When Conflict Arises, these Iraqis go to the Madeef

By Wassim Bassem for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

“Madeef” is an Arabic word used when referring to a place dedicated to receiving guests. In Iraq, this word has a specific social meaning; it is a place where tribe members, leaders and sheikhs meet, socialize and resolve disputes between each other or with other tribes.

Madeefs are popular in Iraq, where people now prefer to solve their problems with the assistance of tribes, instead of going to the police and having to deal with courts.

The civil scene in Iraq has changed amid the weakening of the state, and madeefs play an important role in especially central and southern Iraq.

Al-Monitor met with Mohammed al-Khafaji, a sheep merchant from Babil who resorted to a madeef to settle a dispute over a business deal with another merchant. A tribal madeef session, held in August, resulted in him retrieving $4,000. Khafaji said, “Years of struggle in courts and with the police failed to solve this financial dispute, so I had to resort to the tribe.”

Such cases are now common in Iraq, where madeefs have turned into places where murder, assault, theft and armed conflicts, among other disputes, are settled.

Resorting to tribes in settling disputes instead of state institutions was justified by Sheikh Majid al-Kallabi, from Babil, who told Al-Monitor, “The tribal madeef often solves problems in one session. It has therefore become the alternative to solving disputes to many state institutions that require a long time to settle issues. Madeefs have turned into places where political, social and economic issues are discussed, and religious ceremonies and funerals are held.”

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