Iraqi officials and citizens denounced the parade held by members of the Jaish al-Mahdi militia in Baghdad on Thursday (May 26th), describing it as a provocation and in defiance of the democratic system in Iraq.
"Militias in general represent a threat to the democratic system in Iraq, the law and the Iraqi Constitution, and this is rejected by the Iraqis of different sects and ethnicities," said Ezzet al-Shahbander, a member of parliament from the State of Law Coalition.
"Provoking the situation in Iraq is totally unacceptable, because the slogans raised during the Jaish al-Mahdi parade were threatening to other Iraqi sects, which was an unjustified provocation against those communities in Iraq. It also incites sedition," he told Mawtani on Friday.
On Thursday, thousands of militia members marched in a parade along Fallah Street in Sadr City, chanting anti-Iraqi government slogans.
Iraqi security forces were forced to close many streets in the city because of the parade and imposed a security cordon around the area to avert any security incidents.
"Iraqis want to live in peace and calm in a state of law, not a state exhausted by militias and armed groups," Shahbander said. "Any vital issue related to Iraq can be solved peacefully and through consensus, without threats or unnecessary parades."
The parade caused a number of government service offices, shops and bakeries to close. Elementary schools in some neighborhoods in eastern Baghdad postponed final examinations. The parade also brought a halt to government projects such as resurfacing roads and constructing drinking water networks.
Alya Nusaif, spokesperson for al-Iraqiyah bloc in the Iraqi parliament, said, "Parades undermine the prestige of the state and the democratic system in Iraq before the entire world."
She told Mawtani that the Jaish al-Mahdi parade did not serve the interests of the Iraqi people, and "all must place the interests of Iraq above everything else".
Mahma Khalil, spokesperson for the Kurdish Alliance in the parliament, said the parade only creates conflict among the different Iraqi sects.
"The show of force will not serve the political process in Iraq at all. It gives a chance for armed groups to stage a similar parade, which would create chaos in the country," Khalil told Mawtani. "In the end, these parades do not reinforce the idea of a free, civil state ruled by the law."
In Iraqi streets, a feelings of anger prevailed among citizens. Many Baghdad residents boycotted the parade, preferring to remain at home rather than go out and support Jaish al-Mahdi.
"The militias should understand that they are a bunch of failures who could not rule Iraq, the land of civilization and knowledge," said Hazem Ali, 42, a taxi driver. "Threats to use force will no longer lead to any results because all Iraqis have become totally aware that submitting to militias would mean their slow death and backwardness."
Amer al-Tamimi, 36, who owns a clothing shop close to Sadr City, said he closed his shop out of fear of the gathering militia members.
"We understand very well that they do not wish us well. But they should know that they represent no one but themselves," he said. "They made us lose business and delayed our work. We have seen from them nothing but bad things."
Housewife Ruya Ali said, "The militias call for evil and a return to violence, while we call for peace and a prosperous future. For that, we could never meet with them in the same street."