The People’s Mobilization (Arabic: الحشد الشعبي al-Hashd al-Shaabi), also known as the National Mobilization (الحشد الوَطنيّ al-Hashd al-Watani), and as the Popular Mobilization Forces/Units/Committee (PMF/PMU/PMC), is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization composed of some 40, almost exclusively Shiite. The People’s Mobilization was formed for deployment against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The organization was formed by uniting existing forces under the “People’s Mobilization Committee” of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior in June 2014.
With regard to the official native name, the Arabic word الشعبي (al-shaabi) translates as “people’s” or “popular”, as referred to the people; the Arabic word الحشد (al-hashd) translates as “mobilization”, as in the group of people mobilized or the process of mobilization.
The PMF were formed by the Iraqi government on 15 June 2014 after Marja’ Ali al-Sistani’s fatwa on “righteous jihad” on 13 June. The fatwa called for defending Baghdad, and to participate in the counter-offensive against the Islamic State, following the Fall of Mosul on 10 June 2014. The forces brought together a number of Shi’ite forces, most of which receive direct support from the Iraqi government. The forces would be to fall under the umbrella of the state’s security services and within the legal frameworks and practices of the Ministry of Interior. The Popular Mobilization Forces have made a fundamental difference on the battlefield and achieved major success.
The strength of the Popular Mobilization Forces around Tikrit are believed to be about 20,000 engaged militiamen, while the grand total ranges are from 60,000 – 90,000 to 100,000 – 120,000 armed men, including Sunni fighters.
The Popular Mobilization Forces consist of both new volunteers and pre-existing forces, which have been grouped within the umbrella organization formally under the control of the Ministry of Interior Popular Mobilization Units directorate. Among these forces there are the Peace Companies, formerly known as the Mahdi Army, Kata’ib Hezbollah, Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada, Kata’ib al-Imam Ali, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr Organization.
The chairman of the Popular Mobilization Committee in the Iraqi government is Falih al-Fayyadh, who is also the National Security Adviser. The PMF are allegedly led on the battlefields by Jamal Jaafar Mohammed, also known as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the head of Kata’ib Hezbollah, but the chain of command runs through pre-existing leaders, other people in charge of the PMF include: Qais al-Khazali, commander of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and Hadi Al-Amiri, the chief of the Badr Organization. According to The New York Times, such organizational autonomy may present a challenge to the consolidation of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s authority.
Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered on April 7, 2015 that the Popular Mobilization Forces be placed under the direct command of the prime minister’s office.