Politics

Al-Bakara tribe disavows leader for collaborating with IRGC

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo

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An al-Bakara tribal elder speaks at the tribe’s Shura Council General Conference on August 5th. [Photo courtesy of Ahmed al-Salem]

Al-Bakara tribal elders this week disavowed their leader Sheikh Nawaf al-Bashir for collaborating with the Syrian regime and Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to form a new tribal militia in Syria's south-eastern desert region.

Leaders, elders and sheikhs of 28 al-Bakara clans representing the tribesmen of rural Idlib, rural Deir Ezzor, al-Raqa and Aleppo gathered at the tribe's Shura Council General Conference in rural Idlib on August 5th.

They "categorically rejected" al-Bashir's attempts to place the tribe's decision-making in the hands of the regime and the IRGC, said activist Ahmad al-Salem, who attended the conference.

He told Diyaruna that al-Bashir seeks to ensure Iran’s dominance over the tribe, one of the largest Sunni Arab tribes in the Syrian Badiya (desert).

"The conference was attended by the head of the tribe’s Shura Council, Sheikh Names al-Dosh, to affirm the tribe’s rejection of al-Bashir's sectarian plan," he said.

At the conclusion of the conference, the attendees disavowed al-Bashir and branded him as "traitor", saying he "represents only himself and those who were drawn to him and his sectarian project", al-Salem said.

Plan 'largely unsuccessful'

Al-Salem said the discussions at the conference centered on al-Bashir's attempt to submit the tribe to the IRGC's control and turn it into a new arm for the IRGC in the region.

This would be impactful "given that the tribes wield the most influence in many Syrian areas, especially in the north and the Badiya region", he said.

"Branding al-Bashir as a traitor and agreeing to dismiss him puts him in a real predicament, as according to tribal norms and traditions, punishment for such an offense could be as severe as permanent exile from the tribe," he said.

"Al-Bashir tried to promote his project among tribesmen of Shia descent and among refugee tribesmen in Lebanon," al-Salem said.

"However, despite the pressures and financial incentives, al-Bashir’s project of founding a popular mobilisation militia under his command has been largely unsuccessful," he said.

Those who did join the new militia "are few in number and live in certain areas of Aleppo and al-Hasakeh", he said.

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