Although some Hashd groups existed before 2014, Al-Hashd al-Sha’abi is conventionally understood to have been created in response to the fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani in defence of Iraq against IS in June 2014.
For a useful analysis of the evolution of the Hashd, compare: Rudolf, I., From battlefield to ballot box: Contextualising the rise and evolution of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Units, London: King’s College (ICSR), 2018; for the current state of affairs of the Hashd in organisational terms: Knights, M., How the U.S. Government Should Think About Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, The Washington Institute, 2019, online.
See for instance the ‘PMF Pulse’ map on ‘Reported PMF military camp locations’ of May 2019 (in the authors’ possession).
This paper benefited from six key informant interviews with senior Hashd commanders between 3 and 5 March 2019 in Kirkuk, Tuzkhurmatu and Amerli. We owe a particular debt of gratitude to the IRIS research team at the American University of Iraq in Sulaymaniya for enabling these interviews.
On 1 July 2019, Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi reinvigorated governmental attempts to establish greater control over Hashd forces by issuing a decree that calls for full military integration by stripping original unit names away, closing Hashd local military basis as well as economic offices, and foregoing any links between armed groups and political parties. See: link (accessed 9 July 2019). Similar efforts preceded this decree, which was widely seen as the result of the combined pressure of the US and (a) Friday sermon(s) from Grand Ayatollah Al-Sistani.
This paper is part of Clingendael’s Levant research programme that examines the impact of hybrid coercive organisations – armed actors that simultaneously compete and cooperate with the state – on state development. Its publications are available here: link.
Our methodology can be found here (pdf). It describes how we operationalised key concepts, tracked sources and selected groups. Short notes discussing our methodological choices and issues as they arose during the research process can be downloaded here (pdf) for January–September 2017 and here (pdf) for February–May 2018.
We focus on seven groups: a) Asaib ahl al-Haq; b) Abbas Combat Division (ACD); c) Tribal Mobilization Forces (TMF); d) Badr Corps; e) Saraya al-Salam; f) Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS); and g) Kataib Hezbollah. However, after a decade of armed groups influencing Iraqi state institutions, the ‘boundaries of membership’ between such groups and the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) are no longer clear-cut. For example, elements of the Iraqi federal police employ many Badr cadres. This paper does not explore factions and partisan influences within the ISF.
Ezzeddine, N., M. Sulz and E. van Veen, From soldiers to politicians: The Al-Hashd al-Sha’abi on the march, The Hague: Clingendael, 2018; see also: Ezzeddine, N. and E. van Veen, Power in perspective: Four key insights into Iraq’s Al-Hashd al-Sha’abi, The Hague: Clingendael, 2018.