Jaysh al-Sha'bi

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Al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi
(الجيش الشعبي)
Participant in Syrian civil war
Active 2012 - present
Area of operations Syria
Strength 100,000 (September 2012)[1][2]
Allies Syria Syrian Armed Forces
Syrian Resistance
Opponents Syria Free Syrian Army
Al-Nusra Front

Al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi (Arabic: الجيش الشعبيal-Jaysh ash-Sha'bī, People's Army) is a militia in Syria that supports the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war.[3] According to the United States, it operates under the control of the Syrian government.[3] It is made up mostly of civilian volunteers and was created out of the various government loyalist militias in Syria. The vast majority of its members are Alawis and Shias.[4][5]


The correct name is "al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi". "Jaysh al-Sha'bi" is a wrong form that is against the rules of Arabic grammar. The first part of the Arabic name is romanized as either Jaysh or Jaish and the second part as Sha'bi, Sha'abi, Shaabi or Shabi. The exact translation is "Popular Army".

The force has also been referred to as the "Popular Army",[3] "People's Army",[3] "National Defense Force" (NDF)[5] and "National Defense Army" (NDA).[6] However, it is unclear whether al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi and the NDF/NDA is the same organization.


The Syrian Ba'ath Party has used paramilitary forces since taking power in 1963, its institutional paramilitaries was named "Jaysh al-Sha‘bi" by the mid-1980s, and included an estimated 100,000 members as of 2011.[2]

According to the US, al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi was created and is maintained by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards(IRGC)-Quds Force and the Shia Islamic militant group Hezbollah, who provide it with money, weapons, equipment and training.[3][7] In September 2012 IRGC commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari said it the militia has 50,000 members,[2][4][4] was modeled after the Iranian Basij militia[3] and a Hezbollah fighter from Beirut said that Hezbollah was helping it with strategy.[4][5] adding that although Iran and Hezbollah's main goal is to support the Syrian government, they plan to use al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi to "preserve their interests" if the government falls.[4] In December 2012, the U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi pursuant to Executive Order 13582, which blocks the property of the Syrian government.[2][3][8]

Al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi has conducted operations against the rebels, both alone and with the Syrian Army and security forces.[3][7] It is especially active in Damascus, Aleppo,[3] Homs and Hama.[5] A Homs native described militia members as reporting to local leaders who co-ordinate with the Syrian Army and security forces.[5] Much of the militia's equipment is from the Syrian Army, and it includes heavy weaponry such as tanks and artillery.[5] A resident of Latakia said that militia members "get security IDs or assignment papers so they don't get stopped or searched at checkpoints".[5]

On 21 January 2013, a rebel car bomb exploded outside a building used by al-Jaysh al-Sha'bi in Al-Salamiyah. A Syrian opposition group claimed that 30 militiamen and a number of civilians were killed.[9]

See also[edit]