Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: New York, NY
Iraqi Konfused Kid
One of the best Iraqi (now Jordanian, as he has fled Baghdad) blogs out there posts a very interesting English-translated excerpt
of of Dr. Ali al-Wardi's 1951 Social Glimpses of the History of Modern Iraq,
which apparently is only in Arabic.
Iraqis in the Ottoman period were closer to Bedouin values than Islamic values, due to the control of the ‘Bedouin tide’ on them, there is a stark difference between the values of Bedouins and Islam, in a nutshell, Bedouin values glorify racism, vengeance, looting, killing women to wash away shame and so forth, while Islam condemns all that and considers it banned. Nevertheless, those values were common in the Ottoman period as many people glorified the man who shakes the ground when he walks and who robs houses at night out of manhood, describing him as a ‘lion’, ‘nightman’ or ‘tribe’s pride’ ...
Cities and Tribes
There are two social patterns that lay evidence to the extremity of the Bedouin tide in the Ottoman era ; the sparse population and the high ratio of tribes per cities. Mid-19th century Iraq’s population was somewhere close to 1-1.25 million, a very small number as compared to Abbasid Iraq, where the population of Baghdad alone is more than all of Ottoman Iraq. (KK – currently, Baghdad is 6 million, the population of all of Jordan, and Iraq is 28) Tribes in the Ottoman era where three quarters of all of Iraq, some were Bedouin and others were farmers, but all held tribal identification and customs fiercely in their hearts, they looked at all governments as hostile, regardless of being Turkish or Iranian, tribes would aid the victorious and loot the vanquished, regardless of their ideology differences.
On the other hand, city dwellers had three levels of social identification as opposed to the sole tribal one. First of all comes the neighborhood or district against all other neighborhoods in his city, as it comes to be a synonym for the tribe for Bedouins, this local identification would expand to what we could the ‘city’ identification, when the city is threatened under a common ailment. The third level is sectarian, such as when a sectarian case is raised or a state of one of the two sects comes to invade, the citizens then forget all their district and city identifications and pour their attention on that, to quote the Bedouin saying: “Me and my brother on our cousin, and me and our cousin on the stranger.” Hereby, it is clear that sectarianism is another level of social awareness, and is not based on religion or care for it.
The Phenomenon of ‘Shaqawa’
One of the most important social aspects that hint at the Bedouin tide is the ‘shaqawa’, which gives us a clear insight on the values and composition of the Iraqi society.
A “shaqi”, legally speaking, is a criminal who loots houses and imposes ‘taxes’ on the rich. Socially however, he is a hero by which the neighborhood takes pride, he does not disobey the dominant local customs – often a rich, noble guardian of his neighbors, and is keen to observe the rights of ‘the common bread and salt’, his criminal behavior is directed both at the government and at those who do not encompass his identification. Many a bloody battle has been fought at night between the Shaqi and the governmental soldiers, as his status in the eyes of the people increases with the increasing number of victims and battles, if he enters prison, it is a medal on his chest, if he is killed ; a funeral comes out to mourn the ‘great’ man ...
Last edited by tequila; 06-07-2007 at 09:50 PM.