Clans: an active factor in containment conflict and in the hotspots of Arab conflicts

02 - Dec - 2014

There is a clear and increasing role for clans and tribes as social and political units, in the conflict hotbeds and in the war on terrorism in the Arab revolutions countries. Perhaps, it is important to recall the way in which the Syrian regime dealt with the tribal elders of Deraa on March 15, 2011. They are parents of the youth who dared to demand the fall of Bashar al-Assad, on the walls of their schools. It was a spark ignited the situation there to spread slowly all over Syria and then to the whole region.

In the same context of the war on terrorism and depending on a popular strategy to combat it, the establishment of the Egyptian tribes' council was announced under a governmental and official sponsorship last September 2014. The representative body of the tribes of Libya was also announced in Egypt on October 21 in 2014. Each of them supports state's war on opponent militias and armed groups.

 Tribal conferences are held in Yemen due to the suspicious expansion of Houthi militias over the State, despite having signed the commitments in Peace Agreement and Partnership document in September, and its later security appendix, but without a real commitment till now. Sunni tribes in Iraq remain particularly important in the conflict and in the war on ISIS, despite delays implementation of arming them, and although some of the actions that might impede their interaction, as well as the death ruling - of the Central Criminal Court of Iraq- against Dr. Ahmed al-Alwani, the former MP on November 23, while his clan; Bualwan is fighting ISIS in Anbar. Political forces in Anbar had reservations on the sentence, expressed in a statement on the same date, and some sources are talking about the possibility of resolving this issue soon.

Ibn Khaldun analysis and the development of the clan:

In the past, Ibn Khaldun studied in his introduction and history "lessons" the role of the nerve and the tribe in the rise and collapse of states in the Arab history; which was clear especially in the Arabian-West region, and the state Hafsi state that emerged there, and generally in other states . Perhaps the modern institutional state cause tribal role to decline slightly in the past decades, but a new resurrection came along with the war on terrorism and extremist organizations, and as a result to with chaos and weak states in the Arab revolutions countries, where clans became active and reconsidered again in some of countries, such as Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Syria and the Egyptian Sinai, but there remain barriers as well as required strategies in this context, that I'll show later.

Due to this relatively new emerging resurrection of the role of clans and tribes in the conflicts in the region, we would like to point out some conclusions and analytical tools to read it correctly, namely:

First, the nature of the tribes:

The power and cohesion of clans increase in moments of danger, along with the weakness of the state in particular.

Second: the loyalty to authority: in the relationship between tribes and the state, tribes' elders often tend to stability and build a peaceful relationship with the state. They also refuse to fight against the state or cause mess, as the tribal affiliation is stronger than the other intellectual or ideological affiliations.

Third, Mutual effects:

Perhaps Ibn Alkhldun conclusions are historically true as a part of the state-building process and its establishment, and as a struggle between nomadic, harshness and urbanization phases, but these conclusions are not true in dealing with the modern state; Arab world has experienced for two hundred years, since the Western colonial presence. The institutions of this state became stable, its legitimacy became based on achievements as well as public and civil demands in mixed tribal and sectarian societies.

The concept of the clan and tribe here remains standing impact socially, culturally and loyally, but it does not exist politically or as part of a political struggle in conflict and danger events, threatening the tribe or the society, such as the spread of chaos and violence.

Fourth, modern traditional manners.

It is important to pay attention to the fact that the tribes are no longer the only traditional social symbiotic structures, which are linked bonds of kinship and blood only, it has evolved to a higher level intellectually and culturally with high standards of education and available knowledge channels. Tribes also merged in modern societies, and despite the presence of the first bond, it did not prevent the emergence of intellectual and political trends, different from the traditional ones and even sometimes clash with them.

Clans, the state and terrorism.. A three level relationship:

The relationship has in three levels:

1. Alliance with the state in the war on terrorism:
As  popular forces, clans represent a part in the war on terrorism and clans are recruited to fight against terrorism, especially after the successful Uprisings created by General Petraeus in the elimination of Qaeda-state in Iraq, and its capital, in Anbar in 2007. It also appears in several Egyptian actions in Sinai and in the establishment of what is known as the Council of Arab tribes as part of the popular strategy to combat terrorism, and in the Iraqi government trails to arm tribes in Anbar in order to face ISIS.

2. An active factor in conflict management against the state:

With the Arab state crisis during the Arab revolutions, in its the first and second waves, and with the successes of some revolutions and the failure of others, many tribes were exploited in regional and sectarian conflicts, which is clear in the Yemen and Libya conflicts. Some observers made a mistake by drawing similarity between Misrata and Islamist militias in there, which was related to Misrata too. I must mention that Tawergha, tribal regions and Rishvana were declared disaster areas in the September 20, 2014, after being stormed by Islamic militants militias [1].

In Yemen, Mareb tribes succeeded in Radea and other areas to hinder the Huthi domination over the state, and the continuation of Houthis militias in arms strategy despite signing policy agreements. Murad tribes in Marib province, eastern Yemen said that they will not stand idly by in case of any armed group wanted to attack the province of Marib, or use its territory as cross road to instill fear or create chaos in the province of Marib which is rich with oil.

 Murad tribes said, in a statement issued at the end of the expanded tribal meeting held on November 23 in Juba Directorate in province of Marib, they refuse and condemn armed robberies, which affected the house of Marib governor and Al-Jawf governor by Huthi militia in the capital Sanaa, stressing that such acts are contrary to the heavenly values as well as the tribal traditions.

Tribes and clans also rose up, along with the political forces, in the capital Sanaa since 14 October last year, and there was an uprising in areas previously dominated by Houthis peacefully; as Hodeidah province. Clans and tribes also formed a stumbling block to Huthi invasion to Ibb, Radea and other areas.

3. Victim of terrorism:

In Iraq, ISIS increased their targeting to Alibovhd and Albouhbarh clans after targeting Bunmr clans in Anbar, in which at least 500 people died as of early November, the same as what happened in the Syrian Alshaitat during August. Some branches of Shamar clans in Syria and Iraq met the same destiny, especially the relatives of Ahmed Jarba former head of the Syrian coalition whose houses and offices were broken into on 2 and 3 October.
 

Hinders of the clans' role:

1. Previous experience with Uprisings:

Maliki's government, in his second term in 2008, has pulled cover off all the tribes and clans in Anbar, after recovering it from al-Qaida in Iraq who considered the city as their capital. The government, then demanded to disarm the clans, and lagged long to integrate their members in the police and Iraqi forces, making them an easy prey for Qaida forces that killed a number of the most prominent symbols; including Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, Kazem al-Jubouri, and others, and targeted the uprisings. The previous Maliki government did not care about the assassination and the arrest of a number of the most prominent clans' leaders including Al-Saadoun.

Then Al-Qaeda is back in Iraq exploiting the sufferings of Sunni; especially after breaking up Anbar sit-in by force, and the painful attacks against the people and villages. We should say that the first appearance of Abu Mohammed Aladnana; al Qaeda's spokesman in Iraq, then the spokesman of ISIS later was on January 31, 2014, after one day of breaking up the peaceful sit-in by force and arresting Ahmed al-Alwani and a number of prominent tribal elders, in this day.

While Anbar tribes form the first defense line against ISIS, and some tribes' members kill and kidnap elements of the extremist organization in their areas, the Iraqi Central Court, referred to earlier, sentenced Ahmed al-Alwani to death; his brother and some of his family died during breaking up the sit-in by al-Maliki forces. Alwani clan fights ISIS. This sentence was issued in a time when it was expected to apply the political treaty on the formation of the current government, including an end to the political targeting files and activating the national reconciliation. And while Dr Ahmed's family, the tribe of Albu Alwan, has fought ISIS in Ramadi several months ago, and sacrificed a big number of martyrs and wounded people. They are standing behind their weapons and fighting with tooth and nail. A political statement, by some Iraqi political forces, has described; the National coalition and the National Forces Alliance, such a decision as "intended to weaken the popular enthusiasm for the Arab Sunni who fight ISIS to end the confidence between the audience and the political process, and to drive a wedge in the relationship between us and our partners'', despite its call for the tribes not to be drawn to such a deliberate plot.

2. Generational differences and the leadership of the tribes:

It became clear among many observers, that there is a wide gap between tribes and clans elders, and the new generations who interact with the current revolution in information and communication, as well as the isolation of many youth in urban areas or abroad away from the stability of their families and their tribal areas.

This causes elders to lose control over youth bases, which was a remarkable example in the Egyptian revolution in June 30. Tribal elders agreed with the Muslim Brotherhood regime, and had good relations with them to keep their interests safe, while rebellious youth integrated in the rebel movement against them.

While active youth and new actors in clans and tribes seek to communicate in new communicative channels or create alternative institutions to replace traditional ones, the elders still control the stable structures, the management, and the power in Upper Egypt for example. However, this control decreases with time, and loses its effectiveness, except in times of danger and social challenge.

3. Terrorism ideology penetrates clans:

In 2010, al-Qaida released booklet in Yemen, on its relations with the clans, and ISIS refers, in its evolution, to what it describes as "Mutayibeen Coalition" held with some clans elders who joined them before the announcement of the Islamic State of Iraq in 2006. Mutayibeen Coalition is an old alliance included Bani Hashim and some Quraishi tribes before Islam. This potential alliance would remain active, if the state did not succeed in dealing smartly with the tribes in the areas of conflict.

In Sinai, the terrorist Shadi Malki killed his cousin Abdul Majid Malki last October under the pretext of his cooperation with the security agencies. And reading the names of the most important ISIS leaders in Iraq indicates their affiliation for a number of tribes whose members are being killed or targeted by ISIS.

Despite the fact that Arab clans and tribes are religious in nature; some kind of a natural religiosity that does not tend to terrorism ideology, various Islamic ideas may spread in these tribes as it may happen in the Arab communities in general. There is no exaggeration to say that the revolution in communication, media and information hampered terrorism ideology expansion and prevented recruiting and exploiting youth from the tribes, the uneducated ones in particular. Exposing the practices of these organizations and critiquing them religiously broadly, be sometimes sarcastically is another factor that hampered the expansion of terrorism ideology in tribes and clans.

But this rift in the tribal structures is old and new, it is also potential as diversity within the same unit, but the dominant and influential bases in the tribal trends remains in their relationship with the state. It is true that tribes often show loyalty to authorities to maintain their stability and to gain some profits.

In addition to this, there are practical problems of delayed arming Anbar tribes, and the predominance of mutual fear about the possible delinquency for a sectarian conflict, in case of Shi'ite militias participation in the war against ISIS in Anbar. ISIS can exploit such a situation. It was noticeable that clans' representatives and their different political forces have a clear stance in the war on terrorism after being targeted by ISIS consequently, and their reluctance to its continuous coup. It is a must for countries and governments to take supportive measures and plans for containment, satisfaction and appreciation of these established social structures, to help in activating their important role.

 

1] For more details about the victims of terrorism in Libya and other countries, review Arabia studies new report:  Victims of terrorism.. A new Holocaust on the following link: link

Clans: an active factor in containment conflict and in the hotspots of Arab conflicts

There is a clear and increasing role for clans and tribes as social and political units, in the conflict hotbeds and in the war on terrorism in the Arab revolutions countries. Perhaps, it is important to recall the way in which the Syrian regime dealt with the tribal elders of Deraa on March 15, 2011. They are parents of the youth who dared to demand the fall of Bashar al-Assad, on the walls of their schools. It was a spark ignited the situation there to spread slowly all over Syria and then to the whole region.

In the same context of the war on terrorism and depending on a popular strategy to combat it, the establishment of the Egyptian tribes' council was announced under a governmental and official sponsorship last September 2014. The representative body of the tribes of Libya was also announced in Egypt on October 21 in 2014. Each of them supports state's war on opponent militias and armed groups.

 Tribal conferences are held in Yemen due to the suspicious expansion of Houthi militias over the State, despite having signed the commitments in Peace Agreement and Partnership document in September, and its later security appendix, but without a real commitment till now. Sunni tribes in Iraq remain particularly important in the conflict and in the war on ISIS, despite delays implementation of arming them, and although some of the actions that might impede their interaction, as well as the death ruling - of the Central Criminal Court of Iraq- against Dr. Ahmed al-Alwani, the former MP on November 23, while his clan; Bualwan is fighting ISIS in Anbar. Political forces in Anbar had reservations on the sentence, expressed in a statement on the same date, and some sources are talking about the possibility of resolving this issue soon.

Ibn Khaldun analysis and the development of the clan:

In the past, Ibn Khaldun studied in his introduction and history "lessons" the role of the nerve and the tribe in the rise and collapse of states in the Arab history; which was clear especially in the Arabian-West region, and the state Hafsi state that emerged there, and generally in other states . Perhaps the modern institutional state cause tribal role to decline slightly in the past decades, but a new resurrection came along with the war on terrorism and extremist organizations, and as a result to with chaos and weak states in the Arab revolutions countries, where clans became active and reconsidered again in some of countries, such as Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Syria and the Egyptian Sinai, but there remain barriers as well as required strategies in this context, that I'll show later.

Due to this relatively new emerging resurrection of the role of clans and tribes in the conflicts in the region, we would like to point out some conclusions and analytical tools to read it correctly, namely:

First, the nature of the tribes:

The power and cohesion of clans increase in moments of danger, along with the weakness of the state in particular.

Second: the loyalty to authority: in the relationship between tribes and the state, tribes' elders often tend to stability and build a peaceful relationship with the state. They also refuse to fight against the state or cause mess, as the tribal affiliation is stronger than the other intellectual or ideological affiliations.

Third, Mutual effects:

Perhaps Ibn Alkhldun conclusions are historically true as a part of the state-building process and its establishment, and as a struggle between nomadic, harshness and urbanization phases, but these conclusions are not true in dealing with the modern state; Arab world has experienced for two hundred years, since the Western colonial presence. The institutions of this state became stable, its legitimacy became based on achievements as well as public and civil demands in mixed tribal and sectarian societies.

The concept of the clan and tribe here remains standing impact socially, culturally and loyally, but it does not exist politically or as part of a political struggle in conflict and danger events, threatening the tribe or the society, such as the spread of chaos and violence.

Fourth, modern traditional manners.

It is important to pay attention to the fact that the tribes are no longer the only traditional social symbiotic structures, which are linked bonds of kinship and blood only, it has evolved to a higher level intellectually and culturally with high standards of education and available knowledge channels. Tribes also merged in modern societies, and despite the presence of the first bond, it did not prevent the emergence of intellectual and political trends, different from the traditional ones and even sometimes clash with them.

Clans, the state and terrorism.. A three level relationship:

The relationship has in three levels:

1. Alliance with the state in the war on terrorism:
As  popular forces, clans represent a part in the war on terrorism and clans are recruited to fight against terrorism, especially after the successful Uprisings created by General Petraeus in the elimination of Qaeda-state in Iraq, and its capital, in Anbar in 2007. It also appears in several Egyptian actions in Sinai and in the establishment of what is known as the Council of Arab tribes as part of the popular strategy to combat terrorism, and in the Iraqi government trails to arm tribes in Anbar in order to face ISIS.

2. An active factor in conflict management against the state:

With the Arab state crisis during the Arab revolutions, in its the first and second waves, and with the successes of some revolutions and the failure of others, many tribes were exploited in regional and sectarian conflicts, which is clear in the Yemen and Libya conflicts. Some observers made a mistake by drawing similarity between Misrata and Islamist militias in there, which was related to Misrata too. I must mention that Tawergha, tribal regions and Rishvana were declared disaster areas in the September 20, 2014, after being stormed by Islamic militants militias [1].

In Yemen, Mareb tribes succeeded in Radea and other areas to hinder the Huthi domination over the state, and the continuation of Houthis militias in arms strategy despite signing policy agreements. Murad tribes in Marib province, eastern Yemen said that they will not stand idly by in case of any armed group wanted to attack the province of Marib, or use its territory as cross road to instill fear or create chaos in the province of Marib which is rich with oil.

 Murad tribes said, in a statement issued at the end of the expanded tribal meeting held on November 23 in Juba Directorate in province of Marib, they refuse and condemn armed robberies, which affected the house of Marib governor and Al-Jawf governor by Huthi militia in the capital Sanaa, stressing that such acts are contrary to the heavenly values as well as the tribal traditions.

Tribes and clans also rose up, along with the political forces, in the capital Sanaa since 14 October last year, and there was an uprising in areas previously dominated by Houthis peacefully; as Hodeidah province. Clans and tribes also formed a stumbling block to Huthi invasion to Ibb, Radea and other areas.

3. Victim of terrorism:

In Iraq, ISIS increased their targeting to Alibovhd and Albouhbarh clans after targeting Bunmr clans in Anbar, in which at least 500 people died as of early November, the same as what happened in the Syrian Alshaitat during August. Some branches of Shamar clans in Syria and Iraq met the same destiny, especially the relatives of Ahmed Jarba former head of the Syrian coalition whose houses and offices were broken into on 2 and 3 October.
 

Hinders of the clans' role:

1. Previous experience with Uprisings:

Maliki's government, in his second term in 2008, has pulled cover off all the tribes and clans in Anbar, after recovering it from al-Qaida in Iraq who considered the city as their capital. The government, then demanded to disarm the clans, and lagged long to integrate their members in the police and Iraqi forces, making them an easy prey for Qaida forces that killed a number of the most prominent symbols; including Sheikh Ahmed Abu Risha, Kazem al-Jubouri, and others, and targeted the uprisings. The previous Maliki government did not care about the assassination and the arrest of a number of the most prominent clans' leaders including Al-Saadoun.

Then Al-Qaeda is back in Iraq exploiting the sufferings of Sunni; especially after breaking up Anbar sit-in by force, and the painful attacks against the people and villages. We should say that the first appearance of Abu Mohammed Aladnana; al Qaeda's spokesman in Iraq, then the spokesman of ISIS later was on January 31, 2014, after one day of breaking up the peaceful sit-in by force and arresting Ahmed al-Alwani and a number of prominent tribal elders, in this day.

While Anbar tribes form the first defense line against ISIS, and some tribes' members kill and kidnap elements of the extremist organization in their areas, the Iraqi Central Court, referred to earlier, sentenced Ahmed al-Alwani to death; his brother and some of his family died during breaking up the sit-in by al-Maliki forces. Alwani clan fights ISIS. This sentence was issued in a time when it was expected to apply the political treaty on the formation of the current government, including an end to the political targeting files and activating the national reconciliation. And while Dr Ahmed's family, the tribe of Albu Alwan, has fought ISIS in Ramadi several months ago, and sacrificed a big number of martyrs and wounded people. They are standing behind their weapons and fighting with tooth and nail. A political statement, by some Iraqi political forces, has described; the National coalition and the National Forces Alliance, such a decision as "intended to weaken the popular enthusiasm for the Arab Sunni who fight ISIS to end the confidence between the audience and the political process, and to drive a wedge in the relationship between us and our partners'', despite its call for the tribes not to be drawn to such a deliberate plot.

2. Generational differences and the leadership of the tribes:

It became clear among many observers, that there is a wide gap between tribes and clans elders, and the new generations who interact with the current revolution in information and communication, as well as the isolation of many youth in urban areas or abroad away from the stability of their families and their tribal areas.

This causes elders to lose control over youth bases, which was a remarkable example in the Egyptian revolution in June 30. Tribal elders agreed with the Muslim Brotherhood regime, and had good relations with them to keep their interests safe, while rebellious youth integrated in the rebel movement against them.

While active youth and new actors in clans and tribes seek to communicate in new communicative channels or create alternative institutions to replace traditional ones, the elders still control the stable structures, the management, and the power in Upper Egypt for example. However, this control decreases with time, and loses its effectiveness, except in times of danger and social challenge.

3. Terrorism ideology penetrates clans:

In 2010, al-Qaida released booklet in Yemen, on its relations with the clans, and ISIS refers, in its evolution, to what it describes as "Mutayibeen Coalition" held with some clans elders who joined them before the announcement of the Islamic State of Iraq in 2006. Mutayibeen Coalition is an old alliance included Bani Hashim and some Quraishi tribes before Islam. This potential alliance would remain active, if the state did not succeed in dealing smartly with the tribes in the areas of conflict.

In Sinai, the terrorist Shadi Malki killed his cousin Abdul Majid Malki last October under the pretext of his cooperation with the security agencies. And reading the names of the most important ISIS leaders in Iraq indicates their affiliation for a number of tribes whose members are being killed or targeted by ISIS.

Despite the fact that Arab clans and tribes are religious in nature; some kind of a natural religiosity that does not tend to terrorism ideology, various Islamic ideas may spread in these tribes as it may happen in the Arab communities in general. There is no exaggeration to say that the revolution in communication, media and information hampered terrorism ideology expansion and prevented recruiting and exploiting youth from the tribes, the uneducated ones in particular. Exposing the practices of these organizations and critiquing them religiously broadly, be sometimes sarcastically is another factor that hampered the expansion of terrorism ideology in tribes and clans.

But this rift in the tribal structures is old and new, it is also potential as diversity within the same unit, but the dominant and influential bases in the tribal trends remains in their relationship with the state. It is true that tribes often show loyalty to authorities to maintain their stability and to gain some profits.

In addition to this, there are practical problems of delayed arming Anbar tribes, and the predominance of mutual fear about the possible delinquency for a sectarian conflict, in case of Shi'ite militias participation in the war against ISIS in Anbar. ISIS can exploit such a situation. It was noticeable that clans' representatives and their different political forces have a clear stance in the war on terrorism after being targeted by ISIS consequently, and their reluctance to its continuous coup. It is a must for countries and governments to take supportive measures and plans for containment, satisfaction and appreciation of these established social structures, to help in activating their important role.

 

References

1] For more details about the victims of terrorism in Libya and other countries, review Arabia studies new report:  Victims of terrorism.. A new Holocaust on the following link: link

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