Extracts - Mindless Thug

Tribal Structure and History

In addition to the ethnic profile of Kirkuk itself we also needed a good breakdown of the tribes themselves, particularly in the semi-circular band around Kirkuk from the South around to the West of the city, our Area of Operations. We went straight to the tribe members themselves and put together the following. The accounts are subjective. That said, they are straight from the horses’ mouths and not some glossy pamphlet. The honesty won’t be found from a spokesperson or ‘community leader’ in our media at home.  The sentences are very literal in the attempt to respect the accuracy of the translations.

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Conflict Resolution within the Fookhoot.

“There are many problems within the fookhoot. The number one problem is killing and there are two main options for dealing with it.

1st option. Reunion of all sub-sheikhs plus the head sheikh as head of council in the affected sub sheikh’s house. The council can be held without reference to legal courts.

2nd option. Reunion of all sub-sheikhs in the house of the head sheikh to prevent revenge killings getting out of hand.”

Do revenge killings often get out of hand?

“Sometimes the revenge killings start the same day. A gang from the affected family will look for the killer. If they can’t find him they may kill his brother.”

Will they normally stop at killing one brother?

“Then the problem is the next family who want to revenge the innocent victim. The problem can quickly spiral out of control with the government being forced to intervene in some of the larger tribal conflicts. Checkpoints will have to be established to forcibly separate the members until a solution can be found. At the reunion the solution is often the payment of blood money (in fussal) or possibly the giving of one or several female members of the tribe in marriage to the affected family. The government follows with possibly a ten year sentence. When released however, the guilty party will often be tracked down and killed if a suitable solution has not been arrived at during the reunion.

According to tribal law if the killer goes straight to a house within his fookhoot admitting to what he has done the householder must protect that individual even if he has killed his the brother of the householder. If a gang comes for the killer the householder must fight to protect him.

If the killer leaves the house then he is no longer the householders responsibility. The payment of  ‘In fussal’ (blood money) is money from the killers family. Marriage may be used to bond the families closer together or the killer may be exiled for a year or two so as the affected family can avoid the sight of him and forget the event. (Blood) money from all the houses in the fookhoot is calculated according to the number of sons over the age of 18 years plus the living father.

Example; The victim’s family wants 1,000,000 Iraqi Dinars.

The head sheikh divides 1,000,000 by the number of males over the age of eighteen in his tribe. If he was to arrive at 10,000 Dinars per male a household with three sons over eighteen and a living father will pay 40,000 Dinars.”

WOMEN’S PROBLEMS

“If a couple has sex out of marriage both of them may be killed. If the families are close an agreement may be arrived at where the girl’s family can demand girls from the boy’s family for marriage to the boys in their family. The offending couple must then marry. It is the girl’s family who can demand because it is considered that the boy has committed the greater wrong. If the boy were to run away the girl would be killed directly without negotiation and the hunt for the boy would begin. The girl would be killed by her brother, uncle or cousin.

After ’91 and the failure of the Kuwait campaign Saddam Hussein used the tribal system to control Iraq, simply implementing a reporting system to see what was going on but allowing the sheikhs to handle the day to day affairs and run the tribunals.

Saddam told the mayors of the towns and villages to cooperate with the sheikhs to control their areas. These problems also happened within Saddam’s own tribe in Tikrit. Two women from Saddam’s tribe had relations with their bodyguards and Saddam asked his half-brother, Sa’ab Arwi, to burn both of them to death with gasoline along with the bodyguards involved. This was done in the village of Orja, Saddam’s birthplace, in 1994.”

How do people know this happened?

“Because all the men who are close relatives from the tribe were assembled to watch the burning.”

The victims knew what was going to happen to them?

“Yes. Everybody in the tribe already knows they will be killed if they do this but they thought they could keep it a secret. In Saddam’s tribe they tried to keep their traditions and to keep the women to marry only within the tribe. The only courses women who went to college were allowed to do were teaching degrees.”

STEALING

“According to tribal law if a man steals something within the tribe then the value of the item will be multiplied by four and that will be the price he will have to pay. The greater price will be the shame however. Nobody will give their daughters to marry his sons and this shame will be passed through the generations. His sons will be forced to find brides outside the tribe.”

If he steals outside the tribe?

“There are three options.

First. The tribe will try to pay by levying each member of the tribe over the age of eighteen.

Second. Exile. The closest relative will break a stick in front in front of the thief. This symbolizes that the thief may never return to the tribe. He must take his family and live far from the tribe’s lands i.e. the city.

Third. Death. If the victim kills the thief nobody in the tribe will ask for blood money.

The difference between a thief and a killer is that a solution can be arrived at the ‘in fussal’ (reunion) for a killing to put the difference behind the parties, ‘Joe al f’rarsh’, but for a thief this is never given.”

January 18, 2004 - Baghdad Bombing

January 18, 2004 marked the turning point in the two distinct forms of the Iraqi insurgency against Coalition forces in Iraq. As opposed to the locally focussed Sunni guerilla insurgency West of Baghdad targeting military personnel, January 18, 2004 marked the beginning of outright terrorism in it’s purest forms. Official definitions by the FBI describing violent, dangerous acts, intimidation, coercion and political acts skirt around the brutality of this Baghdad bombing. The intent of the VBIED (Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device) at the main gate to the former presidential palace was twofold. The immediate intent was to kill as many defenceless Iraqi citizens as possible lining up to begin work. The wider, political intent was to dissuade all Iraqi civilians from providing logistical and operational support for Coalition Forces in the newly established Headquarters. 

Due to the fortified location, the physical damage was largely confined to human beings, approximately ‘twenty odd’human fatalilties and over one hundred casualties with the death toll expected to rise over the following days. Western perceptions and definitions of terrorism fail to take into account the realities of Iraqi culture, both social and religious, and the Iraqi economy. Previous Ba’ath government sponsored acts of terrorism against it’s own people had created  a very dark form of resilience and capacity to cope in its population. As a result, the impacts of the bombing were borne for the most part by the immediate victims and their families, rather than the local economy, population and infrastructure.  Sectarian inspired fatalism, combined with no real employment opportunities, saw local Iraqi civilians soon lining up to take the jobs of those who had just been killed. Families have to be fed and killings are often rationalised as ‘God wanting these good people to be with him in heaven’.

 The true impacts of the bombing were both hidden and overt. The most severe casualties died unnoticed in their homes and in the underresourced Iraqi hospitals in the ‘Medical District’ of Baghdad, also subject to regular bombings in the following months. The overt impacts were more obvious on the Coalition Provisional Authority than the primary intended target, the Iraqi population.  Vehicles were ‘up-armoured’ and all civilian contractors were on notice to take their security and dealings with the local population seriously or be deported to their country of origin. ‘We’ began to put up our own barriers with the very population that we were supposed to be assisting to rebuild their economy and infrastructure. Construction and oversight costs soared along with corruption and cultural suspicion at every level of the rebuilding effort, handing an unintended defacto victory to the terrorists. In the same manner that the local Iraqi civilians were not dissuaded from working with Coalition Forces, the ‘true terrorist’ element of the insurgency was not dissuaded either. As they became more organised and better financed over the coming months the bombings increased, killing individual CF personnel and an ever increasing number of Iraqi civilians.