The fatwa affirmed that the popular mobilization forces are not affiliated with a particular party or entity, only with the Iraqi state, that volunteering to fight is to be done through the Iraqi state and not outside of it and that the popular mobilization forces are managed by the state security institutions.
Shiites responded the most strongly, since Sistani is a Shiite leader.
There has been talk of retaliatory actions by some members of the popular mobilization forces in certain areas, namely in Diyala governorate. Shiite residents took revenge on their Sunni neighbors, who had lived with them for years. But as soon as IS took control of the area, some Sunnis joined its ranks and confiscated their Shiite neighbors' properties.
However, Shiite volunteers liberated some Sunni areas, while many Sunnis from Salahuddin joined the popular mobilization forces, including tribes, mainly the Sunni al-Jabour tribe.
This explains the distance Sistani has created between himself and the popular mobilization forces. It is exactly the same as his disengagement from politics. His role through the fatwa consists of prompting the state to support and sponsor the volunteers, and to urge them to be committed to national unity, tolerance and battlefield regulations.
In this regard, while Sistani was endorsing the popular mobilization forces and valuing their sacrifices, he firmly stood against any abuses by them in the areas liberated from IS. On Feb. 13, Sistani issued recommendations that are having the same impact as the fatwa, mainly not to seek revenge and to commit to humanitarian standards during war.