Organizations launch project to resolve tribal conflicts in Deir Ezzor

Fighters from the Anabzeh tribe block the road leading to the al-Azbah market north of Deir Ezzor - March 25, 2023 (Akidat Tribe/Facebook)

Fighters from the Anabzeh tribe block the road leading to the al-Azbah market north of Deir Ezzor - March 25, 2023 (Akidat Tribe/Facebook)


Enab Baladi – Deir Ezzor

At the beginning of May, eight local organizations launched a project to form specialized committees for resolving tribal conflicts and raising awareness in the rural areas of Deir Ezzor, aiming to reduce tribal conflicts that erupt from time to time in the region.

These organizations focus their project on “promoting civil peace and contributing to the stability and growth of the region,” according to project officials who spoke to Enab Baladi.

The organizations that launched the project believe that recurring tribal disputes in Deir Ezzor portray a negative image of the region, prompting them to initiate their plan, which involves steps ranging from identifying the problem to solving it.

Tamam Muhammad al-Khader, the executive director of the Ataa for Relief and Development organization, told Enab Baladi that the project was launched from the importance of instilling a culture of reconciliation among individuals and the need to instill and embody it.

He added that the eight organizations participating in the project, which are supported by the Wiaam program funded by the US Department of State, are: Ataa for Relief and Development, Awda, Sama, Dernaa, Furatna, Taif, Together for Deir Ezzor, and Engineering for Services.

These organizations operate across a wide geographical area in all villages and towns of Deir Ezzor, aiming to promote civil peace, spread awareness, and reduce tensions and civil conflicts in the region.

Waddah al-Ashish, an employee at the Awda organization working on the Conflict Resolution project, told Enab Baladi that the main goal of the project is to reduce disputes and conflicts in Deir Ezzor, especially after their increase recently.

He added that the project is based on creating reconciliation committees distributed across several areas to oversee arbitration in disputes using a variety of laws, including civil laws, sometimes Islamic Sharia, and tribal customs, depending on the nature of each case.

Weekly and monthly meetings are held between project workers and committee members to discuss regional events, address current disputes, and explore ways to solve them.

Lack of accountability

The deteriorating living conditions in areas controlled by the Autonomous Administration in eastern Deir Ezzor compel civilians to resort to reconciliation committees and community leaders, due to their inability to afford lawyers’ fees in the courts, and their lack of trust in local judicial fairness, according to some who spoke to Enab Baladi.

Aboud al-Jadaan, the Mukhtar (village chief) of the Jadid Akidat village, told Enab Baladi that residents cannot afford the defense fees of lawyers in the Kasra Court in eastern Deir Ezzor, along with transportation costs to and from the court.

He added that the cost of a taxi from the Jadid Akidat village to the court might exceed 300,000 Syrian pounds, prompting people to minimize financial costs and resort to committees and leaders to reach consensual solutions between the disputing parties.

According to al-Jadaan, this experience cannot be generalized to all residents as some prefer to go to the courts depending on the size of the case and its parties.

Saleh al-Ali, a farmer from the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor who previously resorted to arbitration committees, told Enab Baladi that the committees’ work has so far brought no benefits to the residents, especially since they lack the authority to hold defendants accountable.

He added that many problems require a power that can make and enforce judgments, making it impossible for committees to be an alternative to the judiciary.

Rahaf al-Ahmad, also a resident, believes that the committee’s work is good for simple cases, but there are issues that need judicial intervention, such as murder cases and the brandishing of weapons in tribal conflicts, which have increased in intensity lately.

An old idea

In the villages of the eastern countryside of Deir Ezzor, under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), some individuals undertake the task of reconciliation among the residents regardless of the size of the disputes. However, these individuals are appointed by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES).

Aboud al-Jadaan, the Mukhtar of the Jadid Akidat village and one of the leaders of the Bakir tribe, told Enab Baladi that the region includes committees formed by reputable and popular leaders to lead these committees.

These committees have been formed for five years through the civil council of the Autonomous Administration and include a group specialized in tribal affairs and a committee that follows women’s issues, according to al-Jadaan.

The committee members consist of village residents, a leader, and active and acceptable figures among the people, capable of providing lasting solutions to problems.

These committees sometimes intervene financially to help resolve disputes related to financial conflicts and seek to offer reconciliation between adversaries due to the lack of a judicial system that does justice to them, according to al-Jadaan.

Some residents who sought these committees’ help in their cases believe that those formed by the Deir Ezzor Civil Council have no real impact on the ground.

The committees include tribal leaders appointed by the council’s relations office to solve problems, but Rama Hazaa, who submitted a complaint related to her family’s inheritance, told Enab Baladi that the committees have nothing to offer the residents, as she said she visited the Reconciliation Office in al-Basira in eastern Deir Ezzor more than five times and was advised to go to the judiciary due to her family issues.

From his perspective, Muhammad al-Ghadeeb shares the same view toward the Reconciliation Committees affiliated with the civil council. He told Enab Baladi he was in a traffic accident with an SDF military vehicle and sought the committee’s intervention to obtain compensation for his damages but could not obtain any of his rights.

He added that he underwent surgery on his foot, which cost him 1,500 US dollars, and his motorcycle was destroyed. The Asayish (Internal Security Forces) rejected a complaint he filed on the grounds that the vehicle was on a military mission chasing a wanted individual.

Recurring conflicts

Arab tribes constitute the majority of the population in eastern and northeastern Syria, spreading along the Euphrates River, in the Syrian Jazira, and other Syrian cities and regions. However, despite this spread, they do not fall under one military organization or leadership, and tribal or familial disputes in the region often turn into armed confrontations.

Disputes, blood feud cases, and other factors contribute to tribal conflicts that erupt in areas inhabited by Arab tribes, particularly in eastern Syria.

In late April, a tribal conflict erupted in the town of al-Shahil, east of Deir Ezzor, resulting in the death of one of the town’s residents. The town’s people issued appeals to the region’s leaders to intervene and stop the fighting, as reported by Baz News Agency, which specializes in covering the region’s news.

Earlier, another tribal conflict occurred in the town of Abu Hammam, east of Deir Ezzor, injuring seven people with varying degrees of injuries, according to an Enab Baladi correspondent in the area at the time.

In mid-2022, a tribal conflict in the town of al-Hissan, west of Deir Ezzor, lasted two days, with local media reporting casualties and injuries.

A few months prior, a two-day conflict occurred in the town of Gharanij, east of Deir Ezzor, between two of the largest families in the region, resulting in fatalities and injuries on both sides.

The SDF generally adopts a self-distancing policy in most tribal conflicts, not intervening in many of them, but occasionally launching security campaigns to stop the fighting, confiscating weapons owned by the feuding tribes.

Enab Baladi’s correspondent in Deir Ezzor, Obadah al-Sheikh, contributed to this report.


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