Pro-government militias are organized armed groups that support governments without being part of the official security apparatus of the respective state. They are often involved in armed conflicts and have considerable influence both on how civilians fare during conflicts and on the outlook for peace. A global overview of the number, strength, and history of such groups has not been available up to the present. With the first-ever global online catalog of pro-government militias, the political scientist Professor Sabine Carey has now placed a comprehensive research tool at the disposal not only of the academic community, but also of the media and interested laypeople.
When, for instance, did the Syrian group Shabihacome into being? Was it already in existence when civil war in Syria erupted? And where does Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps source its weapons? The Militias Guidebook provides information on the characteristics, actions, history, and organizational structures of 504 pro-government militias spread across the globe between 1981 and 2014.
“While rebel groups around the world have been relatively well researched, scholars long paid little attention to pro-government militias,” says Carey, who received one of the prestigious Starting Grants awarded by the European Research Council for her work on conflict research in 2007. “Not much information is available on the groups that operate on the government side and fight alongside governments, but without belonging to the military or the police,” she adds.
To find this information, Carey and her team analyzed media reports from around the world, looking at both major newspapers and local publications. They also searched through reports by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International that frequently report on these types of groups.
The Militias Guidebook is based on the revised Pro-Government Militias Database (PGMD 2.0) that Carey and her team have comprehensively overhauled and expanded. Major scholarly publisher Sage Publications reported on this in January. The powerful echo generated by this announcement shows just how crucial this kind of data is for the research community: Within a scant few days of its publication, the database had already been downloaded more than a hundred times.
Interested parties can find the Militias Guidebook here.
Text: Yvonne Kaul / October 2022