Muqtada al-Sadr followed in the footsteps of his father the late Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr [Sofia Barbarani/Al Jazeera]

Baghdad, Iraq – On a recent morning, at the foot of a towering building known as the Turkish restaurant in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, a man dressed in black rallied a small audience, calling for an end to the United States‘ presence in Iraq.

“Blue caps against American interference,” the crowd clamoured, wielding batons and metal rods underneath a clear, blue sky.

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The men – nicknamed the blue caps after their signature headgear – are die-hard supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Iraqi Shia leader known for his mercurial temper and large, cult-like following which includes a well-armed militia.

“Blue, because it’s the colour of peace,”

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