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Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade

NOTE: For prior parts in the Hizballah Cavalcade series you can view an archive of it all here.

Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade

By Phillip Smyth

Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade

All of the various fronts must unite. The organization must form an alliance; it must be a religious party…Everyone must unite in the Party of God, “Hizballah”. Everyone must speak out together. Everyone must rise up together.” – Grand Ayatollah Khomeini, May 13, 1978, speaking in Najaf, Iraq, in response to crackdowns by the Shah of Iran.1

It was a warm evening in early May 2013 when I met-up with a group of friends which included Aaron Zelin, the creator of Jihadology.net. We discussed the possibility of a guest post or me being able to assist with a section dealing with Shi’a jihadism. Since April of that year, I had been posting information on Lebanese Hizballah and other Iraqi Shi’a Islamist groups sending fighters to Syria on Twitter with the hashtag #HizballahCavalcade. We both felt this could be expanded and Aaron gave me the opportunity to put together some posts for the page. Who would have figured it would have grown and changed so much over the past 12 months?

Initially, I thought Hizballah Cavalcade would simply be an “attempt to display available photos of all funerals and martyrdom posters belonging to Shia groups which are fighting in Syria. In addition, funeral, combat, and even music videos belonging to these groups pertaining to the fighting in Syria will also be posted.” At the time, funerals and the imagery associated with them were the main way to gauge involvement. It was also unknown how deep the involvement of Shia Islamist fighters would be in Syria.

As I started to do more research, put together methodologies (which have grown and changed over the year), and truly devoted a higher-level of focus on more networks—particularly those on social media, it became clear that there would be plenty to post about for the page. As the information grew and the situation continued to transform, it became clear that putting “martyrdom announcements” or the funeral videos were simply not enough. Instead, harder analysis, focused on deeper studying of the material(s) and explanation was required with less “data-dump” style posts. As a result, Hizballah Cavalcade grew into a venue where I could put together posts on new organizations, links between the groups, their commanders, weapons systems, camouflage, where they were fighting, the fighters, uploaded combat videos, even the symbolism and language used by these groups.

Syria was also supposed to be the main focus for HC. In most respects it still is, but due to the interconnectedness of many of the forces, it became necessary to expand the scope. Consequently, I started to also focus on where many of the Shia Islamist forces fighting in Syria had originated: Iraq. Narrative development also became increasingly important as it became necessary to explain key elements regarding why a Shia jihad was occurring in Syria.

Recently, in March 2014, I started working on a subseries on Hizballah Cavalcade called “The Pearl and the Molotov” which sought to explain the growing numbers of militant Shia jihadi groups in Bahrain. I had expected to put up around five posts and focus back on Syria. However, the growth, narratives, and importance of the development has yet to stop. The hope for the rest of 2014 (and hopefully 2015) is to continue to offer some other subseries on geographic areas where there is also Shia jihadi activity.

Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade2

Figure 1: I’m still searching for a correlation between Chichen Itza and fallen Shia Islamist fighters.

Hizballah Cavalcade also helped established something else which was far more expansive than simply being a niche series covering Shia Islamist organizations and their battles. The importance of open-source social media and internet-based platforms with this unique primary source information truly came to light. As the broader and at times (unfortunately) intellectually-rigid analytical community learns to deal with this 21st century reality, it is plain to see that the old narrative of, “Well, that’s just social media material” increasingly has little merit.2 As exemplified with a number of new Shia Islamist militias in Syria, their existence was announced to the world via a Facebook page. This neither means that social media sources are the best nor that they should not be used in conjunction with other sources, but their utility and the breadth of information they offer is a true game-changer.

Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade3

Figure 2: Hizballah: the car seat.3

Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade4

Figure 3: A young Hassan Nasrallah washing-up.

Praise & Coverage for Hizballah Cavalcade

Over the past year Hizballah Cavalcade has also gotten some fantastic coverage in the media. Needless to say, it always serves as an ego boost and affirms that the pieces are useful for those following complex situations involving Shia jihadist elements.

Noted Iraq expert Michael Knights, who also wrote a Washington Institute For Near East Policy piece on Shia Islamist fighters in Syria, used HC as a main reference and was kind enough to say HC had, “the best coverage of these issues.”

During the Battle of Qusayr, posted figures on HC of Lebanese Hizballah dead were cited by distinguished journalist Anne Barnard of the New York Times. Since then, Hizballah Cavalcade has been featured, quoted, and cited in pieces by a myriad of top journalists, blogs, newspapers, magazines, and other publications including (but not limited to): The Wall Street Journal, AFP, McClatchy, National Public Radio, Australian Broadcasting, NOW Lebanon, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Foreign Policy, The Huffington Post, The New York Review of Books, USA Today, The Financial Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. Fitting with the maxim that, “80% of what is written has been written before” a number of other publications have recycled (without credit) HC posts into their own pieces.

Additionally, the posts on Hizballah Cavalcade gave me the opportunity to write longer pieces for Foreign Policy and West Point’s CTC Sentinel. There was also the privilege of being able to take part in an “Ask Me Anything” on Reddit. In November 2013 I had the great honor to testify in front of the U.S. House of Representatives regarding Shia Islamist groups fighting in Syria. When jihadism expert Daveed Gartenstein-Ross testified in front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he also gave praise to HC.

Based primarily on a Hizballah Cavalcade piece on the musical narrative of Shia militias in Syria, Aaron Zelin (who addressed Sunni jihadist anasheed) and I were featured in a Washington Post piece. Shia jihadi music has been a long standing and rather esoteric obsession of mine. The ability to post my analysis of this material and see the positive reactions to it is always wonderful.

Quotes and references aside, the private conversations I have with many well-informed and experienced followers of the region always present me and the blog with new insights. I am always happy to share what I have learned with them and others.

Thanks

I try to write pieces I would like to read and my greatest hope is that others find it informative, novel, and able to address specific trends. Not to sound cliché, but those who read my posts are both an inspiration for me and often serve as the push I need to continue writing. There are times when I suffer from a good bout of frustration from certain geopolitical conditions and the analysis which comes out of it. It’s very easy to jump down the ultra-cynical rabbit hole and either stop writing or produce subpar work. Nevertheless, Hizballah Cavalcade’s readers have time and time again challenged me, taught me new things, and most importantly demonstrated that they too wanted to read the material. To my many colleagues and friends, thank you for your kind words, suggestions, assistance, and the encouragement you all have given me.

I promise to continue to write more posts and I truly hope everyone has benefited from reading them.

Thank you all for reading Hizballah Cavalcade! Time to cut the cake.

Happy Birthday Hizballah Cavalcade5

Figure 4: A Kata’ib Hizballah celebration for the martyrdom of one of its members in Syria. (Special thanks to an anonymous reader who sent the photo).

__________________

2 See: J.M. Berger’s comments. Berger is a leading expert and luminary in the field of studying terrorist groups’ utilization of social media: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkhT4DhZzWQ.

Jihadology presents Top Views by Country in 2013

For previous posts in this series see:

Untitled

Jihadology presents Top Posts and Most Video Plays in 2013

For previous posts in this series see:

Top Posts:

al-Qā’idah in the Arabian Peninsula’s al-Malāḥim Media releases Inspire Magazine Issue #8 and #9

What is the Liwa’a Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA)?: Assessing Syria’s Shia “International Brigade” Through Their Social Media Presence

al-Qā’idah in the Arabian Peninsula’s al-Malāḥim Media releases Inspire Magazine Issue #10

al-Qā’idah in the Arabian Peninsula releases its first English language magazine “Inspire”

New English language magazine Azan Issue #1

al-Qā’idah in the Arabian Peninsula’s al-Malāḥim Media releases Inspire Magazine Issue #3

al-Qā’idah in the Arabian Peninsula’s al-Malāḥim Media releases Inspire Magazine Issue #7

al-Qā’idah in the Arabian Peninsula’s al-Malāḥim Media releases Inspire Magazine Issue #5

The Songs of Liwa’a Abu Fadl al-Abbas: Militant Iraqi Shia Music & Syria

al-Qā’idah in the Arabian Peninsula’s al-Malāḥim Media releases Inspire Magazine Issue #2

Kavkaz Center presents a new video message from Dokku Umarov: “Holding a Meeting and Visiting a Base of the Mujāhidīn”

Hizballah’s Multiplying Qusayr Martyrs

The Qusayr Meat Grinder: Hizballah’s Dead From May 20-May 25, 2013

The Lion of Damascus, and Afghans, and Africans! Oh My!: Fighters From Exotic Locales In Syria’s Shia Militias

Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada: Another Supplier of Iraqi Shia Fighters in Syria

Most Video Plays:

al-Manārah al-Bayḍā’ Foundation for Media Production — “Declaration of the Support Front (Jabhat al-Nuṣrah): For the People of Syria from the Mujāhidīn of Syria in the Fields of Jihād”

Ḥarakat al-Shabāb al-Mujāhidīn — “The Path to Paradise- From the Twin Cities to the Land of the Two Migrations”

Jamā’at at-Tawḥīd wa-l-Jihād Fī Gharb Ifrīqīyyā — “Eyes on Azawad #2″

Teḥrīk-ī-Ṭālibān Pākistān — “Blood For Blood”

Ḥarakat al-Shabāb al-Mujāhidīn — “Their Weapons for the Sake of God in the City of ‘Saakow’ in the Islamic State of Juba”

Abū Muslim al-Rāmī — “The Time Is Ripe For the Boarding”

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — “Badri Lashkar #3″

Dokku Umarov — “Holding a Meeting and Visiting a Base of the Mujāhidīn”

Teḥrīk-ī-Ṭālibān Pākistān — “Tears of Joy”

Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shām — “A Window Upon the Land of Epic Battles #25″

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan — “Let’s Prepare Ourselves”

Teḥrīk-ī-Ṭālibān Pākistān and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan — “Supporters of the Prisoners”

Jabhat al-Nuṣrah — “Beginning of the End #6″

Abū Yāsir — “Revolutionaries of Tora Bora”

Teḥrīk-ī-Ṭālibān Pākistān — “Orakzai #3″

Jihadology presents Forthcoming Books of 2014

For previous posts in this series see:

Annie C Higgins – Secession & Identity in Early Islam

Carool Kersten — Islam in Indonesia: The Contest for Society, Ideas and Values

Chiara Formichi and Michael Feener — Shi’ism in South East Asia: ‘Alid Piety and Sectarian Constructions

Ersel Aydinli — Violent Non-State Actors: From Anarchists to Jihadists

Firas Alkhateeb — Lost Islamic History

Gurdofarid Miskinzoda — Narratives of the Life of Muhammad: Redefining Sira Literature

Innes Bowen — Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam

Jonathan Benthall and Robert Lacey — Gulf Charities and Islamic Philanthropy in the ‘Age of Terror’ and Beyond

Kamran Bokhari – Voices of Jihad: New Writings on Radical Islam

Marie Juul Petersen — For Humanity or for the Umma?: Aid and Islam in Transnational Muslim NGOs

Nile Green — Terrains of Exchange: Muslim Encounters from India and Iran to America and Japan

Petter Nesser — Islamist Terrorism in Europe

Raffaello Pantucci – ”We Love Death as You Love Life”: Britain’s Suburban Mujahedeen

Reza Pankhurst — Hizb Ut Tahrir: The Untold History of the Liberation Party

Jihadology presents Think Tank/NGO/Policy/Gov Reports and Articles of 2013, Part X

For previous posts in this series see:

Raffaello Pantucci — British Fighters Joining the War in Syria

Raphaël Lefèvre — The Muslim Brotherhood Prepares for a Comeback in Syria

Samar Batrawi — The Dutch Foreign Fighter Contingent in Syria

Sanaa Karim — Morocco’s Salafis: In Search of a Comprehensive Solution

Shiraz Maher — British Foreign Fighters in Syria

Shiraz Maher and Samar Batrawi — What Jihadists Thought About Boston: ‘Allah Akbar. Let’s Move On’

Soner Cagaptay and Aaron Y. Zelin — Turkey’s jihadi dilemma

START — Violent Jihadism in Real Time: Al-Shabaab’s Use of Twitter

Stephen Tankel — Going Native: The Pakistanization of Al-Qaeda

Stephen Tankel — The militant groups next door

Stig Hansen — Somalia: Rumours Of Al-Shabaab’s Death Are Greatly Exaggerated

Suha Philip Ma’ayeh — Jordanian Jihadists Active in Syria

Thomas Hegghammer — Number of foreign fighters from Europe in Syria is historically unprecedented. Who should be worried?

Thomas Hegghammer — Syria’s Foreign Fighters

Thomas Hegghammer and Aaron Y. Zelin — How Syria’s Civil War Became a Holy Crusade

Thomas Pierret — Implementing ‘Sharia’ in Syria’s Liberated Provinces

Timothy D. Soper — A Message of Felicitation from the Esteemed Amir-Ul-Momineen on the Occasion of Eid: An Analysis of Taliban Eid al-Adha and Eid al-Fitr Statements from 2006 to 2012

Tufail Ahmad — The Next Decade of Jihadism in Pakistan

Vahid Brown — Abu Ghaith and al-Qa’ida’s Dissident Faction in Iran

Vish Sakthivel — Are Morocco’s Political Salafists Committed to Peace?

Vish Sakthivel — Weathering Morocco’s Syria Returnees

Will McCants — Joining the Fray: Salafi Politics After the Arab Spring

Will McCants — Office Space

Will McCants — Salafis After the Coup

Zia Ur Rehman — Pakistani Fighters Joining the War in Syria

Jihadology presents Think Tank/NGO/Policy/Gov Reports and Articles of 2013, Part IX

For previous posts in this series see:

North Caucasus Caucus — Turkish Fighters in Syria, Online and Off

Olivier Roy — Secularism and Islam: The Theological Predicament

Pascale Combelles Siegel — AQIM’s Playbook in Mali

Per Gudmundson — The Swedish Foreign Fighter Contingent in Syria

Pieter Van Ostaeyen — Belgian Jihadis in Syria

Pieter Van Ostaeyen — Dutch Foreign Fighters – Some Testimonials from the Syrian Front

Pieter Van Ostaeyen — Dutch Foreign Fighters – Some Testimonials from Syrian Front #2 

Pieter Van Ostaeyen — Dutch Foreign Fighters – Some Testimonials from the Syrian Front (Part III)

Phillip Smyth — “Divine Victory” in Qusayr: Hizballah Promotes Their Success on the Web

Phillip Smyth — Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq’s Liwa’a Kafeel Zaynab

Phillip Smyth — Breaking Badr: Is Iraq’s Badr Organization Operating In Syria?

Phillip Smyth — Breaking Badr, New Season: Confirmation of Badr Organization’s Involvement in Syria

Phillip Smyth — From Karbala to Sayyida Zaynab: Iraqi Fighters in Syria’s Shi`a Militias

Phillip Smyth — Hizballah Cavalcade: Roundup of Iraqis Killed in Syria, Part 1

Phillip Smyth — Hizballah Cavalcade: Roundup of Iraqis Killed in Syria, Part 2

Phillip Smyth — Hizballah Cavalcade: Roundup of Iraqis Killed in Syria, Part 3

Phillip Smyth — Hizballah Cavalcade: Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada: Another Supplier of Iraqi Shia Fighters in Syria

Phillip Smyth — Hizballah Cavalcade: Liwa’a Zulfiqar: Birth of A New Shia Militia in Syria? 

Phillip Smyth — Hezbollah’s Fallen Soldiers

Phillip Smyth — Hizballah’s Multiplying Qusayr Martyrs

Phillip Smyth — Iran’s Losses In the “35th Province” (Syria), Part 1

Phillip Smyth — Kata’ib Sayyid al-Shuhada Emerges: Updates on the New Iraqi Shia Militia Supplying Fighters to Syria

Phillip Smyth — Liwa’a ‘Ammar Ibn Yasir: A New Shia Militia Operating In Aleppo, Syria 

Phillip Smyth — Liwa’a al-Imam al-Hasan al-Mujtaba: A Shia Militia Fighting in Rif Dimashq/Ghouta

Phillip Smyth — Qusayr Meat Grinder: Hizballah’s Dead From May 20-May 25

Phillip Smyth — Sariyya al-Tali’a al-Khurasani: A New Combat-Tested Shia Militia in Syria

Phillip Smyth — The Badr Organization’s Syrian Expeditionary Force: Quwet al-Shahid Muhammed Baqir al-Sadr

Phillip Smyth — The Lion of Damascus, and Afghans, and Africans! Oh My!: Fighters From Exotic Locales In Syria’s Shia Militias

Phillip Smyth — The Songs of Liwa’a Abu Fadl al-Abbas: Militant Iraqi Shia Music & Syria

Phillip Smyth — What is the Liwa’ Abu Fadl al-Abbas?: Assessing Syria’s Shia “International Brigade” Through Social Media Presence

Jihadology presents Think Tank/NGO/Policy/Gov Reports and Articles of 2013, Part VIII

For previous posts in this series see:

Mark Youngman — Backgrounder on the Mujahideen of the Caucasus and the Levant

Mark Youngman — Book Review of “Foreign Fighters: Transnational Identity in Civil Conflicts”

Mark Youngman — The North Caucasus Insurgency’s Syrian Balancing Act

Matthew Levitt — Hizb Allah Resurrected: The Party of God’s Return to Tradecraft

Matthew Levitt — Hizballah and the Qods Force in Iran’s Shadow War with the West

Matthew Levitt and Aaron Y. Zelin — Hizb Allah’s Gambit in Syria

Michael Marcusa — My Two Weeks With the Jihadists

Mr. Orange’s War Tracker — What’s in the names of terrorist groups (1): Jabhah al-Nusrah

Nathaniel Rosenblatt — ISIS’ Plan to Govern Syria – And What the US Should Do About It

Nelly Lahoud — Jihadi Discourse in the Wake of the Arab Spring

Nico Prucha — Who let the Dog out? A note on the German side of “jihadism”

Nico Prucha and Ali Fisher — 66 Important Jihadist Twitter Accounts (part 2)

Nico Prucha and Ali Fisher — Jihadi Twitter activism – Introduction

Nico Prucha and Ali Fisher — Jihadi Twitter Activism part 2: Jabhat al-Nusra on the Twittersphere

Nico Prucha and Ali Fisher — The ‘Who’s Who’ of the Most Important Jihadi Accounts on Twitter?

Nico Prucha and Ali Fisher — Tweeting for the Caliphate: Twitter as the New Frontier for Jihadist Propaganda

Noah Tucker — Uzbek Extremism in Context, Part 1: The Uzbek Jihad and the Problem of Religious Freedom 

Noah Tucker — Uzbek Extremism in Context, Part 2: The Internet, Social Media and Religious Speech

Noah Tucker — Uzbek Extremism in Context, Part 3: “Love Your President & Be Content With Bread, or Allah Will Give you a Disease!”

Noman Benotman and Jonathan Russell — A New Index to Assess the Effectiveness of Al Qaeda

Noman Benotman and Roisin Blake — Jabhat al-Nusra

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