Popular Committees (Syria)
|People's Popular Committees
|Participant in the Syrian Civil War|
|Area of operations||from Aleppo to Al-Suwayda Governorate|
|Became||National Defense Force|
|Allies|| Syrian Army
Liwa Abu al-Fadhal al-Abbas
|Opponents|| Free Syrian Army
|Battles and wars||Rif Dimashq offensive
Battle of Aleppo (2012–present)
The Popular Committees (also called Lijan militias; Arabic: اللجان الشعبية al-Lijan al-Sha'biyah, meaning "people's committees") were militias that emerged in Syria during the Syrian Civil War. They originated as neighborhood vigilante groups in the Christian, Druze and Alawi and Shia Muslim quarters of Damascus and elsewhere to prevent the infiltration of Sunni-dominated rebel groups. However, the Popular Committees included a significant but small number of Sunni Muslims as well.
The Popular Committees were reportedly armed by the Syrian government and manned checkpoints around their districts. They were accused by residents of carrying out extrajudicial executions and revenge killings. Reuters quoted a Druze resident of Jaramana: "[The government] say the Lijans help us protect ourselves, but really they just wanted to light the sectarian fuse in Damascus". StrategyPage claimed that the Syrian Army offered weapons to minority communities in contested cities: "if the minorities will form self-defense militias and keep rebels out, the Army will not fire artillery at those neighborhoods". Tony Badran of Now Lebanon commented: "Assad seeks to assemble the minorities around him in order to present himself as the sole and unavoidable interlocutor on behalf of these segments of Syrian society, where he has cultivated loyal patches". The United States has also accused Iran of setting up and training Shia militias in Syria.
In Aleppo, some residents claimed that the Syrian Army organized a Christian militia during fighting there in August 2012. In the Jdeideh quarter, the Christian militia was allegedly the first to fight against rebels. The day after a bombing killed four government officials, including the Greek Orthodox Christian Syrian Minister of Defence, General Dawoud Rajiha, it was reported by residents that at least 200 AK-47s were handed out in a Christian neighborhood of Damascus.
From around mid-2012, hundreds of Popular Committees and other irregular paramilitary groups were merged into what became the National Defence Force, bringing more organisation to the groups and subordinating them within the Syrian security structures.
- "Insight: Minority militias stir fears of sectarian war in Damascus". Reuters. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
- "The Bloody Long Shot". StrategyPage, 14 September 2012.
- Badran, Tony. "The minority strategy". Now Lebanon, 8 September 2012.
- "Militias form as Aleppo clashes stalemate". UPI.com. 2012-07-19. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
- Sherlock, Ruth (2012-09-12). "Syria: Christians take up arms for first time". Telegraph. Retrieved 2013-09-03.
- Dagher, Sam (2012-07-23). "Syrian Conflict Draws In Christians - WSJ.com". Online.wsj.com. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
- Lund, Aron (2013-08-27). "The Non-State Militant Landscape in Syria". CTC Sentinel. Retrieved 2013-08-28.