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Head of Baggara tribe says Syrian state to collapse if Assad goes: Interview

By Abdullah Ghadawi

(Zaman al-Wasl)- Sheikh of al-Baggara tribes in Syria Nawaf al-Basheer surprised us by saying, “the fall of Bashar al-Assad means fall of the institutions of the Syrian state,” because the alternative for this regime is either extremism or division considering the fall of the regime is something prohibited internationally.

Al-Basheer said in a dialogue with Zaman al-Wasl that the condition of the tribes in Syria was better before outbreak of the revolution because since outbreak of the revolution, the tribes were marginalized and impoverished. Also, the main supporters went away from the tribes although tribes fought ISIS for 8 months in Deir ez-Zor.

He considered regress of the tribal role in Syria has to do with the political Islam rise pointing out that the Iraqi experience is different from the Syrian one because Sunni Islam did not care for the tribes as Shia Islam did. To the details:

Z: All the eastern tribes’ regions are under ISIS control, why?

N: The tribes’ region is rich with oil, gas, and water. There are Euphrates, Tigris, livestock as well as grain storage and it is storage of Syria’s nutrition and that is why ISIS seized it.

Z: Since the outbreak of the revolution and you are a powerful human resource and marginalized historical one, is the flaw in you or where?

N: Flaw is in those who backed up Islamists in all their spectrum. The United States backs up the Kurds to form a state for them in the tribes’ region. Even associations, Hajem al-Mutayri backs up Salafism and other names. The reality is regional and international power do not want to deal with us. We fought ISIS in Deir ez-Zor for 8 months. Neither National Coalition, Interim Government nor any regional party supported us. Everyone is watching us and conspiring against us and we are the losing party in this catastrophe. We met with the Americans and other regional countries and we went to Jordan and they were understanding and supportive of the project, but they did not have the means to support the project. We were promised they will consult Gulf states, but nothing happened.

Z: there is an experience in Iraq in tribal mobilization, why did not present yourselves?

N: Shia in Iraq know the value of Arab tribes that’s why they backed them up while Sunni Islam is against tribes and hence; no back up.

Z: You do not even participate with Kurds in fighting ISIS even though it is your region?

N: How do you participate PYD party and they want to seize our region and capture it to establish their cantons.

Z: In case you were asked to fight ISIS, are you ready and do you have the capacity to do that and what is the Syrian future that fits the tribes’ vision if there is any?

N: After 5 years from the Syrian plight, we are with ceasefire and political solution. We are with building on Syrian state institution and negotiation without preconditions and fighting terrorism alone because we do not want to fight the regime because the fall of the regime means fall of the Syrian state institution and the alternative will be extremist Islam and we are against that.

Z: Some say the tribes do not have any influence on the ground and they are merely historical figures that do not have support from its own population, what do you say?

N: Tribes have big influence and major back up from the population, but unfortunately the population were starved and impoverished and no one care about them. Before the revolution their situation was better and after they were marginalized by the funders. Many of tribes affiliates fight only for funds.

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