The Ashura Events Expose Hezbollah’s “Disciplinary Ushers” Unit (انضباط حزب الله)

Those who recently visited Beirut’s southern Dahiya quarter during the days of Ashura noticed a group of individuals mostly dressed in beige-gray khaki-like or black vests with matching hats, mingling alongside the large Shi’ite crowds. On the back of their vests, you can distinguish the Arabic word -“الانضباط,” which means “Discipline,” and on the front of their vests, the familiar Hezbollah emblem. These are operatives of Hezbollah’s “Disciplinary Ushers ” unit.

The “Disciplinary Ushers” have 2 main missions:

  • Organization and enforcement of public order and obedience.
  • Acting independent traffic police force.
Hezbollah “Disciplinary Ushers” on duty during the Ashura march in the Dahiya quarter on 12 August 2022, wearing beige vests with the word “discipline” on the back and a Hezbollah emblem on the front.
A Hezbollah “Disciplinary Ushers” alongside what appears to be a member of the Lebanese internal security agency.

The operatives’ characteristics: The age of the operatives in Hezbollah’s “Disciplinary Ushers” unit range from teenagers to 50 years old. They do not usually appear masked. They usually wear military boots and carry batons similar to members of the government’s al-‘Amn al-Dakhili (internal security). Others also carry a whistle, similar to the whistle carried by traffic police. Sometimes, they appear undercover, disguised as different groups.

A Hezbollah “Disciplinary Usher” directing traffic

Hezbollah’s “Disciplinary Ushers” deployment: Their main activity is concentrated in fairly specific areas in the a-Dahiya district of Beirut: in the area connecting Haret Hraik (حارة حريك) with the al’Abyad neighborhood (الحي الأبيض) and al-Sufayr (محلة “الصفير”).

Along the route that connects the a-Sayyid Hadi Nasrallah road – between the center of Sayyid a-Shuhada’ (مجمع سيد الشهداء) and al-Qa’im Mosque (مسجد القائم) and al- Musharrafiya Square (المشرّفية). On this route, Hezbollah “DisciplinaryUshers” tend to be more centrally deployed at the junction near the Al-Qa’im Mosque.

Their configuration on the inner axis connecting al-Muriyja Square (المريجة) to al- Musharrafiya Square. is more intense than on the a-Sayyid Hadi Nasrallah route.

The “Disciplinary Ushers” are also deployed at the junction that connects the inner route that crosses Bir al-‘Abed (محلة بير العبد), al-Shaarie al-A’arid (الشارع العريض), and Haret Hraik.

 a-Sayyid Hadi Nasrallah route

The movement’s objectives: Hezbollah’s “Disciplinary Ushers” are not the only ones engaged in policing traffic in Beirut’s a-Dahiya district. They are a force supplemental to the Lebanese Ministry of the Interior’s traffic police, whose personnel are deployed at the main intersections and routes (as described above), where there is heavy traffic throughout all hours of the day. The background and the need behind establishing this body are unclear since the formal traffic police and law enforcement agencies of the State of Lebanon exist to enforce order and traffic control in Beirut and in Lebanon.

The main visible goal for which Hezbollah’s “Disciplinary Ushers” was established is to enforce order and discipline at conferences, Ashura marches, and various rallies and demonstrations organized by Hezbollah. According to sources in Hezbollah, it is a small-scale outfit whose purpose is to provide employment for young people affiliated with the organization; its missions are limited only to Hezbollah’s public activities.

Despite the above, Hezbollah’s “Disciplinary Ushers” presence is evident in all aspects of the Lebanese Shi’ite citizens’ life in Beirut. It is a group without formal authority whose power derives from the power of Hezbollah, similar to the other entities in Hezbollah’s military and civilian wings, maintaining a state within a state.

The residents of the Dahiya treat the disciplinary ushers much warmer and cordially than they do the state’s formal policing agencies. This attitude is not only the result of a respectful attitude and appreciation for entities affiliated with Hezbollah but also the result of Hezbollah’s direct instruction to its operatives in the field to reduce friction with populations that do not obey the law. The goal is clear. To create sympathy and maintain a positive attitude towards Hezbollah. The goal is also to emphasize how Hezbollah fills the vacuum left by the Lebanese state vis-à-vis the small citizen.

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Tal Beeri

Tal Beeri

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