||This article needs additional citations for verification. (February 2013)|
|Participant in the Syrian civil war|
|Leaders||Namir al-Assad (Shabiha Leader)
Zaino Berri † (Aleppo city Leader)
|Allies||Syrian Armed Forces|
|Opponents||Free Syrian Army|
|Battles/wars||Battle of Aleppo (2012)
2011–2012 Damascus clashes
Battle of Tremseh
Rif Dimashq offensive
Shabiha (North Levantine Arabic: شبيحة šabbīḥa , pronounced [ʃabˈbiːħa]; also romanized Shabeeha or Shabbiha ; loosely translated "apparitions") are groups of armed men in civilian clothing who act in support of the Ba'ath Party government of Syria, led by the Al-Assad family. The shabiha have attacked Syrian opposition protesters and rebels during the Syrian civil war. The Syrian opposition, several foreign governments, and human rights groups all state that the shabiha are a tool of the government for cracking down on dissent. Syria's National Organization for Human Rights has stated that some of the shabiha are mercenaries. Shabiha militia are also accused of stealing Roman antiquities and selling them on the black market in Syria and Lebanon.
According to reports, the shabiha are government loyalist gangs made up of Alawites; the Muslim sect to which Bashar al-Assad and most of his government belongs. However, some "shabiha" operating in Aleppo have been reported to be Sunni Muslims. According to the Arab Organization for Human Rights, those identified as shabiha include not only local criminal gangs, but "members of the security forces in civilian clothes, informants or simply unemployed and impoverished youths.” The shabiha have been active in efforts to repress the opposition in the Syrian civil war and are similar to Baltagiya of Egypt, the Balatija of Yemen and the Basiji of Iran—gangs to which regimes "outsourced" repression during the mass demonstrations of the Arab Spring. Locals in Syria claim they have performed ethnic cleansing.
In 2012, the Assad regime created the Jaysh al-Sha'bi; a more organized, official militia with a central leadership. Iran and Hezbollah were allegedly the driving force behind its creation. As with the shabiha, the vast majority of Jaysh al-Sha'bi members are Alawite and Shi'ite volunteers.
Before the Syrian civil war 
According to Shabiha privately interviewed by The Star, the Shabiha were established in the 1980s by Namir al-Assad, President Hafez al-Assad's cousin, and Rifaat al-Assad, the former president's brother. They were originally concentrated in the Mediterranean region of Syria around Latakia, Banias and Tartous, where they allegedly benefited from smuggling through the ports in the area. The shabiha, who were named for the Arabic word for ghost or for the old 1994 Mercedes S600 class model that was popular for its smuggling sized trunk and was called the Shabah, were known in Syria[by whom?] as Alawi ganglords. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, they smuggled food, cigarettes and commodities, subsidized by the government, from Syria into Lebanon and sold them for a massive profit, while luxury cars, guns and drugs were smuggled in reverse from Lebanon up the Bekaa Valley and into Syria's state controlled economy.
The shabiha gangs, who each had loyalty to different members of the extended Assad family, were untouchable and operated with impunity from the local authorities. They gained notoriety in the 1990s for the brutal way they enforced their protection rackets in Latakia and were noted for their cruelty and blind devotion to their leaders. By the mid 1990s, they had gotten out of hand, and President Hafez Assad had his son Basil Assad clamp down on them, which he did successfully. In 2000, when Bashar Assad came to power, they were apparently disbanded, but following the uprising that began in March 2011, the shabiha gangs, which evolved into the shabiha militias, were again approved by Assad's government.
Syrian civil war 
During the Syrian civil war, the shabiha have been accused by Syrian locals and the United Nations of attacking and killing protesters. In March 2011, activists reported that Shabiha drove through Latakia firing at protesters in cars armed with machine guns, and then later of taking up sniper position on rooftops and killing up to 21 people. It was reported by local activists that on 18 and 19 April that the shabiha and security forces killed 21 protesters in Homs.
In May, Foreign Affairs reported that the shabiba joined the Fourth Division and attacked civilians in the cities of Banias, Jableh, and Latakia." A month later in June, witnesses and refugees from the northwestern region said that the shabiha have reemerged during the uprising and were being used by the Syrian government to carry out "a scorched earth campaign [...] burning crops, ransacking houses and shooting randomly." The Washington Post reported a case in which four sisters were allegedly raped by shabiha members.
In June 2012, shabiha members received up to $130 a day for cracking down on protesters. Many shabiha were described by locals as having shaved heads, thin beards and white trainers. It was also reported by Syrian locals that some elements in the Shabiha were contemplating plans to clear Sunni Muslim villages from the Alawi northwest in the hopes of creating an easily defendable rump state. One militiaman said he was ready to kill women and children to defend his friends, family and president: "Sunni women are giving birth to babies who will fight us in years to come, so we have the right to fight anyone who can hurt us in the future".
In July, a captured alleged shabibha member admitted to raping and looting and murder, stating that it was for "money and power".
Alleged role in Houla massacre 
On May 25, 2012, 108 people, including 49 children, were killed in two opposition-controlled villages in the Houla Region of Syria, a cluster of villages north of Homs. While a small proportion of the deaths appeared to have resulted from artillery and tank rounds used against the villages, the U.N. later announced that most of the massacre's victims had been "summarily executed in two separate incidents", and that witnesses affirmed that the Shabiha were the most likely perpetrators. Townspeople described how Shabiha, from Shia/Alawite villages to the south and west of Houla (Kabu and Felleh were named repeatedly), entered the town after shelling of the ground for several hours. According to one eyewitness, the killers had written Shia slogans on their foreheads. The U.N. reported that "entire families were shot in their houses", and video emerged of children with their skulls split open. Others had been shot or knifed to death, some with their throats cut.
The fifteen nations of the U.N. Security Council unanimously condemned the massacre, with Russia and China agreeing to a resolution on the Syrian civil war for the first time. The U.S., U.K., and eleven other nations–the Netherlands, Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Spain, Bulgaria, Canada and Turkey–jointly expelled Syrian ambassadors and diplomats.
Alleged role in Al-Qubair massacre 
Another massacre was reported by local villagers and activists to have taken place in the Syrian settlement of Al-Qubair on June 6, 2012, only two weeks after the killings at Houla. According to BBC News, Al-Qubair is a farming settlement inside the village of Maarzaf.
According to activists, 78 people were killed, many of them women and children. The day after the massacre, UNSMIS observers attempted to enter Al-Qubair to verify the reports, but were fired upon and forced to retreat. Victims were reportedly stabbed and shot by shabiha forces loyal to the government of Bashar al-Assad, according to the victim's families.
In the coastal region, the group is reportedly led by Fawaz al-Assad and Munzer al-Assad, first cousins of President Assad. Another source, Mahmoud Merhi, head of the Arab Organization for Human Rights, has been quoted as saying that "most Syrians view" the Shabiha as "operating without any known organization or leadership." Sunni and Alawite businessmen who are protecting their own interests in the country are alleged to be paying the groups.
See also 
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- Razzouk, Nayla; Alexander, Caroline (1 June 2011). "Syrian Thugs Are Assad’s Tool in Protest Crackdown, Groups Say". Bloomberg Businessweek. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
- "Houla eyewitness: 'They had no mercy'". BBC News. 28 May 2012. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
- Holmes, Oliver (2011-08-15). "Assad's Devious, Cruel Plan to Stay in Power By Dividing Syria—And Why It's Working". The New Republic. Retrieved 2012-05-29.
- Oweis, Khaled Yacoub (4 May 2011). "Analysis: Assad retrenches into Alawite power base". Reuters. Retrieved 29 May 2012. "Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies"
- "Uprising finally hits Syria's "Silk Road" city". MSNBC. Reuters. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.[dead link]
- Shabiha Militia Member Tells It Like It Is[dead link]
- Revealed: Syria's steroid-mad 'Ghost' killers who keep Assad in power by slaughtering women and children
- "Iran and Hezbollah build militia networks in Syria, officials say". The Guardian. 12 February 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2013.
- "Pro-Assad militia now key to Syrian government’s war strategy". Miami Herald. 19 February 2013. Retrieved 27 February 2013
- Inside Syria’s shabiha death squads - thestar.com
- Michael Peel and Abigail Fielding-Smith (2 June 2012). "Shoes Give Clue to Houla Assailants". The Financial Times. Retrieved 2 June 2012.
- Adrian Blomfield (27 March 2011). "Syria: feared militia kills up to 21 people as protests continue". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
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- Gul Tuysuz (21 June 2011). "Syrian men promise to marry women who were raped". The Washington Post. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
- Syria’s conflict: With both barrels | The Economist
- Macleod, Hugh; Flamand, Annasofie (15 June 2012). "Syria: Shabiha Militia Member Tells It Like It Is". NewsHour. PBS. Retrieved 6 July 2012.
- Confessions of an Assad ‘Shabiha’ loyalist: how I raped and killed for £300 a month
- Nebehay, Stephanie (May 29, 2012). "Most Houla victims killed in summary executions: U.N.". Reuters. Archived from the original on May 30, 2012. Retrieved May 29, 2012.
- "Syria crisis: Most Houla victims 'were executed'". BBC News. May 29, 2012. Archived from the original on May 30, 2012. Retrieved May 29, 2012.
- Thomson, Alex (May 30, 2012). "The searing grief of Houla's Survivors". Channel 4 News. Archived from the original on May 30, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
- Stephanie Nebehay (May 29, 2012). "Most Houla victims killed in summary executions: U.N.". Reuters. Retrieved 30 May 2012.
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- Cockburn, Patrick (May 27, 2012). "Exclusive dispatch: Assad blamed for massacre of the innocents". The Independent. Archived from the original on May 27, 2012. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
- "UN condemns Syria over Houla massacre". Al Jazeera. May 27, 2012. Archived from the original on May 28, 2012. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
- MacFarquhar, Neil (May 27, 2012). "U.N. Security Council Issues Condemnation of Syria Attack". The New York Times. (part 1 of article). Archived from the original on May 28, 2012. Retrieved May 27, 2012.
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- agencies. "Executions reported in Syria". Al Jazeera. Archived from the original on May 30, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2012.
- "Syria UN team 'shot at' near Qubair 'massacre site'". BBC News. 7 June 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2012. "Qubair is a small farming settlement inside the Sunni Muslim village of Maarzaf, which lies close to Alawite villages."
- "Syria UN team 'shot at' near Qubair 'massacre site'". BBC News.
- "New 'massacre' reported in Syria's Hama province". BBC News. 7 June 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- "Syria accused of another civilian massacre after government forces kill 80 villagers in Hama province". Daily Mail. 7 June 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
- "New Syria 'Massacre' Claims Emerge From Hama". Sky News. 7 June 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
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- Peter Kellier (pn) (1 June 2012). "Ghosts of Syria:diehard militias who kill in the name of Assad". Guardian.
- United Nations Human Rights Council: Report of the independent international commission of inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (Word Document, 9.16 MB, 102 pages, advance edited version), 15 August 2012, containing numerous findings relating to Shabiha activities