clans in the news: syria

clans and tribes are reportedly making a comeback in syria — what a surprise! (did they ever really go away?)

here are some excerpts from two articles that appeared recently in al monitor.

the first article is a translation of an article that originally appeared in the lebanese paper, as-safir. the original title of the article was (translated to english): “Tribal ‘Solidarity’ and the Role That the Clans Play in the Syrian Crisis.” when the author refers to tribes, i believe that he is referring to groups such as the bedouin tribes in (iirc) northeastern/eastern syria as well as other arab tribes which have tribal connections in other countries (like iraq). he suggests that 1) tribalism is more prevalent in northern syria than in the south, and 2) the power of tribes is weaker in urban areas than in rural. ok, here we go (links added by me)…

“Tribalism and the Syrian Crisis”
“January 18 2013

“Prominent tribal figures have become omnipresent in Syrian opposition meetings, at a time when the regime is also hosting meeting after meeting for these same leaders. All of this is transpiring amid fears that societal unity will once again become fragmented, opening the door to tribal clashes in the worst possible scenario that could face Syria.

Tribal influence has returned to the forefront of the country’s political scene. Although their presence on the ground fluctuates between weak in some areas to effective in others, the impression is that Syrian society still longs for the old days of tribal friction and polarization, despite the fact that cohesion between some of them has played a positive role in avoiding disputes. As a result, there is a new drive to monitor the country’s tribal communities, their influence and relationship with the regime, be they for or against the current government.

“Syrian tribes

“The Syrian tribes are spread throughout all the regions of the country, from the extreme northeast in the plains of al-Jazira and the Euphrates river valley, all the way to the Badiya desert, Homs, Hama and the Damascus countryside, as well as the southern regions of Hauran and Jabal al-Druze. All these tribes are interconnected and have relationships with neighboring countries, especially Iraq and Jordan, with some tribes even claiming ties in Saudi Arabia. Furthermore, many inhabitants of Mount Lebanon still retain a strong connection to their places of origin in southern Syria and maintain good relations with their relatives there, while others have Turkish ancestry, such as the Abazaid clan in Daraa….

“On another note, researchers and activists in Hauran see that southern culture is based more on family relations than on tribal allegiance, because tribes are composed of large numbers of people, whereas there are many families in the plains region that have tribal connections which cross borders but whose presence remains concentrated in areas specific to each one of them. This is accentuated by the region’s agrarian character, which greatly diminishes nomadic tendencies and expands the influence of the family’s elders, who solve internal problems, reconcile disputes between people or give aid to any distressed member of the expanded Haurani family….

“Tribalism, on the other hand, leads to destructive armed conflicts and never-ending feuds. The concept of tribal solidarity might be the only one that southern families took with them to the city, a concept that Hauran‘s inhabitants point to when describing the uprising in the whole region against the regime. Everyone took to the streets without hesitation, before the Syrian crisis even erupted, to demonstrate and demand the release of some detained children. This solidarity also succeeded in thwarting any attempts to incite strife between them and their neighbors in the Jabal al-Druze, who reciprocated and snuffed out the flames of any possible conflict between themselves and the Hauranis….”

so, the tribe/clan leaders of the south pressured their members not to enter into conflict with their usual rivals? so clannishness can sometimes be a power for cooperation. hmmmm….

The region’s [i.e. the north – h.chick] inhabitants might be more prone to tribal fanaticism than their counterparts in the south. Tribal customs still prevail, especially in the countryside, which has begun to urbanize, but which still abides by many tribal concepts. This is mainly due to wide-ranging marginalization seen throughout the area, while cities seem to be in a much better state. The influence of tribal leaders there [i.e. in the cities – h.chick] waned until is became nearly nonexistent, due to two main factors: first, the large number of different tribes, and second, the urbanization of younger generations….

“The regime or the opposition: Who will win the clans?

“It wasn’t until the crisis was in its fourth month that anyone in the regime or the opposition considered playing on tribal sensitivities to mobilize clans in their favor. This occurred after organizers held demonstrations on what came to be known as the ‘Friday of the clans’….”

جمعة العشائر << "friday of the clans" — that, apparently, was a protest against the assad regime in june 2011 organized by opposition forces via facebook. a bunch of people were killed, of course.

“…As a result, a concerted large-scale campaign was initiated to win over the clans and provoke them into bearing arms against the regime, which, in turn, strove to reinvigorate tribalism and set about organizing meetings with tribal elders, mobilizing them through the media in an attempt to portray the clans as pro regime. In parallel, a tribal presence was now mandatory at all opposition meetings….

The foremost danger lies in the formation of armed militias by clans to fight against other clans based on their support for or opposition to the regime, which would surely lead the country into civil war….

“An activist in Hasakah, viewed as the perfect example of a tribal society, replied that the regime had intentionally let tribal elders rule those areas since the 1970s in return for absolute allegiance. Some of those elders even became members of the People’s Council representing their districts as a reward for that allegiance….

“But this model seemed to lose its effectiveness this time around in most areas. For despite the presence of many clans completely loyal to the regime, especially in rural Aleppo, Riqa and Hasakah, their influence remains limited when compared to the larger clans whose elders have completely lost any authority over the young clansmen. They have also lost their influence over the clans that have abandoned tribalism in favor of agrarianism, therefore succeeding in sparing themselves from any tribal conflict. The end result is a society that seems bent on trying to avoid any disintegration of its cohesiveness, regardless of political, tribal or sectarian considerations. As such, it is a true rarity in the midst of this conflict, and represents the only common goal over which both supporters and opponents of the regime agree: preventing the revival of tribalism.”

well, good luck with that. =/
_____

and the second article:

“Hezbollah Defends Shiite Villages In Syria War”
“February 20, 2013

“Several days ago, Hezbollah fighters guarding Shiite Lebanese citizens living in and around 14 Lebanese villages located in Syrian territory clashed with armed opposition groups affiliated with radical Sunni Islamist factions. The incident, the first of its kind, portends a possible transition of Syria’s sectarian strife to Lebanon….

“Since the start of the turmoil in Syria — which was accompanied by sectarian categorization between the Sunni Muslims, most of them against the Syrian regime, and the Alawite and Shiite Muslims who support it — the Sykes-Picot Agreement has had negative effects on the demographic balance in that region. Security incidents have taken place more than once during recent months among these Shiite villages, which are located in the middle of the smuggling line in the countryside between the Lebanese town of Arsal, Al-Qa’, Lake Homs, Al-Qusayr and Talkalakh.

Shia citizens from the adjacent Lebanese region of Hermel quickly became involved in these tensions. They belong to large clans, which have a social system that values ​the ‘support of relatives.’ In the current situation, they are Lebanese Shiite villagers living on Syrian territory, who complain that they are being subjected to attempts of forceful displacement by their Sunni Syrian neighbors.

“Last summer, military skirmishes took place between the Sunni town of Al-Qusayr, which is located behind the Syrian border and considered a stronghold of the armed opposition in its countryside, which is also the northern part of the countryside of the city of Homs — and between Lebanese residents in the Hermel region.

“Private sources have revealed to Al-Monitor that during one of these skirmishes, Jabhat al-Nusra militants attacked a Hezbollah training camp in the Hermel region from the Al-Qusayr countryside, killing and wounding 10 Hezbollah members. This was followed by a retaliatory operation by Hezbollah, which resulted in the killing of many members of the Syrian opposition.

“In general, Hezbollah is cautious about stepping into the sectarian strife raging in Syria. However, the issue of providing protection for the 14 Shiite villages located inside Syrian territory within the Al-Qusayr countryside arose as a challenge for the party before its social base in the Hermel region. It seems that the party has made the decision to protect these villages and prevent the people’s displacement based on the following considerations:

First, there are familial links between the residents of the Hermel region and those of the 14 Lebanese Shiite villages located inside Syrian territory. It should be noted that Hermel, in Lebanon’s Bekaa region, is considered as a popular reservoir for Hezbollah and its resistance apparatus. Accordingly, the party cannot turn its back to their appeal for help to save their relatives inside Syria from killing and displacement. Moreover, the Hamadah clan, one of the major clans in Hermel, owns vast areas of Lebanese territories that were cut off in the Sykes-Picot Agreement in the interest of Syria, and they still have the documents proving their ownership of these lands….”

yeah, i bet they do. old (clannish) grudges die hard.

it’s really irritating (if i bother to think about it, which i mostly don’t anymore) that the msm fails to mention ANYthing about clans/tribes in the middle east. EVER. or almost never anyway. rarely. instead it’s all just “arab springs” and “freedom fighters” in syria or bahrain or wherever. what a bunch of nonsense! i wonder if they (teh msm journalists) are really that clueless, or what?

previously: clans in the news: aleppo and clans in the news: the lebanon and syria and syrian tribes and more on syrian marriage and family types

(note: comments do not require an email. cool syrian music.)

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21 Comments

  1. hbd*chick: “it’s really irritating (if i bother to think about it, which i mostly don’t anymore) that the msm fails to mention ANYthing about clans/tribes in the middle east. EVER. or almost never anyway. rarely. instead it’s all just “arab springs” and “freedom fighters” in syria or bahrain or wherever. what a bunch of nonsense! i wonder if they (teh msm journalists) are really that clueless, or what?”

    That would be an interesting research project. Maybe the Columbia School of Journalism would be interested?

    Reply

  2. Pretty sure the entire US government and especially military managed to be fairly oblivious to the existence of clans in both Iraq and Afghanistan for several years following 2001. It’s not just the MSM. It IS really irritating.

    Reply

  3. If you have the inclination, you could research the משפחות הפשע that is “Crime Families” of Israel. Some Arab clans have taken up criminal activities like dealing in stolen cars, drugs, extorsion, etc. and are really hard to crack. In the past, there were also parallel Jewish (from Arab countries) crime clans or families, but they were easily broken up by the police. Some public enterprises like the Jerusalem Municipality, the Electric Corporation, the Port of Ashdod, the Municipality of Dimona, etc. are ruled by nepotistic families aka “hamoolah ” or clans. They are the best paid salaried employees in Israel. Family ties are very strong. In theory they cant exist, because Israeli law forbids employing family.

    Reply

  4. Hopefully this might be of some use:

    Syria's Geographic Challenge is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

    (Icy weather in the Arkansas Ozarks played havoc with my commenting yesterday).

    [edit: thanks for this! your first two attempts to leave this comment went into the spam box, and i spent the weekend “unplugged” so i wasn’t around to un-spam them. sorry ’bout that! – h.chick]

    Reply

  5. The MSM is ignorant of tribes in our own society(both invasive and forming in situ) so why should we be surprised they are clueless about Syria too..

    haave you ever read Ibn Khaldun? I am thinking about checking his writings out, his idea that societie inevitably revert back to a tribalist state is interesting and comes to mind frequently when I read your blog

    Reply

  6. Hope this doesn’t appear that I’m “defending” the MSM generally – and please note whenever I ask which medium constitutes the MSM the response is generally TV – I think to myself, “just how much time can any commercial entity be expected to spend between advertisements for toilet paper and maybe car commercials to effectively focus on anything?”

    TV “News/Info” usually has at most ~30 minutes to cover the day’s highlights. And even for most “in-depth” documentary formats there must be something especially compelling for advertisers to foot the expenses for production. Somehow even I, I think would have trouble coming up with a convincing pitch to say, Lean Cuisine “Hey Folks, this is a super opportunity for you to sell more diet spaghetti meals ’cause Surely there’ll be oodles of people tuning in to watch a program on this or that country’s tribalism.

    Taking away the medium of TV though, just how many of today’s kids does anybody think have subscriptions to hard newsprint anymore? Even 30 year olds?

    I’m reminded of a “test” hbd chick posted sometime ago checking people’s knowledge of the differences between Muslims – and even that was fairly basic. Can’t say I was much surprised by what people self-reported their scores were.

    Just my opinion but whenever I’m given the opportunity to hear/read, “It’s the MSM’s fault” – I turn on Sean Hannity to check whether he’s suddenly offerring substantial analysis of why Hezbollah would choose to support any Shi’a groups in Lebanon.

    I’m usually disappointed. (“Disappointed” is perhaps not the correct descriptor).

    Reply

  7. “Syria’s Geographic Challenge is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

    It’s almost incredible that something as full of ethnic / geographic common sense as that can co-exist with the “diversity is strength” propaganda in the military. You’d think the cognitive dissonance would make their ears ring.

    And all in two minutes.

    Reply

  8. Actually why, Greying Wanderer there’s been a vociferous group of folks risking it all (pretty much – I’m retired) to keep the US Military the hell out of Syria.

    We hear of course, rants against “The MSM” and all that, from other … oh I suppose “the correct-thinking media” or somesuch that we [the US] should get in there and Do Something! but as *hbd chick notes, it’s a bit more complicated than the MSM gives us.

    We blame … oh say “somebody else” for our little Libyan adventure, neverminding who prodded who from the floor of the United States Senate:

    http://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressOffice.FloorStatements&ContentRecord_id=b63b7b6f-a466-ba23-dea8-7bc024f54655

    and we also nevermind a bunch of other stuff which we know … to have been nothing other than a manifestation of … tribalism!

    http://www.ctc.usma.edu/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/aqs-foreign-fighters-in-iraq.pdf

    Especially in North Africa:

    http://www.ctc.usma.edu/posts/lifg-revisions-posing-critical-challenge-to-al-qaida

    Worse.

    We didn’t need “the MSM” to advise us off all that:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/articles/261063/libyas-makeover-andrew-c-mccarthy#

    Reply

  9. “there’s been a vociferous group of folks risking it all (pretty much – I’m retired) to keep the US Military the hell out of Syria.”

    Good to hear – 4th gen ftw hehe.

    Reply

  10. “Syria’s Geographic Challenge is republished with permission of Stratfor.”

    @Greying Wanderer said: “It’s almost incredible that something as full of ethnic / geographic common sense as that can co-exist with the “diversity is strength” propaganda in the military. You’d think the cognitive dissonance would make their ears ring.”

    Personally I thought the Stratfor piece was rather superficial. No mention of the finer grained tribal and clan structures within the big demographic groups identified. In other words it is a lost worse than even they let on.

    Reply

  11. @Luke,

    “Personally I thought the Stratfor piece was rather superficial.”

    Yes. The freely available stuff is, mostly superficial. But the solution to that doesn’t come cheap. Nor does it keep one’s inbox superficially uncluttered.

    Reply

  12. @Luke Lea,

    Hope you don’t mind my coming back and attempting some small clarifying. Yes, the Stratfor piece was superficial – not quibbling about that. The piece had more to do with Geography than much else.

    It is sometimes said ‘Geography is destiny’ but it’s also true, Geography is History.

    We know from the clip the borders of modern Syria were carved from the Ottoman Empire following WWI. We know too though, “the invasion route” was through Homs. This implies invasions from the Med – but the Ottoman Empire shared a land border with long-ago Syria. Why would the Turks invade from the sea?

    To get there one might be tempted to make a few inferences. What do we know of the present day ruling tribe the Alawites? One thing springs to mind is the Alawites share some commonalities with Christians. That begs the question – how did the Christians get there? Probably not some scheme the League of Nations cooked up post WWI if only because the League of Nations was, if anything, more dysfunctionally inept than the modern day UN.

    The mentioned invasion route by sea through Homs is a possiblity. The Romans might well be considered good candidates. But Rome didn’t really get into Christianity until sometime after Constantine – and during that era we pretty much know Rome was having to put alot of it’s focus northwestward. Probably means a Roman presence predated Constantine.

    Rome’s M.O. for establishing it’s presence was (generally) through conquest. And if we were to make the further leap Rome conquested an earlier established place, besides the Bedouins (who are not well known for having established much of anything worth shelling out good money for a fleet to go out conquering) then who might’ve established the pre-existing thing which attracted Rome’s eye?

    One possibility would be the Greeks, possibly too, Carthage.

    Old-timey invaders were not like say for instance, the US – where of fairly recent practice after we [cough, cough] “win” – we pick up and come home; rather old-timey invaders put down roots. And how might an ancient conqueroring people establish roots?

    Intermarriage is a possibility.

    Might go some distance toward grasping how “modern” Syria is today such a hodgepodge of peoples, sects and dare I leap, tribes?

    But I’m a poor example of somebody knowledegeable in the rarefied circles of the field of hbd studies – at best I might (and charitably at that) be characterized as a leaping to conclusions, “generalist.”

    Reply

  13. @luke – “…it is a lost worse than even they let on….”

    the situation in syria is a lot worse than what was shown in this short video, but at least the info was better than what you get on the nightly news: “the syrian people”!

    *facepalm*

    Reply

  14. @jk – “That begs the question – how did the Christians get there?”

    christianity has been present in (what we today call) syria from very early on — first century a.d. i don’t know for sure, but i imagine that christianity simply spread northwards from judea along trade routes (land trade routes) pretty quickly.

    Reply

  15. Well yes hbd chick I’d been aware one sect was Maronite. Too, Antioch is fairly close by.

    But it’s those pesky Greek Orthodox (Orthodoxii?) – (Greeks Orthodox?) who I was pretty sure likely came to be in Syria by some other means. To me, that implied invasion, likely ancient or at least probably in that first century a.d. you’ve mentioned. [But I will read your link just after I type “see Wiki-link Latakia” and thank you for putting up an insightful and deep-diveable blog.]

    Apologies if I seemed less than affable – the Chinese takeout available in the hinterlands of Arkansas makes for sleep interruptus.

    Reply

  16. @hbd chick re: @bleach

    ““haave you ever read Ibn Khaldun?”

    no, i haven’t. he’s on my “must read” list, too. (^_^)”

    I checked for Ibn Khaldun via a boyhood friend who blogs http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/

    and found a post reviewing an article I had to ‘Startpage’ for – noted Steve Sailor in the results so you might already be aware of this article from 2008:

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/014/947kigpp.asp?page=1

    Reply

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