This article sets out to explain how the Sadrist movement targeted ex-combatant communities in their communication strategy to mobilize the Mahdi Army. The Mahdi Army was established by the Sadrist movement under the guidance of Muqtada al-Sadr in 2003. This article proposes that post-2003 Iraq experienced a demobilisation crisis, fostering segments of ex-combatant communities whose ingrained repertoires were prone to paramilitarisation. Contrary to many other paramilitary organisations around the world, the Mahdi Army was formalized through a bottom-up process by non-state actors, and only at a later stage was the Mahdi Army explicitly co-opted by the Iraqi state in 2005. The overarching argument of this article is that social networks with specific assets, skills and history are more vulnerable to paramilitarisation by entrepreneurs of violence than various other networks.
Taha, A. (2019). Turning ex-combatants into Sadris: Explaining the emergence of the Mahdi army. Middle Eastern Studies, 55(3), 357–373. https://doi.org/10.1080/00263206.2018.1550078