In a recorded speech broadcast before tens of thousands of supporters in the streets of Sadr City in Iraq, radical Shi’ite leader Moqtada al-Sadr noted an end to the American occupation is a starting point for “reconstruction and rebuilding.”
The mass rally just north of Baghdad came as Shi’ites were awaiting the end of a mourning period associated with Ashura, a religious festival associated with the killing of Imam Hussein, grandson of Prophet Mohammed, as well as for celebrating withdrawal of occupying forces who left the country ravaged.
“If the last stage was of military and political resistance, the next stage will be that of construction and peace,” Sadr said in the recorded broadcast, according to The West Australian.
Although the Obama administration announced in December it was leaving Iraq as a stable democracy, the country’s infighting has led to daily clashes over its divided political structure, and a recent report suggests the country is falling into a “budding police state.”
“We will regard this occasion as a starting point for Iraq’s reconstruction and rebuilding, and to repair what had been destroyed by occupation, God willing,” said Salah al-Obed, spokesman for Sadr, EuroNews reports.
Sadr called on Shias and Sunnis to unite, setting aside their differences. “Our slogan was, will be and still is that Sunnis and Shi'ites are brothers and we won't sell this country,” he added.