Features include interactive map, in-depth stories, and more.Download now. »
The week's top five must-sees,
delivered to your inbox.
Shabiha 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.” According to Amnesty International members, 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 allegedly "outsourced" repression during the mass demonstrations of the Arab Spring. Locals in Syria claim they have performed ethnic cleansing. (via Freebase)