Society

Anbar province reinstates mukhtar system

By Saif Ahmed in Anbar

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Iraqi men share a meal at a home in the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi on February 27th. [Moadh al-Dulaimi/AFP] 

Anbar is reinstating the mukhtar system in all districts of the province in an effort to consolidate stability and improve administrative services, provincial officials told Diyaruna.

Mukhtars, local dignitaries who head a village or neighbourhood, will be authorised to process civil transactions and stamp forms needed by residents.

"Stabilising the security situation in Anbar cities was achieved as a result of the co-operation of residents with security agencies," Anbar provincial council member Fahd al-Rashed told Diyaruna.

The reinstatement of the mukhtar system in Anbar in accordance with the established rules will help to ensure this security is sustainable, he said.

Each mukhtar will be responsible for residents within a specific residential district, which will be identified with clear boundaries, al-Rashed said.

"The mukhtar's work is crucial, and includes monitoring the security situation, having knowledge of every resident," he said.

With their deep knowledge of the area, mukhtars are able to verify the identity and place of residence of people engaged in various administrative transactions, and have been vested with the authority to stamp government forms.

"The mukhtars are residents of the areas [they serve], and all are elders who are well known in their communities and by the tribes," he said.

Their duties include preventing the settlement of any family without prior official and security approval and helping to resolve any disputes that arise, he said.

Well-known figures

Mukhtars are well connected with their communities, with many serving on local and tribal councils or having close ties with these bodies and other civic organisations, Desert Hawks Commander Col. Shaker al-Rishawi told Diyaruna.

"In the western regions of Anbar, the work of mukhtars has expanded to include co-operating with service departments," he said, noting that they are in a position to facilitate the provision of municipal services.

Mukhtars also carry out tasks such as escorting mobile medical teams as they carry out vaccination drives, he said, and helping to educate residents on topics such as public health and security.

"The mukhtar in every area in Anbar province has a stamp, and is esteemed in the community, and he offers advice and guidance on security and civil matters," he said.

Mukhtars generally know each family living within the boundaries of their areas of responsibility, he added, which is helpful in maintaining security.

"Anbar used to rely on mukhtars" to maintain security, disseminate official notices and keep residents informed about civil matters, Fallujah resident Hussein Muttalib al-Naeemi told Diyaruna.

Mukhtars used to command respect, he said, and people listened to them.

These days, their work has expanded to include resolving water scarcity issues and ensuring the effective distribution of cooking gas.

"The mukhtar occupies an important and prestigious position in the community, as most families go to him to obtain information about a potential bride or groom," al-Naeemi said.

He is also relied upon to identify low-income and needy families in need of support to individuals and organisations in a position to help them.

Vested with authority

"The selection of a mukhtar is conducted by nomination to municipal councils in districts and localities," said al-Andalus district mukhtar Mahmoud al-Rawi.

Each nominee is first endorsed by security agencies and tribal councils, he said.

"I have been the mukhtar of al-Andalus district for more than 10 years, as was my father before me," he said. "We have worked to deliver the complaints and appeals of residents to government agencies and sought to resolve tribal disputes."

"Every district and area in Ramadi has a mukhtar, and we hold monthly meetings attended by all mukhtars, dignitaries and tribal leaders to discuss problems and obstacles residents are facing", al-Rawi said.

"We support the rule of law, fight terrorism and extremism and prevent negative influences from seeping into Anbar society," he added.

"Every area in Anbar has its own particular circumstances, population diversity and specific geographical area," said Qahtan al-Nimrawi, a mukhtar from Heet district, west of Ramadi.

Heet districts are known for their tribal and conservative religious character, for example, and for their mix of villages and rural areas, he said.

"The presence of tribes and dignitaries who support the mukhtar's work makes his work easier," al-Nimrawi said, which supports improved security and services and facilitates two-way communication between the government and residents.

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