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Tribal elders and the pursuit of privileges

RBSS

The Ba’ath party has relied on several methods to solidify their leadership including military interventions, external support, and exploitation of tribal elders. Some of those tribal elders refused to submit to the regime’s demands, and therefore became marginalized. Other tribal elders accepted the regime’s offers, thereby entering the Parliament to grant the regime the legitimacy of absolute leadership. In exchange for this allegiance, the compliant elders were given privileges such as being able to provide temporary employment contracts or move a soldier from one location to another. 

A large number of tribal elders have joined the Syrian revolution – some only in the later years. Some elders have pledged loyalty to the Syrian people and their revolution on one hand, while preserving their positions working for the regime and its security forces on the other hand.

When ISIS first controlled wide areas inside Syria, many elders pledged loyalty to the terrorist group. While some elders were forced to do so, others made that choice intentionally in order to secure their place in the clan councils established by ISIS. When deciding allegiance, it is all about determining which side will award the best privileges. However with ISIS, the tribal elders did not see much benefit, as they were not even given the authority to inquire about the well-being of an abducted person or take the initiative to free someone from an ISIS prison. 

Now, it is the era of Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) dominance. The SDF have gained control large areas in Northeast Syria, especially lately in Raqqa province. The People’s Protection Units (YPG), who play the major role in the SDF, have been using the same policy the regime and ISIS used previously to gain legitimacy in the area. They are giving clan elders large privileges such as exemption from military service, restoration of confiscated lands, as well as ensured protection. However, these are the limits of privileges awarded, as these elders are not permitted to contribute in shaping the politics and policies of the area. 

There have been tribal elders remaining steadfast against all forms of tyranny and terrorism, regardless of the difficult position it put them in. These elders have had their properties confiscated, their families punished, and privileges revoked. Nevertheless, these elders stood by their people.