Iraqi Tribes Become 'State within a State'

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

Equipped with various firearms, convoys of tribal members can be seen across Iraq, in defiance of the laws prohibiting the firing of guns into the air. This causes major economic losses, while the country is going through a harsh economic crisis because of the decrease of oil prices and the expenses of the war against the Islamic State (IS).

Government agencies and citizens consider this phenomenon “uncivilized,” as it puts the lives of many into jeopardy. Others consider it “carelessness” to civil peace and civic life.

Sheikh Abdul Hussein al-Amir, a leader of Albu Sultan tribe that is widespread in central Iraq, told Al-Monitor that this is “a social custom that reflects well-established traditions and adds prestige to the tribe.”

A video posted on YouTube on June 27, 2013, shows the funeral procession of a tribal leader, Abu Karim Hamid al-Khalaf al-Mazkour al-Jubeir, who hailed from al-Jubeir tribe in Basra, during which participants were firing guns, making the agricultural area in which they were walking seem like a war zone.

In Iraq’s southern Babil province, Al-Monitor attended the Albu Sultan tribal march Feb. 1 during the funeral of members of the tribe, amid heavy shooting normally only heard in the battlefield.

The tribal march took place over 2 kilometers (1.2 miles), in which hundreds of people rallied and filled the streets of the city of Hamzah south of Hillah.

The shooting from rifles, pistols and machine guns continued for nearly two hours. A youth carrying a machine gun that seemed taller than he was stood there, while an assistant by his side and pushing people away was carrying the magazines. He pointed the muzzle toward the sky, and emptied the 30-round magazines in three minutes, while smoke from the shooting filled the surrounding area.

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