A militia mentality has gripped many Arab states. Today it seems that the regionʹs authoritarian regimes are resorting to methods more commonly associated with gangs and armed clans, says Kuwaiti analyst Shafeeq Ghabra.
These days regimes in the Arab world are increasingly engaging in militia-style operations, which is most evident in the way they eliminate their opponents. They send operatives out to storm their homes, abduct them and hold them captive in unknown locations without any legal basis.
Having secretly seen to the removal of opponents, security forces repeatedly allege that these people were armed and dangerous. But in many cases this does not correspond with the facts. Meanwhile, media and state-controlled trolls and bots on the social networks attack said opponents, critics and intellectuals in a vile, tasteless and racist way.
The defamation of political opponents and dissidents has become part of the official discourse of Arab regimes. They can only remain in power in their present form through repression and manipulation – and by spreading fear.
As a result of this behaviour, many of them have lost every last shred of credibility. This state of affairs is one of the main reasons for the emergence of the "militia mentality" that has eroded government structures in these countries to such an extent that they bear merely a faint resemblance to an actual state.
No state for all citizens
To name just a few examples: the repression in Syria under the Assad regime and the brutal crushing of the revolution are why the revolutionaries began defending themselves with armed force, leading to the formation of various militias.
A look at Iraq shows that the former regime of Saddam Hussein acted in ideological and practical terms like a militia towards all confessions and ethnic groups. This led to the formation of militias among the regime's opponents, later with support from Iran.
The new power elites in Iraq in the post-Saddam era have in turn pursued policies since 2003 that have largely excluded the Sunnis from any political power in the country. This contributed significantly to the emergence of the "IS militia", whose rise and fall brought war and destruction to the region. At the same time, however, armed groups loyal to the regime were also formed, because a state that acts like a militia will encourage imitators not only in the opposition, but also in its own ranks.
Hezbollah as well – itself a tightly organised militia – came into being in a comparable context. The policies of the Lebanese state at first disadvantaged all Shia members of the population in principle, and later the country's Sunni inhabitants.