Deir Ezzor - Deir Ezzor Governorate in eastern Syria is characterized by tribal and tribal diversity that extends to a long history in the region, and this historical and cultural depth in the Euphrates Basin constitutes the cultural and social identity of the residents of the province.

As the situation in Syria developed following the outbreak of the revolution in March 2011, various forces exchanged control of the area, from the regime to the opposition until the Islamic State took control of most of the province in 2014.

After the formation of an international coalition to fight the organization, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) took control in March 2019 – with the support of the international coalition – of most of the eastern Euphrates region, which extends from the administrative borders of Hasakah governorate in the north to the Syrian-Iraqi border in the east.

With the SDF's control of the region, it became the most prominent controller of the security, political and military scene in eastern Syria.

Notables accuse the SDF of not cooperating with tribal sheikhs and actors in Deir Ezzor (Al Jazeera)

  • What is the nature of the relationship between the SDF and the tribes in Deir Ezzor?

The SDF tightened control over the countryside of Deir Ezzor province after the last battle in Al-Baghouz against ISIS in 2019, as it relied in its policy on building alliances formed by the commander of the Deir Ezzor Military Council, Ahmed Al-Khabil, who is affiliated with the Syrian Democratic Forces, as confirmed by Ali Al-Suleiman (pseudonym), nicknamed Abu Hussein, one of the notables of the village of Al-Zar, for Al-Jazeera Net.

Since its control of the areas east of the Euphrates in Deir Ezzor, the SDF "does not cooperate with tribal sheikhs, notables and actors in the region, but has sought to install people loyal to it and support them by inviting them to represent social events, or accepting their mediation in the release of prisoners in its custody, in an attempt to export them socially and increase their popularity to pass its agenda in the region," al-Suleiman said.

  • What are the reasons for the SDF's clash with the tribes?

The SDF divided Deir Ezzor into 4 administrative sectors, called cantons, namely the western region with the majority of its inhabitants from the Bakara clan, the central region of the Aqeedat tribe, the northern region with a majority of the Al-Bakir clan, and the eastern region, which includes the Al-Shaitat and Hajin clans, all the way to the Iraqi-Syrian border.

Residents of these areas accuse the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is dominated by the Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), of "mismanaging their cities and towns, granting limited privileges only to loyalists, causing popular protests against them in several places since 2019," according to the testimony of Abdul Salam al-Khaled (pseudonym), an elder from the village of Hawaij.

Al-Khaled confirms to Al Jazeera Net that the SDF forces "imposed on them Ahmed Al-Khabil, commander of the Deir Ezzor Military Council as a sheikh and emir, despite the rejection of the people of the region for his presence," before being arrested by the SDF recently and accusing him of mismanaging the region and recording serious violations against the population, according to a statement by the same forces.

Al-Khabil's arrest and the escalation of popular anger against the SDF and its transgressions east of the Euphrates were the spark that ignited armed confrontations with some members of the tribes of Deir Ezzor.

Haitham al-Hanat, a journalist and resident of Deir Ezzor, said the dominant force now deals with the clan "with a functional logic, through which it tries to reach legitimacy and acceptance of its authority in Deir Ezzor, and to win the favor and support of its residents".

He adds to Al Jazeera Net, that "the SDF's employment of the clan appears by dealing with the local population through the notables and sheikhs chosen by it, and supporting these centers and representation and giving them privileges."

This functional treatment is due to the SDF's perception of the tribes as "cohesive social bodies and structures that can be dealt with through their representatives, but the truth is far from that due to demographic factors and changing economic conditions of the tribes."

As well as because of "what these clans have gone through during many decades or even centuries, starting with their early settlement at the end of the Ottoman rule and their submission to successive political authorities and thus to the rule of law, and then the continuous involvement of their sons until now in various modern structures, institutions and currents, leading to a total change in their thinking, belonging and loyalty."

Thus, "it is no longer possible to deal with tribesmen based on this classic perception, whose reality no longer exists, and it eliminates the local population as individuals with political and legal rights," al-Hanat said.

US-led coalition forces are in specific locations in Deir Ezzor (social media)

  • How is the United States dealing with the situation in Deir Ezzor?

The US-led international coalition forces are deployed in specific locations in Deir Ezzor governorate, where they are located in the "Conoco" gas field and the "Omar" and "Al-Tink" oil fields east of Deir Ezzor, in the form of military bases that include airstrips, soldiers and military helicopters.

The Americans view Deir Ezzor "in a difficult way through a military perspective supervised by the US Department of Defense, the SDF's partner on the ground," said Bassam Barbandi, a former diplomat and researcher at the Center for International Studies.

He points out – in his speech to Al Jazeera Net – that there is a change in the American outlook after the recent events in the region, as Washington called for a reduction in violence in Deir Ezzor, stressing the right of its people in their demands.

Barbandi believes that the coalition and the Americans should give the Arab component a large space to ensure its security and safety in the east of the Euphrates in order to preserve the popular incubator, and not to feel threatened by the presence of other forces on the other side of the Euphrates River, such as Russian forces and Iranian "militias".

He stressed that the United States "will take serious steps for the participation of the Arab component in the SDF and the administration of the region".

  • Where will things end in Deir ez-Zor?

After the SDF regained control of the governorate following the recent battles that took place between it and the tribes at the end of last August, and announced the end of military operations on September 8, it seized some civilian homes and launched random arrests of a number of notables and notables and mediators negotiating between it and the tribes, according to what activists in the area monitored.

With poor services and economic conditions still deteriorating, residents do not rule out a return to tensions in the region, according to activist Abdul Moeen al-Dandal.

However, private sources revealed to Al Jazeera Net, the existence of intensive meetings between notables from the people of the region with the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces Mazloum Abdi, to work on holding a general conference for the province, expected to emerge from it administrative restructuring and the issuance of new decisions of interest to the region.