Most observers of Iraq are familiar with the Hashd Sha'abi ('Popular Mobilization'), a collection of factions that come under the Hashd Sha'abi Commission. Much more obscure is the Hashd al-Difa' ('Hashd of Defence'), a group of formations that are affiliated with the Defence Ministry.
To learn more about the Hashd al-Difa', I conducted an interview with Abu Asad al-Hasanawi, commander of the Hashd al-Difa' group Liwa Usud al-Marja'iya ('Lions of the Marja'iya Brigade'). This interview was conducted on 7 June 2019. Any parenthetical insertions in square brackets are my own.
Q: When was the brigade [Liwa Usud al-Marja'iya] formed?
A: The brigade was formed on 1 June 2014.
Q: And it was affiliated with the Hashd Difa' from the beginning?
Q: In which areas has the brigade fought?
A: Taqa Rusiya, Karaghoul, Awda Shakr, Jisr al-Rafoush, al-Zaydan, al-Anaz, al-Naba'i, al-Karma.
Q: Where does the brigade operate currently?
Q: Can you explain the difference between the Hashd Sha'abi and the Hashd al-Difa'?
A: The Hashd Sha'abi is affiliated with the Hashd Sha'abi Commission. As for the Hashd al-Difa', it is affiliated with the Defence Ministry: all orders of joint [operations] within the Ministry of Defence. And it [the Hashd al-Difa'] was formed before the the Hashd [Sha'abi].
Q: Did the Iranian friends help you in matters of training and consultation?
Q: There are complaints about members of the Hashd al-Difa' not receiving salaries. Can you talk a little about this problem?
A: Yes, many complaints and demonstrations recorded on CDs.
Q: So currently for example your personnel do not receive salaries?
Q: Haram, by God.
A: From the beginning of the formation and until now salaries are self-financing.
Q: I see. Approximately how many factions are within the Hashd al-Difa' currently?
Q: Yes. And most of them operate in the areas of Baghdad and its environs?