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Amid Absence of Judiciary, “Tribal Justice” Reigns in Deir-ez-Zor

Residents in Deir-ez-Zor have to maintain social stability despite the absence of a regular justice system, according to Enab Baladi.
Deir-ez-Zor Tribes Justice Court
Amid Absence of Judiciary, “Tribal Justice” Reigns in Deir-ez-Zor

The local community in the eastern city of Deir-ez-Zor seeks to alleviate the disputes among the residents as well as to work to avoid any discords in the future in a society saturated by the tribe and its authentic heritage, despite the absence of a regular justice system.

Since the beginning of the Syrian revolution in March 2011, the regime forces withdrew from several regions, including the eastern countryside of Deir-ez-Zor and many areas of the Euphrates region, which was subject to various armed opposition factions and the Islamic State (ISIS) group, until it eventually came under the full control of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in March 2019.

The people of the eastern region voluntarily turned to customary law, which allows for “tribal settlements” to replace statutory civil laws when conflicts erupt, due to the absence of judicial departments and government and Sharia courts from the eastern countryside of Deir-ez-Zor for more than ten years, with the absence of judicial alternatives that would satisfy the population by ending civil and commercial disputes between them.

The absence of law dismantles society

Disagreements are due to strong adherence to opinions or positions and refusal to give them up, a situation that expresses mismatch, which may develop into a problem to create a state of tension and dissatisfaction resulting from some difficulties, which impede achieving or reaching goals.

This gap between reality and aspiration takes the problem between members of society to a complex path and is the main reason for a conflict in which people are unable to agree on a specific matter due to people’s conflicting thoughts, feelings, and actions.

This conflict may amount to tension between the population, taking the character of a specific pressure on the part of the individual or the group.

Although the existence of this situation is normal in any society, its development of a crisis between its components around conflicting goals and interests, whether real or claimed, is a threat and an explicit danger to the values, beliefs, and property of the population, or the existence of the entire society, as this crisis limits the process of societal security and economic stability.

Because the function of law and judicial institutions lies in imposing a legitimate force for the population’s compliance with established principles, it is inconceivable to have a social life without a legal system that attempts to reflect the values of justice in society.

In the absence of law and legal authorities, crises characterized by the aggressiveness of an individual or collective party surface, with the aim of exploiting and subjugating another party, causing material or specific harm to individuals and groups, and this behavior is described as the use of excessive illegal force.

 Read Also: Deir-ez-Zor: Elders Call on SDF to Strengthen Arab Role

The slackness of the judicial structure established by the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES) in Deir-ez-Zor and the lack of qualification of its human staff contributed to pushing societal groups to establish a Community Mediation Committee in the region, through the alliance of several civil organizations, aimed at resolving the differences between the population by peaceful means, mitigating the intensity of conflicts.

Custom prevails in judiciary absence

Dozens have been killed in armed clashes between clans, cousins, and relatives in the towns and villages of Deir-ez-Zor governorate over the past years, and what has complicated the situation are the issues of revenge, disputes, and the state of tension, as the clans became involved in imposing their custom as an alternative to the social justice system of the Autonomous Administration. And in its absence, the tribal custom prevailed.

According to a study on the judicial reality in the Autonomous Administration-run areas by the Omran Center for Strategic Studies, there is one court in Deir-ez-Zor, and it has the lowest number of judges than the rest of the courts of the Administration regions, and lawyers in the region are prohibited from pleading or having a union that brings them together, in addition to the absence of a justice council or any auxiliary departments for the judiciary forensic medicine and forensic laboratories.

The Community Mediation Committee announced in a statement on March 16th the start of a campaign to resolve disputes between individuals.

With the alliance of five civil society associations and organizations: Deirna, Furatna, Sama, Mary, and Ensaf, a campaign called “Peace is Good” was launched, according to a statement obtained by Enab Baladi.

The Deir-ez-Zor-based activist Ayman Alaw told Enab Baladi that this campaign is supported by the “Al-Share’ (The Street) Foundation for Media and Development, which aims to resolve disputes by peaceful means.

Deir-ez-Zor society has a tribal and clan character, which imposes a special pattern in daily life, which is reflected in the relationships and the behavior of individuals in it.

In a research paper entitled “The Tribal Judiciary in Deir-ez-Zor… Local Roles in Building Community Peace,” the Harmoon Center for Contemporary Studies presented definitions to distinguish between tribal reconciliation, tribal custom, tribal authority, tribal norms or traditions, and tribal judiciary.

– Tribal reconciliation: It is the stage that precedes the tribal litigation process, or the tribal litigation process may end in it if the social influences surrounding the two parties to the conflict succeed in influencing the decision-making of reconciliation.

– Tribal custom: It is clan litigation in tribal societies, and it is characterized as an informal social justice, its boundaries are drawn by customs, traditions, and experiences of conflict resolution. The word “custom” accompanies this name because the rules that are used in the solution are customary rules, and therefore it is called locally “tribe custom.”

– Tribal authority: It is the authority whose reference is the traditions and consensus of the clan or tribe community, and which makes everyone feel obligated not to take any decision or act in contravention of this reference.

– Tribal traditions: These societies developed a set of customary rules as laws that resulted from customs and traditions established by individuals’ relationships and interactions with each other in various local issues and conflicts. 

– Tribal Judiciary: These rules developed until they became binding in issues of disputes and reconciliation through a societal judiciary that is “custom justice” or the tribal judiciary.


This article was edited by The Syrian Observer. The Syrian Observer has not verified the content of this story. Responsibility for the information and views set out in this article lies entirely with the author.


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