Syria's Bedouin Enter the Fray

How Tribes Could Keep Syria Together

Flickr / yeowatzup

By now it is well known that Syria’s uprising turned civil war began with the government’s suppression of peaceful protests in the southern city of Deraa in March 2011 before spreading north to Homs and Hama. What is less familiar are the strong tribal links that these cities have to Syria’s Bedouin communities, which constitute some ten to 15 percent of the country’s population. In all three battlegrounds, Bedouin communities, already under siege for much of Syria’s modern history, resorted to armed self-defense against the forces of Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The role of tribes in Syria’s uprising has been lost in accounts that frame the conflict as a fight to the death between Syria’s fractured opposition and a brutal regime. The oversight is nothing new: Damascus has long sought to silence this and other segments of Syrian society. And here, Syria is not alone.

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