What Does "Tribally Wanted" Mean in Iraq?

Wednesday 14 March 201809:20 pm
It is not uncommon in Iraq to see "tribally wanted" emblazoned in red paint on residential buildings to declare that the owners of the marked properties are involved in tribal disputes. The term, which would fend off interest from potential buyers, does not necessarily mean the targeted individuals have committed a crime; people often bear the brunt of relatives' involvement in such disputes. A group of armed men would mark a property in broad daylight before firing into the air as an announcement that something was tribally wanted. This person would normally be given some time to fulfill their demands, or violence would erupt.

From Landlord to Tenant

S.A. said two tribes demanded that he pay them $400,000 because his brother conned their men out of their money. When the deadline passed and he did not comply, gunmen opened fire at his vast apartment in Baghdad, forcing him to move along with his seven-member family to a rental measuring 75 square meters.


Elsewhere in Baghdad, three tribes marked the office of A.H. after a worker from his building materials company testified against three of their men in a murder case. Although the trio have confessed to throwing a colleague off the building they worked in, their tribes demanded that A.H. pay money in compensation for the death sentence the defendants received, declaring him tribally wanted for his worker's testimony. The tribes eventually settled for half the amount they demanded, which  amount A.H. did not disclose yet described the three men's families as "greedy".

"Societal Behavior"

A car accident or a mere argument can turn into a tribal dispute that would lead to local elders' interference, according to social researcher Saeed Karim. "Some tribal traditions have become communal behaviors," he told Raseef22. "Tribalism controls Iraqi society to a great extent. There are people who live off tribal disputes, especially with easy targets that would pay anything under threat."

Incapable State, Powerful Tribes

Spraying "tribally wanted" on properties is a longtime tradition that has notably spread since Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003, with consecutive Iraqi governments giving tribes more influence. Authorities provide tribal leaders with funds and arms and grant them official titles. The Iraqi parliament is also studying a law regulating tribal affairs, which according to lawyer Ismail El-Fatlawy would legitimize tribalism."The more incapable the state is, the more powerful tribes will become," he concluded.
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