Crispin Smith is an associate at a Washington-based national security law group, focusing on Iraqi security, human rights, and law of armed conflict issues. He is a cofounder of the Militia Spotlight platform.
Michael Knights is the Jill and Jay Bernstein Fellow at The Washington Institute and cofounder of the Militia Spotlight platform, which offers in-depth analysis of developments related to Iran-backed militias.
The Sharia Youth Gathering is an umbrella movement of social service, cultural, sports, and scouting organizations that is effectively controlled by Kataib Hezbollah through a cadre of linked commanders.
Type of movement: Youth organization. Nonkinetic, mainly legal activities such as cultural events and peaceful protests to promote muqawama (resistance) causes, provision of social services and offering education courses for example teaching the English language.
History and objectives:
TSS announced its existence on November 7, 2020, in Baghdad. Its Facebook account describes the group’s mission as “preparing the Iraqi youth to lead the Iraqi society.”
Propagating political Islam is an important objective of TSS, as described by Amir al-Musawai, the group's spokesperson.
TSS is rapidly expanding its presence in southern Shia-populated provinces, probably to recruit as many Shia youths as possible.
Chain of command:
TSS claims to be an independent NGO, but the preponderance of the evidence shows it is a KH organization, or at least has close ties with KH and its membership. The majority of known TSS leaders have direct links to KH through their prior membership in JKIH.
TSS mokibs (Shia service tents set up during pilgrimage seasons to assist pilgrims)clearly fly KH flags, and their videos are posted by TSS social media accounts.
TSS is an open cultural and societal movement, and it is probable that not all members are affiliated with KH. Yet the group is led and organized by individuals with deep ties to KH. Through its KH-affiliated leaders and members, TSS carries out the policy objectives of KH and is effectively controlled by the militia.
None known at present.
According to TSS social media accounts and statements, the group consists of at least four other sub-organizations:
Jihad al-Binaa (the Construction Jihad), a development foundation engaged in providing services such as water facilities for poor communities.
Muasasat al-Shabab al-Riyadhi (the Athlete Youth Organization), which is engaged in youth sport activities such as football tournaments.
Muasasat Ibn al-Jawad al-Thaqafiya (Ibn al-Jawad Cultural Foundation), which organizes cultural activities such as poster competitions.
JKIH, whose members received training at the hands of the Lebanese Imam al-Mahdi Scout Association, which reportedly helps Lebanese Hezbollah recruit soldiers.
TSS operates its own YouTube channel, Telegram channel, and Facebook page.