Shia militias in Iraq fighting Daesh with guns and songs

Published June 7th, 2016 - 05:56 GMT
Popular Mobilization Units in Samarra, Iraq, March 2016 (AFP)
Popular Mobilization Units in Samarra, Iraq, March 2016 (AFP)

Daesh (ISIS) is known for its use of nasheed: Arabic language songs celebrating their military victories and radical Islamic ideology. However, such songs are not limited to the Sunni jihadist tradition. The largely Shia Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq release nasheed as well, and with their recent participation alongside the Iraqi army in the battle for Fallujah against Daesh, their songs continue to gain tens of thousands of views on YouTube.

Popular Mobilization Units nasheed are often released via YouTube, and contain lyrics strongly celebrating the group’s actions. For example, a February 2016 song released by Musa al-Saadi aka ‘Mobilization boy’ opens with an old woman cheering “terrorism will not roll over us” (referring to Daesh) in front of a group of the militia’s fighters. Mobilization boy then calls on Iraq’s men to join the fight against Daesh in the five minute plus number.

Such songs are quite popular. The most popular nasheedappears to be one that says it is from an official Popular Mobilization Units media organ that was released in March 2015. It has over 1.1 million views, and still receives daily comments. In typical fashion, most of the video’s images show the Units’ fighters, tanks, and flags both Iraqi and militia-specific as the singer praises the “freedom” they are fighting for against Daesh on the frontlines.

While most are in Iraqi Arabic, some of the Units' nasheed come from Iran and are in Farsi. An October 2015 nasheed simply entitled “Holy Iranian Popular Mobilization nasheed” calls on Shia and their Sunni allies to be victorious against Daesh. Iran has supported the Popular Mobilization Units since their establishment in 2014.

And some continue to be released as recently as late May in both Arabic and Farsi.

One thing that separates Shia and conservative Sunni nasheed is the use of instruments. Groups like Daesh, and Nusra Front only use male voices and sometimes percussion sounds, whereas the Popular Mobilization Units, Hezbollah and other Shia groups regularly use instruments in the songs.

The Popular Mobilization Units are pro-government militias formed in 2014 to fight Daesh in Iraq. They are participating in the current conflict with Daesh in Fallujah alongside the Iraqi army. While mostly comprised of Shia fighters, they have Sunni, Christians and others as well. Not all is well in their world, though, and they have been accused of torturing Sunni civilians in in the Fallujah area after taking part of it from Daesh.



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