Popular Committees (al-Lijan al-Sha'biyah) (Syria)

Country: Syria
Details of Formation: In 2012 popular committees emerged as self-defense groups in pro-government neighborhoods.
Details of Termination: At least parts of the popular committees seem to have merged into the “National Defence Force” since end of 2012. However, media reports continue to refer to popular committees until late 2014. In July 2013 and March 2014 news sources reported clashes between the Popular Committees and the regular army. A news source from December 2014 suggests that they remained a PGM.
Purpose: The Popular Committees’ main purpose since its foundation has been to protect their respective local neighborhoods from rebels. Over time, they increasingly assisted regular security forces to control the situation and fight the insurgents. They have become a significant source of reinforcement for the pro-regime forces.
Organisation: In Qamishli, the Popular Committees are under the command of a Syrian MP and Ta’ie Shaykh Muhammad Fares. Another news source mentions that the leader of the Popular Committees was Husayn Shu’ayb. However, he was arrested in July 2013 by Syrian security forces. The PGM receives support by external sponsors in neighboring countries.
Weapons and Training: Members are armed with rifles and handguns. They receive weapons from the Syrian government.
Size: --
Reason for Membership: Most members participate in the Popular Committees to guard their own neighborhoods against insurgents. One news source mentions members of the Ba’th Party participating in these committees; these members are probably motivated by ideological or political motives. The Popular Committees recruited adolescents and children (Human Rights Watch).
Treatment of Civilians: Popular Committees have carried out extrajudicial executions of civilians, including mass killings. They deliberately destroyed and looted the property of suspected opposition members and supporters. The Popular Committees are, alongside other local militias, in charge of the secret detention centres which are affiliated with the Syrian government. Detainees in these centres are subject to severe torture.
Other Information: In Qamishli, members of the Taie tribe have been organized into pro-Assad Popular Committees and are not included as a separate organization.
References: Human Rights Watch. 2014. “‘Maybe We Live and Maybe We Die’. Recruitment and Use of Children by Armed Groups in Syria.” June 22. https://www.hrw.org/report/2014/06/22/maybe-we-live-and-maybe-we-die/recruitment-and-use-children-armed-groups-syria

Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD