Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Tribes of Iraq

The State Department has posted a Congressional Research Service Report explaining the variety of tribes within Iraq. Turns out, the Brits and the Ottomans ruled through the tribes during their time occupying (and creating the dysfunctional state we now know as) Iraq.
Following World War I and the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the British decided to unite the three Ottoman provinces of Baghdad, Mosul, and Basra into one nation-state called Iraq (a name borrowed from the medieval history of the region), despite the significant religious, linguistic, ethnic, and tribal divisions running through Iraqi society. Britain took over in 1918 and restored power to the tribal sheiks, thereby helping to preserve and reinforce Iraq’s tribal structure. At the same time, the British colonial state gradually appropriated former tribal functions like control of land, water distribution, and law enforcement. Nomadic tribes settled in village communities based on extended families or sub-clans. These communities often retained their tribal names, but they were linked to the agricultural market, rather than to the subsistence economy. |CRS|

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