon and Iraq. He even stated that people’s demands are rightful. Improving living conditions, fighting corruption, and ensuring justice are among the most important duties of the state and one of the most important rights of the people. His Eminence also indicated that public demands can be met through existing legal frameworks.”[21]

However, the words of the supreme leader were clear and  unequivocal. To further  understand the dimensions of his speech and his intent, all his statements need to be comprehended as well as those of the Iranian religious, political and military elites related to the Iraqi and Lebanese uprisings.

2.The Position of the Head of the Judiciary

Commenting on the first wave of the Iraqi uprising, Hojjat al-Islam[22]Ibrahim Raisi, head of the judiciary and the most prominent candidate to succeed Khamenei, said that these demonstrations were an American-Saudi sedition, to cause chaos and prevent Iraqis from participating in the Arbaeen pilgrimage. The same speech  was repeated  by Yahya Rahim Safavi, the supreme leader’s military adviser, and a number of Iranian officials.[23]

To discuss the Arbaeen pilgrimage within the context of the protests is an attempt to sectarianize the issue,provoke sectarianism, and remind protesters in Shiite majority communities of their sect, as well as to  highlight  the risks threatening the Shiite sect and community, because of these demonstrations!

3.The Position of the Friday Imam of Tehran

On October 4, 2019 – the first Friday following  the first wave of Iraqi protests – Ayatollah Emami-Kashan, Friday Imam of Tehran, commenting on the demonstrations, stated: “The enemy pays attention to the Arbaeen pilgrimage  and Iraq and creates trouble because the issue of Arbaeen is tough on them. What is tough on  the enemy is that  more or less than 20 million people head to Karbala. The reason for  this opposition is that Hussein’s banner calls for  martyrdom and steadfastness. This banner awakens nations to stand against oppression. It includes ‘we will never accept, humiliation.’ All the groups that participate in the Arbaeen pilgrimage  embody those that will never accept humiliation, and the enemy does not want to see that. With the help of God, the issues and problems that have emerged  will be resolved, and the masses will participate in the 40th march.”[24]

There  are important nuances that must be comprehended in this sermon, most importantly: the Friday Imam of Tehran drew a link between the demonstrations of Iraq and espionage for a foreign country, as if the Iraqi people were not protesting against living conditions and political corruption. He also drew a link between the demonstrations and the Arbaeen pilgrimage, provoking sectarian sentiments.

The most significant contradiction in the Imam of Tehran’s Friday sermon was his talk of martyrdom and steadfastness, and the Shiite slogan of “we will never accept humiliation” in the context of the Iraqi demonstrations.  He used the Shiite slogan to describe Iranians who will not accept humiliation from Iraqi protesters by accusing the Iraqis of working as agents of world oppressors. [25]  Apparently,  this slogan is used by the Iranian religious elite against its sectarian and political opponents only. Ironically,  if this slogan is  used against  it, the religious elite would never accept this, as it is only used in accordance with the  exigencies  of the Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist based on its Khomeinist style!

Kashani believes that martyrs who follow the way of God have the true life. He said, “Those who  follow the path of the martyrs and confront problems and enemies  have a true life.”[26] However, the Iraqi revolutionaries do not deserve this real life! Despite this contradiction, it represents the doctrine of the Iranian religious elite, which monopolizes religion, doctrine and the 1979 revolution. It is the only one that can  decide which regime  can be opposed, or not, because it speaks on behalf of the Infallible Imam. Through this way the Iranian religious elite entrenched the principle of infallibility of the deputy of the  Infallible Imam, even though it is not permitted juristically.

On Friday, October 11, 2019, the Friday Imam of Tehran, Ahmad Khatami, delivered a speech during the Friday sermon, saying, “The enemies of the Iranian people took advantage  of  the wave of protests in Iraq. The enemies of the Iranian people aimed to achieve four goals through these demonstrations: The first goal  was to makethe Arbaeen pilgrimage irrelevant, through the spread of fear and terror among the people to stop them going to this pilgrimage, but they failed to achieve this. The second was to disunite the Iranian and Iraqi people. The third goal was to target  the axis of the resistance.The fourth  was to take revenge against  some Iraqi officials who stood  against the  illegal demands of the Zionist entity and America.”[27]

Khatami attributed these demonstrations to three sides. The first side is represented by America, Britain and Israel. He said that the Zionist entity described the Iraqi demonstrators as Iraqi revolutionaries. According to Khatami, this description of the demonstrators would distort their image and  undermine their demands.

The second side is represented  by some Arab countries, according to Khatami’s speech; these protests are  the result  of  the chaos caused by some reactionary Arab countries. These countries seek  to spread unrest and chaos in the world!  Some elements of the Baathists are the third side responsible for  wreaking havoc  in Iraq.[28]

After the second wave of Iraqi protests on October 25, 2019, Ayatollah Movahedi-Kermani delivered a Friday sermon in Tehran[29] on November 1, saying: “The point that I should clarify about  the Iraqi protests is the influence of some of the aberrant marjas  as  we call them English Shi’a . Especially, they committed crimes in Karbala, Basra and Amarah. The Iraqi people must keep  themselves  away from them.”[30] These attempts  aimed to sectarianize the conflict again by accusing the Shirazis of being behind the uprising. However, he never acknowledged the thousands of martyrs and the  injured demonstrators!

Movahedi-Kermani concluded his sermon with prayers: “We  ask  The Mighty and Majestic  to end this strife  quickly and for the Lebanese and Iraqi people to taste unity quickly. ”[31] We note here the use of the word ‘sedition’ used by the Iranian religious establishment to  describe everything that threatens their interests, while using the words ‘revolution’ and ‘uprising’ to describe movements that serve their strategic goals.

The common denominators in all  the Tehran Friday sermons regarding the Iraqi and Lebanese demonstrations  throughout the months of  October and November can be summarized as follows:

1-The demonstrations are caused by the West, America, and Arab countries.

2-They lead to chaos and sedition.

3- They are agitated by some elements of the Baathists.

4-They target the resistant axis. 

5-They are stirred by the English Shiite.

Finally, the position of the clergy does not differ significantly from the Iranian diplomatic line adopted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in its official statements,[32] and in the  statements of  security officials. According to one of the commanders of the special units of the Iranian police, these demonstrations are designed to weaken  the resistance front in the region, which is the greatest achievement of the Islamic Republic.[33]

II-The Iranian Ways of Dealing  With the Two Uprisings

After Khamenei’s speech and the negative responses from the  political and religious elites regarding the Iraq demonstrations, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) also got involved in this matter. According to a Reuters report, senior IRGC officers with experience in containing civil unrest met during the protests with Iraqi security officials, and Iranian advisers warned that  if the demonstrations continued, they would  undermine  the government.[34] Therefore, there was a deliberate intention  to kill the demonstrators as was stated by Haider al-Abadi, the former Iraqi Prime Minister, who is  undoubtedly familiar with what is going on inside  the Iraqi state.[35] Apparently, Iranian experts made their recommendations early on from the first day of the Iraqi uprising. Therefore, the demonstrations were  dealt with using several means which were used previously  in response to the December 2017 protests in Iran. These included the following:

1.Sniping and Direct Killing

The  death toll in the first wave of demonstrations in Iraq at the beginning of October was  over 100 with nearly 4,000 demonstrators  wounded, some of whom were in critical condition.[36] In the second wave of Iraqi demonstrations that erupted on  October 25, more than 60 protesters were killed and over  2,000 were injured.[37] In addition, dozens were killed and injured in between the two waves, and after the second wave, in Karbala, Najaf, Baghdad, and the central cities.[38]

The Iraqi government has officially denied that its security forces faced  the protesters with live bullets, and stated that it will launch  a full  investigation into the killing of the demonstrators. This supports  the Reuters report that the snipers who participated in the killing of the protesters are affiliated to militias under the umbrella of the guardian jurist  rather than  the regular security forces,[39] particularly in the massacre witnessed during the first wave of the uprising.

2.Preventing Access to the Internet and Curfews

The Iraqi government blocked internet access across the country and imposed a curfew  on Thursday, October 3, 2019, in fear of further demonstrations on Friday, October 4.[40] However, thousands of demonstrators broke the curfew and took to the squares where they demonstrate, thereby rendering the government’s measures ineffective.[41] Curfews were imposed  repeatedly throughout the uprising but the government’s efforts to  prevent the demonstrations  failed again. None of these measures were effective in  preventing  the revolutionaries from demonstrating in almost all Iraqi cities. The voices of the demonstrators resonated across the country.


The demonstrations in Iraq turned into bloodbaths, according to Amnesty International reports. The demonstrators were intimidated and threatened, both physically and psychologically, with prosecution, arrest, dismissal from government jobs, kidnapping, and other extrajudicial acts.[42]

3.With Regard to the Lebanese Uprising

 Hezbollah’s militias assaulted the demonstrators. In addition,   the demonstrators were accused of espionage and treason  by the media and those  loyal to Hezbollah.[43]

This treatment  toward the Iraqi and Lebanonese uprisings, especially the Iraqi demonstrations, by the Iran-backed militias and Iranian military advisers, according to Reuters, is in complete alignment with the religious and ideological rhetoric of the ruling elite in Iran, and its vision of the position of the guardian of the jurist,elections and popular sovereignty. This is illustrated above in the words of Mesbah Yazdi and others, which  describe the position taken towards  the demonstrators, despite their affiliation with  the Shiite sect.

III-The Position of the Religious Marjaya in Najaf

The position of Najaf diverged from that of Tehran increasingly. However, it is noticed  that the strongest  statement was issued  by  Najaf after the demonstrators were accused of espionage  by the Iranian leader Ali Khamenei. Ayatollah Sistani – in what was considered a response to Iranian interference – said: “No party or regional or international actor has the right to confiscate the will of the Iraqis,”[44] in reference to Khamenei’s accusations of espionage.  and the need for legal methods to be pursued.

On the same day that Sistani said these words which warned of external interference leading to the will of the Iraqis being usurped, the Friday Imam of Tehran said that Iraq was exposed to  a conspiracy!

If we consider the sequence of events, we find that the position of the Supreme Marjaya in Najaf is firm and clear towards supporting the demonstrations. At the same time, the marjaya in Najaf is not a solid institution, and it cannot  engage with the Iranians in an open clash that could lead  to consequences, such as confrontation with militias on the ground.

On Friday, October 4, after the events witnessed in the first wave of protests, it was stated in the Friday sermon of the Supreme Marjaya: “Things must be rectified before it is too late.” Regarding the violence, it mentioned: “There are unacceptable and condemned attacks against peaceful demonstrators and the security forces. The government must change its approach when  dealing with the country’s problems. The government should fulfill its duties, do its best  to improve public services, provide job opportunities for the unemployed, end  favoritism in public jobs, and complete the cases of  those who are charged with corruption and bring them to justice.”[45]

On Friday, October 11, Sheikh Abdul-Mahdi Al-Karbalai, the representative of Ayatollah Sayyid Ali al-Sistani, said during the Friday sermon in Karbala that “the government and its security services are responsible for the great bloodshed that was spilt in the demonstrations in the past days,” He  set a two-week deadline for the authorities to announce the results of their investigations.[46]

In the Friday sermon  on October 25, when the second wave of the uprising broke out, the Marjaya stated: “The real reform, and the desired change for the management of the country, should be demanded  through  peaceful means. Corruption should be fought, and the privileges of senior officials should be abolished. The report of the investigation committee regarding the previous demonstrations did not achieve the expected goal, nor did it reveal the facts. Accordingly, we call for forming an independent judicial body to follow up the demonstrations, limit arms to the state, enact a new electoral law, and challenge external interference in the affairs of the country vigorously.”[47]

Although the Marjaya called for a resolute approach to address external interference, the Iranian supreme leader spoke on Iraqi affairs in a speech on Wednesday, October 30. According to his official website, he “recommended those who are keen on the two countries to address the riots run by America and the Zionist entity.”[48]

In the first Friday sermon of November, the Supreme Marjaya reiterated its advice to the state not to use violence against the demonstrators, and not to send its security forces to confront the young. Also, the Supreme Marjaya implicitly denounced Iranian interference – especially the statements of the supreme leader who described the events in Iraq as riots. The Marjaya  stated: “The religious marjaya reiterates  its well-known position on condemning ill-treatment against   peaceful demonstrators and all kinds of unjustified violence, and  holding necessarily  those responsible to account. It also  calls upon  the relevant authorities on not involving any combat forces in dealing with sit-ins and peaceful demonstrations, for fear of further violence. Respecting the will of Iraqis to define the political and administrative regime of their country by conducting a public referendum on the Constitution and periodic elections to the House of Representatives is the principle that the religious marjaya committed to and reiterated since the regime changed over. Today, it affirms that reform is an imperative necessity – as has been discussed more than one time.  However, necessary reform in this regard is also mandated to the Iraqi people’s choice with all its communities throughout the country. No person, group or party with a specific orientation or any regional or international party  has the right to confiscate the will of the Iraqis and impose his opinion on them.”[49]

The position of the other marjayas did not differ from Sistani’s. The  representative of Ayatollah Najafi said: “Our position with regard to the demonstrations in Iraq and the Iraqi government and the challenges facing Iraq is similar to what was presented through the Friday sermons held at the Imam Husayn Shrine. Najaf has always identified the mistakes in the Iraqi state, drew the attention of its officials to these mistakes and revealed the need to find appropriate solutions to them. It is imperative to find appropriate solutions to these problems and provide a decent life for Iraqi citizens.”[50]

A statement from the Iraqi religious authority on Saturday, November 9, 2019 denied what was reported in the media about an agreement between the marjaya and political forces to keep the government of Abdul-Mahdi in power and end the ongoing protests. The statement stressed that the position of the religious marjaya towards the popular protests, as well as its relationship and dealings with them was what was announced clearly in the Friday sermons. “I have informed all of those that contacted me in this regard. All of what has been associated with our position otherwise is for political exploitation by some parties and is baseless.”[51]

A statement of the marjaya  was issued on Monday, November 11, 2019 after Ayatollah Sistani received Mrs. Jenin Hennes Blachart, Head of the United Nations Mission in Iraq (UNAMI). It included the marjaya’s reiteration of the people’s right to protest, and that the protesters will not return to their homes until their demands are met. In addition, it called for an end to external interference. Ayatollah Sistani concluded: “The situation cannot remain as it was before the recent protests.”[52]

We note that the marjaya reiterated its rejection of external interference and the right of the people to demonstrate peacefully. This was because the marjaya felt embarrassed in front of the people as the dead and injured were very large in number. This put the marjaya in confrontation with the demonstrators who called for a fatwa from the marjaya to protect them from the oppression of the security forces and the pro-Iranian militias.

The most important points that the Supreme Marjaya focused on in all Friday sermons:

  • Preventing foreign parties from interfering in Iraqi affairs.
  • Forming independent judicial committees to investigate the protests.
  • Rejecting violence against protesters, and vice versa.
  • Limiting the bearing of weapons to the state.
  • Fulfilling the legitimate demands of the protestors.

We did not find any terms related to conspiracy, espionage, riots, British Shiism, and Zionist-American plots as cited in the speeches and statements of Iranian religious elites. However, the position of the Najaf Supreme Marjaya is not expected to go further than  denunciations and the issuance of statements, as was the case in previous events such as the demonstrations in Basra that were met with live bullets[53] and other demonstrations in which the marjaya resorted only to statements and denunciations. This is because Iraq’s religious marjaya has spiritual authority over the Iraqi political arena, i.e., it does not have power over Iraqi public affairs like that of the Velayat-e Faqih in Iran. It is not one of the solid state institutions that can challenge some of the armed militias affiliated with Iran. Therefore, the marjaya always calls for restricting arms to the state. In addition, there is also the intermingling of some interests and influence of the clergy, which threatens the networks of economic and political interests as a whole if there are fundamental changes in the core of the Iraqi constitution and patterns of the relationship between jurists and politicians that have been established in the period from 2003 onwards.

In this context, the Iranian government’s decision to stop religious trips to Shiite religious shrines in Iraq appeared to be a disciplinary action against Najaf for its supportive position of the demonstrators.

Iranian television quoted from a source in the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s office , saying that “security is not available at the present time for Iranian visitors to come over.”[54] This may be part of a message to the supreme marjaya that ongoing demonstrations will decrease the income of religious sites in Najaf and Karbala. The economic situation of the Iraqi religious marjaya was also affected, because the financial resources of  the Shiite shrines in Najaf and Karbala depend mainly on the numbers of Iranian tourists. This event had happened before when Raza Khan (1878-1944) came to power in Iran in 1925 and prevented Iranians from visiting Najaf and Karbala. He therefore stopped financial support for the Najaf Hawza, which caused great suffering to religious scholars and made it difficult to fund Hawza schools and students as well as existing projects belonging to the marjaya. The Shah set conditions to agree to reimbursing the money, including the identity of the people on who the money would be spent. Isfahani and Mirza Al-Naini complained about not receiving funds and legal entitlements from Iran. They stated that what they received in funds was from Afghanistan and Zanzibar. There was a clear destabilization in the financial situationthat  resulted in a significant number of Hawza students leaving the seminary.When Nasir al-Din Shah (1831-1896) visited Najaf, Mirza Al-Shirazi refused to meet him. The rest of the Najaf scholars welcomed him, and their relationship withAl-Shirazi became strained because of his tough position on the Shah. The Najaf scholars were afraid to tackle   the economic consequences stemming from the Shah’s policies because of Al-Shirazi’s position.[55]

According to one Shiite thinker: “The economy of Najaf and its central image in Iraq and Iran, and its distinction from other cities under the Ottoman authority, were largely the outcome of such visits carried out by prominent leaders and people. A quick reading of the history of the holy cities is enough to discover that important urban projects were established there as a result of the visits of leaders of this type, especially from the kings and princes of Iran.”[56]

In any case, the Iranian decision to prevent Iranian visitors from traveling to Iraq’s Shiite shrines  sends a message to the Supreme Marjaya in Najaf, and to dignitaries, merchants and officials in Najaf and Karbala. It reflects implicit recognition of the demonstrations and their effectiveness, as well as how far they spread. It includes recognition that Iranian presence and influence are being targeted even in the heart of Shiite capitals.

IV-Independent and Reformist Clergy

There are a large number of clerics who are neither affiliated with the Najaf Marjaya nor are they totally affiliated with the Iranian state. They supported the demonstrations, and some of them participated in them.

The Lebanese cleric Sheikh Yasser Auda, one of the reformist clerics and students of Hussein Fadlallah, announced his solidarity from the first day of the Lebanese and Iraqi demonstrations and participated himself in the Lebanese uprising on October 17, 2019.[57]

In the first uprising of Iraqis on October 1, 2019, Sheikh Yasser Auda said: “Does the Hussein government loot? Is the Hussein government a thief? Does the Hussein government  kill  people in cold blood?”[58] His statement was a reference to the widespread corruption of  the Iraqi government.

After a number of demonstrators were subjected to harassment and violence in Lebanon, Auda said: Peace to all young people rising up, they are free men of Lebanon. I tell them: Keep going, no matter how great the pressure is – and the threat is great – so that at least your children do not curse you as our children did because we were followers of our communities’ leaders. I stand by the youth even if they are secular, Christian, Druze, Alevi, or Sunni, and no matter what they are I will stay with them because every human has his own rights even if he is an infidel. This is what we have learned from Imam Ali.[59]

Sheikh Yasir Auda responded to one of the jurists of Velayat-e Faqih who forbade “the burial of the uprising’s martyrs who were killed by the security forces in Muslim graves because they are apostates of the Islamic state.”[60] The intended Islamic state here  – according to the loyalists – is Iran. He also denounced  the image distortion and the religious devaluation to which protesters were subjected to by saying, “I am an agent for the poor and I am an agent for vulnerable persons.”[61]

Religious marja Sheikh Mohammad al-Yaqoobi, leader of the Fadhila Party, announced his support for the demonstrations in a statement and said: “I believe that one of the most valuable outcomes achieved by the rising of the conscious youth, of the liberation uprising, is the restoration of the national identity that sectarians had corrupted and their agents had taken away until they wasted our  hope to revive it and forced many of the sons of the nations to emigrate, leaving their families, memories and eyes focused on those behind them.” He rejected the use of  violence against the demonstrators by saying: “Insisting on the policy of repression and the use of violence does not help, but it will lead  the country and people over the edge and you cannot defeat young people who look for death and take bullets with bare breasts.”[62] Although al-Yaqoobi is affiliated with the elite of the Iraqi government, his statement confirms that the demonstrators forced the Iraqi religious establishment to announce their support. This confirms that the demonstrations are of a national consensus, and the religious marjaya within Iraq,  did not accuse the demonstrators of espionage. They were accused by marjayas outside of Iraq.

One of the reformist Iraqi clerics who supported the demonstrations was Sheikh Meethaq al-Aeser, who stood for the rights of the protesters and criticized the Iranian handling of the Iraqi uprising. He argued with them depending on the statements of Khomeini and his companions of  the revolution, and listed some of Khomeini’s texts that he was delivering to his followers during the Iranian revolution calling on them to strike and demonstrate and halt public life.

Kamal al-Haydari is a marja who supported the demonstrations and demanded the dismissal of the government. In one of his lessons, he said : “It is with great regret that the Iraqi people experienced another ordeal equally serious to the previous one. A corrupt class dominated political, economic and social conditions, leading the nation to a state of  despair and frustration in the homeland. I have repeatedly warned in the past years of the widespread corruption in the ruling class with all its branches, communities, currents and parties. Corruption has become a phenomena in the public life of the country facing no religious or legal deterrence. The demonstrations that erupted and that will break out are only a natural reaction to this corruption. We declare our complete support of  the demands of the protesters in eliminating this ruling class. We call upon the Iraqi people to restrain any corrupt party that has participated in the corruption -of  all its communities  and marjayas- and to participate in the wave of  demonstrations and not to waste the rightful demands of the protesters.” [63]

Another supporter is the cleric Muhammad Hassan Al-Amin, who has supported the demonstrations in Lebanon and Iraq. He also declared that a civil state has become a popular demand for all.[64]

Among those who attacked the Iranian leader and accused him of being behind the suppression of the Iraqi and Lebanese people is Sheikh Subhi al-Tufayli,[65] who accused Iran of sabotaging Iraq and Lebanon.[66]

Taqi al-Modarresi is another supporter of the demonstrations since day one.[67] He called upon the clergy to advise the government and stand by the people.[68] He reiterated his support for the demonstrations following the recent violent events.[69] There were dozens of Shiite imams and clerics who participated in the demonstrations in Lebanon and Iraq and against the Iranian hegemony and the ruling elites.[70]

There are broad Shiite currents that supported the demonstrators and criticized Iranian intervention, such as the Shirazi movement. The religious marjaya of Sadiq Al-Shirazi, the leader of the Shirazis, issued a statement saying, “It is unfortunate that this Iraq has become a grave  of the dead and wounded. In this ongoing and painful tragedy, I am recommending everyone to strive to end these massacres which are a shameful incident in history. I also recommend the government, the army, the police and the security forces to make room for peaceful demonstrations of any kind, and to speed up the process of fulfilling the demands of the honorable demonstrators and not to harass them, as what Amir al-Mu’minin, peace be upon him, used to do during his great, fair and virtuous government. I also recommend the proud, oppressed, and persistent Iraqi people – who have suffered for the last several decades through unjust governments and from injustice and tyranny – to commit themselves to peaceful demonstrations and certainly not to allow those who discredit them to infiltrate their ranks.”[71]

We conclude that the ruling Iranian religious elite is the only one who looks at  the demonstrations as a conspiracy and espionage. The Iranian elite also believes that the demonstrations are funded by international and regional powers. But most of the traditional and reformist local religious elites are aware of the demands of the youth and the new generation particularly for democracy, a civil state, and social justice. Iran, however, has the power on the ground which significantly outweighs  that of the religious elites and local hawza that oppose Iranian hegemony.

V- Implications and Dimensions

There are several indications that can be gleaned from the Iraqi and Lebanese uprisings, the most important of which are:

1. The Incubators  of Taqlid  and Rebellion Against the Guardian Jurist

Velayat-e Faqih has faced deep rebellions within the structure of Shiite societies in recent years, indicating that there are fundamental changes evolving in the structure of the Shiite fabric, collective mind, and historical memory towards the Iranian religious elite and its underlying thesis. The transformations in the Iranian religious arena — led by all Iranians;  women and men, the young and old following the 1979 revolution —  have become quite noticeable. They were not confined to one place so that one could claim that the problem is spatial or temporal, but rather the scope of these transformations expanded to include those in positions of influence and the Iranian homeland itself. Those rebellions began from inside Iran as individual or factional opposition movements, until they were established as public demands that have clear, political, economic and social features.

The structure of the collapsing Taqlid  can be reviewed internally and externally as follows.

A.The Collapse of the Taqlid Structure Internally:

The Iranian religious elite has been facing massive waves of protest inside Iran which have been going on for years, the last of which took place last year. In January 2018, protesters burned Hawzas and attacked homes of clerics. In reference to the public anger regarding the repression, corruption and theft, Ayatollah Ghiyasuddin Taha Mohammadi said, “During the uprising, 60 offices belonging to Friday imams were attacked in most Iranian cities.”[72] In another wave of protests in August 2018, the homes of the clergy were attacked, stones were thrown at some Hawza , and the demonstrators tried to break down their doors and chanted “Death to the Dictator,”[73] in reference to the supreme leader.

These internal rebellions and the disrespect of the supreme leader and the religious elite were a violation of the religious holiness and the aura that surrounded this elite and the supreme leader., They are in fact rebellions against Taqlid and the guardianship of the jurist.

B-The Collapse of the Taqlid Structure Externally:

Only one year had passed since these internal rebellions erupted when the Iranian religious elite faced external rebellions at the core of its Shiite crescent in Iraq and Lebanon, its historical and sectarian spheres of influence, and the central capitals of Shi’ism.  The Iraqis and the Lebanese, including a majority of Shiites, rose up against the Iranian supreme leader, the Iranian elite and their local religious and militia arms.

2.The Emergence of the Iranian-Najaf Dispute

The positions of the Hawza and the Shiite religious elites regarding the two uprisings that broke out in Iraq and Lebanon in October 2019 diverged. In fact, the positions of the Shiite religious elites towards these demonstrations have profound indications in context of the historical dispute between Najaf and Qom, and between the reformists and the Taqlidis.

Historically, Najaf does not believe that jurisprudence has a mandate over political and civil affairs, except in matters of Ijtihad. Whereas according to the theory of the Guardianship of the Jurist with its Khomeinist style, the mandate of the Iranian supreme leader  is not confined within the Iranian borders but extends to all Muslims with all their doctrines and communities and not to the Shiites only. Therefore, the supreme leader is usually called in Iranian official media “the guardian of the Muslims.” According to  Hojjat ​​al-Islam Mohsen Kadivar, the geographical boundaries of the Velayat-e Faqih government should be beyond its current borders; however, the current conditions have confined it within  specific borders. [74]

According to the approved approach of the Iranian religious elite and the theorists of the loyalist current, the position of the supreme leader is one of inauguration rather than selection. The role of the Assembly of Experts is to rubber stamp not select the supreme leader. The Guardianship of the Jurist has an absolute mandate that includes all religious and earthly matters.

These three dimensions (the mandate of the supreme leader outside Iran’s borders, the comprehensiveness of the mandate covering religious and earthly matters, and appointment by   inauguration rather than selection) are the ones that govern the philosophy of the religious elite andtheir relationship with  the doctrine internally and  externally.

This philosophy, adopted by the loyalists, is confronted with great resentment and dissatisfaction from both Najaf and Qom alike. There are deep differences between the two schools – loyalists and Taqalids – regarding this political theory and its implications.

The Iranians loyalists have tried to control Najaf since the success of the revolution in 1979,  as the Shah did not pursue this control before because he was secular and did not adopt a dynamic religious movement. He also aimed to transfer the Shiite weight to Najaf away from Qom in order to avoid the ongoing conflict with the clergy.

The post-1979 ruling system is purely religious;  it fights with the Najaf Marjaya  for control over the Shiite doctrine internally and struggles with religious institutions such as Al-Azhar, as well as central Sunni capitals such as Mecca, Medina, Damascus, Istanbul, and Cairo, over religion externally. According to the Iranian ruling system,  the main conflict is over  competition for the leadership of  Islam, its representation, and winning loyalty of all Muslims. 

The Iranians adopted a pragmatic strategy in this conflict to dominate religion and doctrine, which consisted of two tracks. The first track included the creation of pockets and solid arms similar to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s model, such as the “Popular Mobilization Forces” in Iraq, “Hezbollah” in Lebanon, and “Ansar-allah” in Yemen.

The second track involved the creation of a religious environment loyal to Tehran, parallel to Najaf and a rival to it at the same time, in order to weaken Najaf which could be controlled over time and especially after the death  of the current Supreme Marjaya  represented by Ayatollah Sistani. This Marjaya is aware of the complexitiesof the conflict Shiites are going through and the extent of Iranian pressure. The investment in creating a Shiite crescent was not a coincidence but rather the result of strategic planning worked on by the ruling religious elite since the success of the revolution until the present day. One of those close to Khomeini called it the “Shiite sea that extends from the borders of Pakistan to the Mediterranean.”[75]

However, this Shiite Crescent faces a vulnerability that has disturbed Iranians. It has become fragile because of Iranian foreign policies towards other  states and non-state actors, especially in regard to political and socio-economic realities in the region,  as well as sectarianism – in addition to Iranian national arrogance towards these societies.

This fragility was evident in the massive uprising of the Shiite regions of Iraq and Lebanon, the slogans used against Iran and the destruction of  the images of the Iranian supreme leader. It was also noticeable in the attempts to storm Iranian diplomatic headquarters in historic Shiite capitals, such as what  occurred in Najaf and Karbala.

The historic dispute between Najaf and the Khomeinist thesis came to the surface. This dispute has been ongoing since the time of Ayatollah Muhsin al-Hakim, who differed significantly with Khomeini when he was in Najaf, then his successor, Ayatollah Khoei, who also disagreed  with Khomeini but with a deeper confrontation and more intense competition. Today, the current dispute is between Ayatollah Sistani and Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Iran has never submitted to the Najaf Marjaya since the advent of Khomeini, who went to Najaf as a dynamic marjaya looking for followers and influence, not as a taqlidi and a follower of the Najafis. On the other side, Najaf also did not submit to the will of the Iranians or their philosophy, and looks upon them with suspicion and doubt.


One of the most striking features is the people’s uprising in the central capitals of Shiism against Iranian hegemony and its local arms. This Shiite movement is considered the first broad rebellion against subordination by the Iranian guardian jurist in the middle of capitals that Iran once considered part of its dynamic and solid spheres. However, this movement indicates that there was deliberate exaggeration from the Iranian side of Iranian power in the region, as well as in the strength of the Shiite crescent and Iranian military arms in the region. There is sectarian, political, and economic fragility within  the structure of this crescent; fragility, which led to uprisings. 

In fact, we witnessed internal rebellions against the Guardianship of the Jurist in Iran in 2009 and 2017-2018 strongly and intensively. They spread all over Iran’s cities. A large sector of those who participated in them are still under arrest or suffered enforced disappearance. These rebellions are increasing and their effectiveness and scope are spreading during this crisis. The regime is well aware of this and always tries to create enemies, incite a sense of injustice, and a sense of danger within the Iranian nation to ensure  the cohesion of Iranians against external danger and the enemies surrounding Iran who seek to eliminate it. Therefore, the Turkish, Saudi, the American enemies and so forth were created. Observers of the Iranian daily press and the speeches of the religious and political elites are aware of the creation of enemies and the increased  frequency of warning against dangers surrounding the Iranian nation and civilization. However, as the  levels of poverty, corruption, and tyranny increased internally, this rhetoric no longer affects the people who have been harmed by the ruling elite.

After the Iraqis defeated the Islamic State (ISIS) and liberated the cities occupied by ISIS, people began to call for a decent life, and rights. 

Najaf is fed up with Iranian influence in Iraq, its attempts to curb Najaf, and the creation of a marjaya loyal to Iran contrary to Hawza traditions and the historical jurisprudential lessons adopted by Najaf and Shiites. Najaf believes that it is the origin of Shiism and is the natural extension of the infallible imams and their successor.  At the same time, the Guardian Jurist believes that his mandate includes even the jurists of Najaf and beyond. Hence, Iranian influence in Iraq at the doctrinal and political level is not complete and there is no certainty that it can last in the long-term.

So, we have a Shiite-Iranian confrontation before us. The Shiite sect is facing Iran at home and abroad. The language of the revolution no longer seduces Shiites because Iran raises the slogan of the revolution but suppresses their revolution at the same time. Iran raises the slogan of “we will never accept humiliation” but it gives them the taste of persecution, detention centers, dictatorship and corruption. People realized the duplicity of Iranian discourse, its use of religion, and exploitation of doctrine. Therefore, Iran, with the perpetuation of its policy, is destroying itself. There is a day coming when Iran will face the entire Shiite population. The best strategy to confront Iran is to clear the stage for it to continue its provocative acts against the members of its sect who are now well aware of their true enemy.

When the Iraqis and the Lebanese wanted to unite under one national banner and reject sectarianism and quotas, they were surprised that their leaders refused to abandon the quota system and that the Iranians and their local arms used sectarianism so that the demonstrations and popular uprisings turned into sectarian strife and clashes. Iran then emerges as a champion and guardian of its sect, as it always does.

Finally, regardless of the outcomes of  the Iraq and Lebanon uprisings, the Iranians have lost a large part of their sectarian status. The Shiite sect did not expect that the Iranians would point weapons at their heads one day, and the fragility of the Shiite crescent is inevitably expanding due to the new generations being averse to the discourse of ideology and political Islam. They basically want a decent life.


[1] Jibril Al-Ubaidi, “Iraq Demonstrations:  A Revolution Against Iranian Infiltration,” Asharq al-Awsat, October 6, 2019,

 “Iraq:  Dead and wounded, and the imposition of emergency and chants against Iran,” Al-Arabiya Net, 3 October 2019,

[2] “Iraq: Horrific Scenes, Due to Security Forces Use of Lethal Force to Disperse the Karbala Protests,” Amnesty International, October 29, 2019.

[3] “Iraq demonstrations: Demonstrators in Karbala Trying to Storm the Iranian Consulate,” BBC, November 4, 2019. & “A New Night of Terror:  Exciting Mysteries About What is Going on in Karbala,” Al-Jazeera Net, November 4, 2019 CE. & “The Anger of Iraqi Demonstrators Extends to the Iranian Consulate in Karbala,” Al-Jazeera Net, November 4, 2019.

[4] “Iranians Comment on Burning Their Country’s Consulate in Basra,” Al-Hurra, September 7, 2018.

[5] “In Pictures, the Basra Demonstrations are Back Again,” Al-Jazeera Net, June 29, 2019.

[6] “Iraq: Postgraduate Students Challenge Oppression and Renew their Demonstrations to Call for  Job Opportunities,” Al-Quds Al-Arabi,  September 26, 2019  “Imam Husayn Shrine: Learn About the Position of the Supreme Religious Authority on Holders of Higher Degrees and  Its  Statement  to the Government and Parliamentary Bodies,” Al-Quds Al-Arabi  September 26, 2019 CE.

[7] “Lebanon Demonstrations: The Army Solidarity With the Protesters and Nasrallah Warns ‘We Will Take the Street and Change the Equations,’” BBC, October 19, 2019,  

[8] “A Statement on the Demanding  Protest Movements of Demonstrators,” the official website of the Lebanese Army, October  19, 2019

[9] “Protesters Respond to the Speech of Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah : Video Clip Featured on Twitter,” CNN Arabic, October 20, 2019,

[10] “’Revolution…Revolution’ From Beirut to ‘Hezbollah Areas’ …and Security in the Street,” Al-Hurra, October 18, 2019.

[11] Khamenei, Twitter post, October 6, 2019, 10:06 am,

[12] He is one of the government’s philosophers and contemporary theorists, born in 1934, taken from Tabatabaei and Khomeini. He is one of the extremist  hawks of  the government  of Guardianship of the Jurist.

[13] Mohammed Taqqi Alyazdi, This Is What Religious Thinkers Claim,  Iran Newspaper, December 1, 2000. And Sadiq Haqeqat, Distribution of Power of  Shi’te  Political Thought, trans.  Hussein Safi ( Beirut: Center of Civilization 2014), 658.

[14] Haqeqat, Distribution of Power of  Shi’te  Political Thought, 294.

[15] Muhammad Taqi Misbah Al-Yazdi, “KhordadNewspaper,” Aftab Yazd Newspaper, May 26, 2001 AD, Nashat Newspaper June 7, 1999

[16] Haqeqat, Distribution of Power of  Shi’te  Political Thought, 295.

[17] Tawfiq Al-Saif, The Limits of Religious Democracy,  137

[18] Muhammad Taqi Misbah Al-Yazdi, Aftab-e Yazd Newspaper  May 26, 2001. Quoted from Haqeqat, Distribution of Power, 305.

[19] “Imam Khamenei: The Fulfillment of the People’s Demands in Iraq and Lebanon is Rightful  Exclusively Within the Legal Frameworks,” The official website of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, October 30, 2019.

[20] Ibid.

[21] “The Analysis Carried out by Sheikh Abbas Al-Kaabi: Imam Khamenei did not Describe Peaceful Demonstrations and Protests as  the Riots,” Al-Hawza News Agency, November 3, 2019.

[22] Ebrahim Raisi  still  holds  the rank of Hojjat-al Islam, and he has not yet reached the rank of ayatollah, however, since he took over the judiciary, the Iranian official media has described him as “the ayatollah.” See: “Ayatollah Raisi: The Saudi-American Sedition in Iraq Targets The Arbaeen Pilgrimage,” Fars News Agency, October 7, 2019. and review: A group of news in  Tehran Radio describing him as  the ayatollah:

[23] “The Iraqi Demonstrations Disturb Iran: ‘American-Saudi Sedition’ and ‘ sleeper agents,’” Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed, October 7, 2019.

[24] “Four Million People in the Arabaeen March Annoy the Enemy,” Fars News Agency accessed November 3, 2019,

[25] Sheikh Yasser Awda, a Lebanese cleric, born in 1969, is one of the most famous contemporary Shiite reformers, who received education  Sheikh Hussein Fadlallah. See: Yasser Odeh:  “The Sheikh who generated  controversy,”  Report: Yamanah Fawaz, published on YouTube on October 29, 2015 CE.

[26] Ibid.

[27]  “Khatami: The Arabaeen March Frustrated the Islamic World, Tansim News Agency, accessed October 11, 2019,

[28] Ibid.

[29] He is an Iranian cleric and politician, born in 1931, appointed as a temporary imam in Tehran, and among the positions which he held: Secretary General of the Mujahideen Association of Religious Scholars, member of the Assembly of Experts, member of the Expediency Council, and appointed as a temporary president after Rafsanjani’s death. Review: “Kermani Ali Throne of Rafsanjani at Expediency Council,”  International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah), February 3, 2019.

[30] Friday sermon in Tehran, November 1, 2019. The Persian text of the sermon Persian,  and its translation into Arabic by Sheikh Meethaq Al-Asr – a reformer  Iraqi cleric – on his official Facebook page.

[31] “Imam of Friday Prayer, Tehran: Some Deviant Groups Penetrated the Iraqi People,” Tasnim News Agency,  November 1, 2019.

[32] “The Iranian Foreign Ministry Deeply Regrets the Recent Events in Iraq,”  Tasnim News Agency, October  26, 2019.

[33] “Despite the Public Outrage of the Interference:  An Iranian Official: ‘The Unrest in Iraq and Lebanon Aims to  Weaken  the Resistance Front,’”  Amad, November, 4 / 2019.

[34] “Exclusively -Iranian-backed Factions Deployed Snipers at  the Iraq Protests,” Reuters, October 17, 2019.

[35] Haider al-Abadi said, “The official number of martyrs since the beginning of the October uprising announced in the report of the Ministerial Commission of Inquiry, is 149, but the number of peaceful demonstrators who had  injuries but did not die is more than 400 protesters meaning that  the shooting was intended to kill, not to push the protesters to disperse and flee. Review: Haider al-Abadi at hand, Al-Sharqiah TV, an episode posted on YouTube on October 22, 2019. BBC: No restrictions with former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, an episode posted on YouTube on October 20, 2019 CE.

[36] “Iraq: The Latest Death Toll From the Demonstrations Reached 100 Dead and 4,000 Wounded,” DW, October 5, 2019.

[37] “Thousands of dead and Wounded is  Iraq Death Toll During Two Days,” DW,  October 26, 2019,

[38] “Iraq: Deadly Attacks by Snipers, Intimidation of Protesters and Intense Campaign of Repression Against Them,” Amnesty International, October. 9, 2019.

[39] “The Iraqi Government Denies the Killing of  Protesters … And Talks About a Third Party,” Sky News,  October 26, 2019.

[40] “Iraq: Protesters Challenge  Curfew and Death Toll Rising,” October 3, 2019. BBC: “Iraq Demonstrations: Authorities Block Out  Internet, Social Media and Spread of the Hashtag   # Iraq_ rising,” DW,  October 3, 2019 CE.

[41] “Iraq Demonstrations: Thousands Break Curfew in the Capital, Baghdad, and Hundreds of Wounded and Deaths of the  Clashes in Karbala,” BBC, October 29, 2019.

[42] “Iraq: A Number  of Casualties Horrendous and Fatal Injuries Incurred Due to the Penetration of New Tear Gas Canisters Into the Skulls of Protesters,” Amnesty International,  October 31, 2019.

[43] “Hezbollah and ‘Amal’ Supporters Attack Protesters in Beirut (Shahid),” Arabi  21,  October 29, 2019. and “Hezbollah ‘trouble makers’  Assaulted Protesters in Southern Lebanon,” Al-Hurra,  October 23, 2019. and “With Knives and Sticks, Members of Hezbollah Assault Lebanese Demonstrators,” Orient News  (video), October 29, 2019.

[44] “His Eminence, Mr. Sistani: No Regional or International Party has the Right to Confiscate the Will of Iraqis,” Shafaqna, November 1, 2019.

[45] “Iraq: The Supreme Shi’a Marjaya  Calls on the Government to Change its Approach in Dealing With the Country’s Problems,” Monte Carlo,  October 4, 2019. “The Position of His Eminence Sayyid al-Sistani on the Current Events in Iraq,” Shafaqna, October 4, 2019.

[46] “Al-Sistani: The Government “Holds Responsibility for the Heavy Blood” in the Iraq Protests,” Sistani Org.,  October 11, 2019. Check Al-Sistani’s website at this link:

[47] “After the Killing of Two Protesters, Sistani Calls on Iraqi Security Forces to Exercise Restraint,” Elephant News,  October 25, 2019. and review Sistani’s sermon on his official site:

[48] “Imam Khamenei During  the Graduation Ceremonies of Officers  From Universities of  the Army: The Fulfillment of People’s Demands in Iraq and Lebanon is Available Exclusively Within the Legal Frameworks,” Khamenei,

[49] “His Eminence, Mr. Sistani:  The Fighting Forces Must not be Involved Against  Peaceful Demonstrations. No Party or Regional or International Party has Right  to Confiscate the Will of Iraqis,” Shafaqna, November 1, 2019. Representative of Ayatollah “Najafi: Our Position on  the Iraqi Demonstrations Is Identical to What It Was Presented Through Friday Sermons in Imam Husayn Shrine,” Al-Hawza News Agency, October   26, 2019.

[50] “A Statement by an Official Source in the Office of His Eminence Regarding Some of What Was published in the Media,” Shafaqana,  November 9, 2019,

[51] “His Eminence Received the Head of the United Nations Mission in Iraq,” Ayatollah Al-Sistani ,  November 11, 2019,

[52] Imam Hussain, “The Supreme Marjaya Announces Its Deep Concern Over the Situation in Basra and Refuses to Shoot Civilians,” September 7, 2018.

[53] “Because of  the Protests Iran Stops Religious Trips to Iraq,” Al-Jazeera Net,  November 3, 2019.

[54] Mohammed al-Sulami, and Muhammad al-Sayyad,  Iran’s Supreme Leadership Usurped Power: Shite Political Controversy Between Arab and Iranian Religious Authorities (Riyadh: The Arabian Gulf Center for Iranian Studies 2017), 21-22.

[55] Tawfiq Al-Saif, Against Tyranny: Shiite Political Jurisprudence during  the Age of Occultation (Beirut: The Arab Cultural Center 1999),  17.

[56] “Message to the Lebanese Revolutionaries,” YouTube, October 21, 2019.

[57] Sheikh Yasser Auda ‘s official page on Facebook, video,  October 17, 2019,

[58] “In the video, Sheikh Auda rejects the use of treason: Peace be upon the protesters,” Janobiah, November 10, 2019,

[59] Yasser Auda, “Why do you Create Sedition Among the Sons  of Single  People?”  posted on his official page on Facebook,

[60] Ibid.

[61] Al-Badeel al-Iraqi alternative, a statement by Sheikh al-Yaqoubi, the leader of the Fadhila party, who flatters  the courageous October uprising, October 31, 2019.

[62] Kamal al-Haydari calls to  overthrow the ruling class in Iraq and shows his solidarity with the demonstrators, posted on YouTube, October 23, 2019,

[63] Muhammad Hassan al-Amin Yahya, “The White Uprising,” Janobia,   November 4, 2019.

[64] He is a Lebanese cleric, born in 1948, and he was the first Secretary-General of Hezbollah, before his defection, and he adopted. positions against the interference of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. He has significant commentary on the political work of Hezbollah.

[65] Friday sermon, November 1, 2019, “And we Were an Opponent Against  the Oppressor, and we Were Assistant to the Oppressed,” YouTube, November 1, 2019.  Regarding his old positions on Iran, see: Beirut Observer, Subhi al-TufaylI,  “Three Countries Ruled by Shiites,”  August 25, 2018,

[66] He is an Iraqi religious marja , born in Karbala in the year 1945. He was a theorist of the Shirazi movement, before the fragmentation of the current  and his  defection from it after the death of Muhammad Mahdi Al-Shirazi. Refer to the CV on the official website of Mr. Muhammad Taqi Al-Madrasi, at this link: and review some of his ideas in: Badr Al-Ibrahim and Muhammad Al-Sadiq, The Shiite Movement in Saudi Arabia, i 1 / The Arabic Network for Research and Publishing 2013 Pp. 86 and onwards.

[67] “Ayatollah Almodarresi Identifies the Most Prominent Causes of the Demonstrations and Calls on Scholars  to Advise the Government and Stand With People,” Al-Hawza News Agency,  October 13, 2019 Al-Hawza News Agency, “Ayatollah Almodarresi: The Need for  Pressuring Forces to put the State on the Right  and Organize the Masses,” October 26, 2019. and “Almodarresi: Piling up  Money and Denying  People Rights Were the Causes  of the Country’s Destruction,” October 13, 2019.

[68], “Ayatollah Almodarresi Reiterates His Support for Peaceful Demonstrations and Warns of Being Influenced by Media of Sedition,” Al-Hawza News Agency, November 10, 2019.

[69] “Despite the Oppression of Shi’a Clerics who Participate in the Movement,” Janobiah, ,November 10, 2019. Review:, “Sheikh Kazem Yassin to the Shiites: It is Forbidden to Hit With a Stick,” Janobiah, October 31, 2019.

[70] “A Statement of His Eminence of Al-Shirazi Marajia on the Recent Demonstrations in Iraq and the Tragic Events That Followed,”  Al-Shirazi Net, 30 Safar 1441 AH.

[71]: “Iranians Demonstrate in Front of the Clergy’s Hawza:  Read in Contexts and Implications,” International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah), August 7, 2018.

[72] Ibid.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Mohsen Kadivar, The Loyalist Government, translated by Mr. Mahdi Muhammad Hassan Al-Amin (Beirut: Intishar al-Arabi Foundation 2015), 11.

[75] Mohamed Hassanein Heikal, The Cannon of the Ayatollah’s Defender (Cairo: Dar Al-Shorouk, 2009), 265.

Mohammad Al-Sayyad
Mohammad Al-Sayyad
A researcher of ideological studies at Rasanah