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Power of tribal leaders in Yemen is growing (part 2)

By: Almigdad Mojalli

SANA’A- June 20- The tribe sheiks’ power and influence are reflected on many different aspects of both the State and citizens. Moreover, the power of tribal sheik could interfere in the international relations and policy of the country.

Social Power

The first and most important power tribal sheikhs have is the decision of war and peace. Most of the tribal sheikhs have the power of starting or stopping wars particularly with other tribes and sometimes with the state itself, though they always consult their tribesmen.

“people follow the sheik because he knows better than anyone … he meets with the heads of the villages of the tribe and after they discuss the issue, he decides either to start the war or not,” stated a tribes man Hussein Jamil.

When the tribal sheikh decides to start a war with any other party, he assigns the heads of villages to gather a certain number of tribesmen with their different kinds of arms and ammunition. Then, the head of the villages assign the families to select the people they will go to the war who will be replaced by others from the same village after many days. “We are always ready for war with different kinds of arms and ammunition at any and it is a norm for us,” said Naser Ahmed Ali.

Such solidarity and coherent between the sheikh and his tribe promote the standing and reputation of both the sheikh and the tribe, which consequently raise the prestige and status of the individuals and families belonging to this tribe among the other tribes. For example, socially people who are belonging to a strong tribe of strong sheikhs are more respected more than those of weak tribes and weak sheiks, “so that you find that if someone or a group of people face a problem of any kind and the government did not solve it, the look for a powerful sheikh of a strong tribe to resort to seeking solving the problem,” mentioned Mohammed Saleh Attam.

In some areas of the country particularly in the middle parts and far northern areas, the social influence of the sheikh is very huge as all problems, marriage, selling and purchasing particularly of land’s dealing can never take place without a permission from or supervision of the sheikh, “if any have any problem, he does not have the right to punish or forgive but the sheikh and only the sheikh…,” noted Mohammed Ameen Al-Ja’ashani.

Though the interference of sheikhs in some issues solve many problems, many people complain that sheikhs too much money for solving problems or tribesmen. Usually, when individuals, families or even villages fight, tribal sheikhs attend to mediate in an attempt the problem. Then, the opponents select the attending sheik/s for tribal arbitration seeking a solution for the conflict based on tribal norms. In many issues, the sheikh ask for huge amounts of money for solving the problem that may reach four to six millions in some issues, “unfortunately, the role of the tribal sheikhs in solving problems has change completely. In the past they were solving problems and people loved them but now they use it as a job or as an instrument to steal people,” said Mohammed Saleh Naser adding, “sometimes they ask for an amount that exceeds many times the value of the land or the thing that the opponents fight for.”

In some tribes, the sheikhs use their power to destroy their tribes and deprive their tribes from many public facilities and services particularly education in order to ensure that their tribesmen won’t revolt against them. “ In our tribe the sheikh worked hard and deliberately on preventing us from all public services particularly education to ensure that we will follow him and his sons because he realized that people will not follow and obey him as they are doing now in case they go to schools and universities,” noted Mohammed Al-Hashedi.

Cultural Power

The power of tribal sheiks oblige both the tribal sheikhs and tribesmen to respect mainly the tribal norms and customs where the sheikh has to be eligible for this power otherwise he won’t be respected or obeyed by his tribesmen with the exception of some tribes in the middle and far northern areas of the country. Likewise, tribesmen or members of tribes cannot violate the tribal culture represented in its norms and customs otherwise their tribe will renounce them.

“Tribal customs and norms are the laws that regulate the different aspects of people in the tribe and if anyone violates these laws he will be belittled, blamed, scolded or even renounced with if he commits major violations,” explained Ahmed Murshid Al-Nihmi.

The behavior of the sheikh is one of the main factors influencing or changing in the culture of the tribe and the adherence of tribesmen to their norms and traditions. In other words, the more the sheikhs is committed to the tribal norms and traditions, the more people adhere to tribal norms and customs and the vice versa.

“If the sheikh stands with tribesmen and works on solving problems, they stand with one another and continue coherent otherwise they will scatter and collapse socially,” stated Hmed Nasser.

by Almigdad Mojalli at 2012-08-09 12:32:17 UTC | Bookmark | | Report spam→

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Almigdad Mojalli, Fixer / Translator Almigdad Mojalli
Fixer / Translator
Sana'a , Yemen


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