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
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 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. Al- is normally put before both words.

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 aal-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]