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Middle East Tribalism

Tribes In Seventh-century Arabia, Tribal Identity And Political Metaphor, The Multiple Meanings Of Tribe

The term tribe, derived from the Latin tribus, refers to a group of persons forming a community and claiming descent from a common ancestor. In the Middle East and North Africa, unlike many other parts of the world, claiming tribal affiliation often positively affirms community, identity, and belonging. In the mid-to late twentieth century, nationalist leaders in some regions rejected claims to tribal identity as "primitive" or potentially divisive to national unity. In the early twenty-first century in Morocco, Yemen, and Jordan, tribal affiliations figure implicitly in electoral politics in many regions, although other aspects of personal and collective identity also come into play. In the Iraq ruled by Saddam Hussein (1979–2003), the mention in public of one's tribal identity, outlawed in the 1980s in an effort to forge national identity, crept back into common usage and regime practice by the mid-1990s. Tribal identities remain important in many regions of the Middle East. They provide the basis for many forms of communal and political solidarity, although never exclusive ones, in many parts of the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, Jordan, Syria, among Arabs in Israel, and in the Palestinian areas.

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