Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has issued a decree, ordering the formal inclusion of pro-government fighters from the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in the Arab country’s security forces.
According to the decree announced on Thursday, the volunteer forces, better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, will be granted many of the same rights as members of the military.
The decree added that Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters will be given equivalent salaries to those members of the military under the Ministry of Defense’s control.
They will also be subject to the laws of military service, and will gain access to military institutes and colleges.
The fighters have played a major role in the liberation of Daesh-held areas to the south, northeast and north of the Iraqi capital Baghdad, ever since the terrorists launched an offensive in the country in June 2014.
Iraq has repeatedly condemned allegations of sectarian nature against Hashd al-Sha’abi.
In December 2016, Baghdad warned Riyadh of the ramifications of meddling in Iraq’s internal affairs, after Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Iraq cannot realize unity with the presence of the Popular Mobilization Units.
Saudi Arabia has repeatedly labeled the PMU, which incorporates volunteer forces from different Iraqi factions and tribes, as a Shia movement and called for the dismantling of the group.
The Iraqi parliament on November 26, 2016 approved a law giving full legal status to Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters. It recognized the PMU as part of the national armed forces, placed the volunteer fighters under the command of the prime minister, and granted them the right to receive salaries and pensions like the regular army and police forces.