They are called “Shabiha” – ghosts or appearances. The paramilitary force, inofficially established by the president’s inner circle, attacks the government’s opponents and protestors. Brainlessly loyal to Assad, whose head often decorates the men’s tatood and stereoid pumped arms, they are terribly free in their ways of daunting, terrifying and annihilating protestors and opponents.
Shabiha that previously was the name of a smuggling ring in the west of Syria turned into a violent milicia short after the protests’ start in 2011. The paramilitaries are a strategy to get rid of inconvenient opponents without official involvment of the state. The “dirty work” should be done by groups with which Assad still officially contests any connection. One can call it “outsourcing repression”.
They murder, torture, rape and beat up civilians, even children. As horrible as the acts of these so called appearances are, so ridicoulous is their appearance online, posing like popstars, proudly showing their bloated bodies and pictures of their “great leader” Assad.
Shabiha is one of the reasons that lead Syrians to flee their country. See how some of them creatively process their experiences using different kinds of artistic expression.