Monday, December 12, 2005


Tribal Pact

Before the invasion, tribal resolution of major criminal or violent incidents only followed and complimented normal legal procedure. The tribe of the offending party employed ‘tribal’ relations and procedures to pacify, compensate or appease the injured party.

When this takes place, the heavy hand of the law was usually reduced by foregoing ‘personal rights’ to leave the ‘public rights’ take their course. Also, it was normal to seek the help of local (or sometimes central) police forces to pursue villains.

Over the past two years since the invasion, there has been a great deal of confusion regarding tribal responsibility towards numerous issues of enormous importance. This has taken a special significance in the absence of any real government presence, particularly in rural areas.

It must be pointed out here that the authority of the tribes in most of Iraq before the invasion was more ‘moral’ than physically affirmative.

Under the present circumstances, with the lack of any true muscle of the law, there was a great deal of confusion: cases of armed robbery; politically-induced violence; incidents of sectarian strife; common criminals claiming to be resistance fighters; people killed by ‘mistake’ by the resistance; collaborators killed intentionally by the resistance; terrorist (and other forces of darkness) acting completely outside tribal bounds.


It stared with one tribe. About 20 elders of that tribe met one morning to address these issues. They agreed on a pact defining their tribal responsibility. The pact was agreed and signed in the same morning.

They then made copies and distributed them to neighboring tribes so that others knew where that tribe stood and what they saw as the limits of their responsibility (for their own tribesmen or kin) and in relation to other tribes.

Abbreviated Translation:

Tribal Manifesto

During these difficult times that our beloved Iraq is going through, times characterized by the weakness of the authority of the state and the attack of numerous forces of evil and darkness, Iraqi tribes have an important positive role to play in reducing damage to our society.

The Iraqi tribes have indeed played important parts during the numerous periods of devastation and occupations that Iraq went through between periods of civilization. Those tribes had an important effect on preserving our country’s culture and noble values, despite the frequent charge that tribalism is a contributing factor to backwardness.

This positive role would be more effective if the criteria and the limits of tribal contributions were clear and well-defined.

For these reasons, the following guidelines have been approved and agreed by the signatory tribes:

Basic Criteria: All positions will be based on our traditional values and religious beliefs that are common to all of us.

Religion: Tribes cannot address the question of religious conflicts as the issue of religion much wider than tribal bonds and jurisdiction.

Sectarianism: Most of the tribes in Iraq have members who belong to one of the two major sects in Iraq (Sunni and Shiite). Consequently, tribes cannot be associated with any sect. That would lead to conflicts within the tribe itself… which would be like strife within a single household.

Politics: Political belief is a personal matter. It would be unthinkable for a whole tribe to be Baathist, Communist, Socialist or Capitalist. It is therefore outside the bounds of tribal relations what a person’s political beliefs are as long as actions do not violate criminal or social codes.

Criminal acts: A tribe is responsible for any criminal act or misconduct by any of its members as is the norm in tribal relations. Resolution of acts such as robbery, assault, murder, etc. and their consequences should follow normal procedures tribes have always used. The only way a tribe can absolve itself of any responsibility of the wrongdoings by any of its members is for that tribe to disown that member. Members of that tribe would then be not accountable for that person’s deeds. That means that this tribe will no longer have any right to defend or to avenge that person.

Resistance: The Iraqi nation is larger and more important than any single tribe. National aspirations are wider concerns than tribal ones. People who see themselves as fighters defending their country against invasion or subjugation do not usually consult with their immediate tribes. Iraq becomes their larger tribe. Their immediate tribes cannot therefore be responsible for their actions.


This pact has found favorable response with other tribes and soon there was a meeting of tribal chiefs of the area (county) and the pact was discussed and approved in principle.

It was distributed to others so that they can suggest modifications or additions. Another meeting has been scheduled so that the modified version can be endorsed by them all so that it will be binding to all signatories in future conflicts.

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