University of Mannheim: World’s first online global handbook on government-affiliated militias

Pro-government militias are organized armed groups that support the government but are not part of the official state armed forces. Whether in the Balkans, Afghanistan or many Arab countries, they are often involved in armed conflicts and have a significant impact on the situation of the civilian population and the prospects for peace in conflict regions. A global overview of the number, strength and history of such groups has so far been lacking. With the world’s first global online directory of militias close to the government, the Mannheim political scientist Prof. Sabine Carey, PhD, provides a comprehensive research tool – not only for science, but also for the media and the interested public.

For example, when did the Syrian Shabiha group form? Did this exist before the Syrian civil war? And where does the Iranian Revolutionary Guard get its weapons from? How long has this group existed and how does it relate to the civilian population in the country? The guidebook provides information on the characteristics, behavior, history and organization of 504 pro-government militias around the world between 1981 and 2014.

“While rebel groups are relatively well researched worldwide, pro-government militias have long been ignored by science,” states Carey, who received one of the renowned Starting Grants from the European Research Council in 2007 for her work on conflict research. “There is little information about the groups that work and fight with the government that are not military or police,” Carey said.

To find the information, Carey and her team analyzed media reports from around the world – major newspapers but also local publications. In addition, they searched reports from human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, which frequently report on such groups, as well as country-specific academic studies.

The Guidebook is based on the revised database of the Pro-Government Militias (PGMD 2.0), which Carey’s team has completely renewed and expanded. The renowned specialist publisher Sage Publications reported on this in January. The great response shows how great the need for data of this type is in the scientific community: Just a few days after the database was published, it was downloaded more than a hundred times.

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