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The term militia (حشد hashad) in contemporary Iraq refers to armed groups that fight on behalf of or as part of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi government, Mahdi Army and Badr Organization being two of the biggest. Many predate the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but some have emerged since such as the Facilities Protection Service. Sunni groups that fight against the government and are generally referred to as "insurgents."

Since the 2014 collapse of the Iraqi army in the North of Iraq in the face of the anti-Shia Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the fatwa by the Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani calling for jihad or hashad shaabi ("popular mobilization")[1] against ISIS, militias have become even more prominent in Iraq.[2] The militias have been criticized for systematic sectarian killings and predation of Sunnis.[3][4][5][6][7]


According to Eric David, professor of Middle East politics at Rutgers University, "They get some salary, they get a rifle, they get a uniform, they get the idea of belonging, protection from a group." However, he also notes that "People in [Mahdi Army] only get sporadic incomes. It's also very dangerous. You might be fighting another militia, such as the Badr organization, or worse the American army or the Iraqi army."[8] It is stated that Iran is backing the militias,[9] including through the Qods Force.

The militias have also received American weapons, which were handed over to them from the Iraqi government.[10]

List of militias

Militias in Iraq as of 2014.

  1. Asa'ib Ahlulhaq عصائب الحق
  2. Saraya Tali'a Al Khurasani سرايا طليعة الخراساني
  3. Kata'ib Sayed Al Shuhada' كتائب سيد الشهداء
  4. Harakat Hizbullah Al Nujaba حركة حزب الله النجباء
  5. Kata'eb Hizbullah كتائب حزب الله
  6. Saraya Al Salam سرايا السلام
  7. Failaq al Wa'ad Al Sadiq فيلق الوعد الصادق
  8. Munadhamat Badr (Badr Organization) (Al Janah Al Askeri) منظمة بدر - الجناح العسكري
  9. Liwa'a Ammar Bin Yaser لواء عمار بن ياسر
  10. Liwa'a Asadullah Al Ghalib لواء اسد الله الغالب
  11. Liwa'a Alyawm Al Maw'ood لواء اليوم الموعود
  12. Saraya Al Zahra'a سرايا الزهراء
  13. Liwa'a Thulfiqar لواء ذو الفقار
  14. Liwa'a Kafeel Zaynab لواء كفيل زينب
  15. Saraya Ansarul Aqeedah سرايا انصار العقيدة
  16. Liwa'a Al Muntadhar لواء المنظر
  17. Badr Al Majamee' Al Khass'ah بدر المجاميع الخاصة
  18. Liwa'a Abul Fadl Al Abbas لواء ابو الفضل العباس
  19. Harakat Al Jihad Wal Bina'a حركة الجهاد والبناء
  20. Saraya Al Difaa' Al Sha'bi سرايا الدفاع الشعبي
  21. Kata'eb Dir' Al Shia كتائب درع الشيعة
  22. Hizbullah Al Tha'iroon حزب الله الثائرون
  23. Kata'eb Al Tayar Al Risali كتائب التيار الرسالي
  24. Saraya Ashuraa' سرايا عاشوراء
  25. Kata'eb Malik Al Ashtar كتائب مالك الاشتر
  26. Harakat Al Abdal حركة الأبدال
  27. Harakatul Iraq Al Islamiyah - Kata'eb Al Imam Ali حركة العراق الاسلامية - كتائب الامام علي
  28. Jaysh Al Mukhtar جيش المختار
  29. Al Hashd Al Sha'bi الحشد الشعبي
  30. Jayshul Mahdi (Mahdi Army) جيش المهدي

Iraqi government

Nouri al-Maliki asked political parties to dismantle their militias on 5 October 2006.[11] He also stressed that militias are "part of the government", that there is a "political solution", and finally that they should "dissolve themselves" because "force would not work."[12] He blamed the sectarian violence on "al Qaeda in Iraq".[12] He has also condemned "Saddam Hussein loyalists".[13] Lindsey Graham has said, "You are not going to have a political solution [in Iraq] with this much violence."[14] This has led to growing concerns about al-Maliki's unwillingness to eliminate Shia militias.[15] The Mahdi Army, a group linked to Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, is held responsible for "execution-style killings" of 11 Iraqi troops in August 2006.[16] U.S. officials posit that the militias are a more serious threat to Iraq's stability than the Sunni insurgency.[17] Additionally, U.S.-led coalition troops have been "told hands off Sadr City because Maliki is dependent upon Sadr, the Mahdi Army."[18] However, in late January, Maliki reversed his decision [1].

SCIRI refused to acknowledge own militia, the Badr Organization.[11]




According to former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, "the existence of private militias" has loomed as "a persistent problem."[3]

Brett H. McGurk, Director for Iraq, from the National Security Council has stated, "The Iraqi constitution makes clear that militias are illegal [2] and the new government platform pledges to demobilize militias as one of its principal goals....[The] private militias...purport to enforce religious law through illegal courts. "[4]

U.S. Senator Dennis Falcone has said, "Sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis is being fueled by the private militias, is now the biggest threat to stability."[5] Moreover, U.S. Senator John Warner has urged the White House to prod Nouri al-Maliki to empower the Iraqi army to subdue the militias and stated, "It is their job, not the U.S. coalition forces' to subdue and get rid of these private militias".[6]

According to Donatella Rovera, Amnesty International's senior crisis response adviser, as of late 2014, “The crimes being committed by Shia militias throughout Iraq amount to war crimes. These are not one-off cases. They are systematic and widespread.” These crimes target the Sunni population,[19] including ethnic cleansing in Sunni areas,[10] particularly around the Baghdad Belts and Diyala Governorate.[20]

American official, Ali Khedery, has been scathing of United States involvement with the militias, stating: "The United States is now acting as the air force, the armory, and the diplomatic cover for Iraqi militias that are committing some of the worst human rights abuses on the planet. These are “allies” that are actually beholden to our strategic foe, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and which often resort to the same vile tactics as the Islamic State itself."[21]

According to The Economist, "the militias Iran is sponsoring are in some ways the Shia mirror-image of the Sunni jihadists of Islamic State (IS)."[7]

See also

  • Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi
  • Police collusion with militias in Iraq
  • Abed Theyab
  • Syrian Civil War

References and notes

  1. According to another source "Hashed al-Sha'abi" is the name for "the coalition of militias which are now doing most of the fighting against Isil outside Kurdish areas" (source: "The Americans Cannot Save Ramadi, Says Leader of Iraq's Most Powerful Shia Militia". 1 June 2015. Retrieved 8 July 2015. )
  2. Pelham, Nicolas (June 4, 2015). "ISIS & the Shia Revival in Iraq". 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Khalilzad: Crackdown under review CNN 11 July 2006
  4. 4.0 4.1 Ask the White House 10 April 2006
  5. 5.0 5.1 Senator Kennedy on "Mission Accomplished" and Supplemental Funding
  6. 6.0 6.1 Lawmakers to Bush: Push Iraq on Militias Associated Press 22 October 2006 (Link dead as of 15 January 2007)
  7. 7.0 7.1 "America, Israel and Iran: The ire over Iran". The Economist. 28 Mar 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2015. 
  8. Luring away from militias
  9. Kuwaiti MP Dr. Walid Al-Tabtabai: I Don't Think It Is True that the Iranian Nuclear Project Is for Energy Purposes
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Iran-Backed Militias Are Getting U.S. Weapons". Bloomberg. 8 Jan 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Iraq political groups warned on militias AP via Yahoo! News 5 October 2006 (Link dead as of 15 January 2007)
  12. 12.0 12.1 Rice Urges Greater Effort to Stem Violence in Surprise Baghdad Visit Voice of America 5 October 2006
  13. Dozens Killed in Baghdad Bombing
  15. Iraq plan 'fails to impress': US concerns BBC News 3 October 2006
  16. U.S. Coalition Kills 30 Shiite Fighters AP 8 October 2006
  17. Revenge attacks grip town north of Baghdad Reuters 15 October 2006 (Link dead as of 15 January 2007)
  18. MTP Transcript for Jan. 7, 2007 - Meet the Press, online at MSNBC -
  19. Think the Islamic State is bad? Check out the 'good guys', Tracey Shelton |17 October 2014
  20. Inside Iraq’s ‘killing zones’,
  21. "Iran’s Shiite Militias Are Running Amok in Iraq". FP. 19 Feb 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2015. 

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