Syrian military police carry coffins as they prepare to send the bodies of 11 soldiers and security force members to their families for burial in the city of Homs.
Syrian military police carry coffins as they prepare to send the bodies of 11 soldiers and security force members to their families for burial in the city of Homs.

Tribal justice blamed for deaths of 120 Syrian police and soldiers



In the two months since an anti-government uprising began in Syria, more than 120 members Syrian police and soldiers have been killed, authorities say.

If that number is correct, the Syrian government has lost as many security forces since March as the US military has in Afghanistan since the start of the year - 127 killed in action - and more than the British army has lost in any single year during the decade-long Afghan war.

Officials say that scale of violence is clear evidence that Syria is facing an insurgency by Islamist terrorists.

Civil rights activists in Syria acknowledge religious militants are likely to have been involved in some killings. They cite a handful of well-publicised atrocities in which the bodies of soldiers were mutilated. There have also been claims of mosques calling for jihad as security units face off against demonstrators.

But residents say the reality is typically far more mundane, especially in the tribal regions where many of the attacks against government forces appear to have occurred.

Rather than a conspiracy of Islamic fundamentalists, supplied with weapons and cash by Syria's enemies, local inhabitants and tribe members say many of those shooting at the security services are motivated by traditions of tribal justice and dignity, self-defence, a sense of powerlessness and years of pent up anger and frustration.

For all its hallmarks as a modern secular state, Syria remains a complex mosaic of tribes, sects and powerful extended families. Loyalty to clan often supersedes allegiance to country and tribal justice regularly supplants civil law.

Rural Syria, where this hierarchy of loyalties is most prevalent, is home to a majority of the country's 22 million people. Nevertheless, large scale migration means tribal influences have reached into the teeming working-class suburbs of Damascus, Aleppo, Homs and other major cities.

This clash of tribal identity with state authority is woven into the violence that has swept the country since protests began two months ago this week. The absence of any credible prosecution of those responsible for excessive violence against unarmed protesters has given way to more traditional ways of holding people to account.

"If you kill someone from a tribe and the government doesn't deliver justice, then the tribe will see justice is done in its own way, which means blood-for-blood," a member of one of Syria's major clans said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of his remarks. "My people believe in revenge," he continued. "If one of the tribe is shot by a member of the security services and the killer is not properly punished by the government, then another security man will be killed to settle the score. It's simple: an eye-for-an-eye."

That reaction to what many saw as official impunity took root on March 18 during the first rally in Deraa, the crucible of the uprising, when four people were gunned down as they demanded the release of 15 local schoolchildren who had been arrested and abused by the security forces for writing political graffiti on a wall

The powerful tribal families in the southern Houran region, which has its capital Deraa, asked the authorities to discipline security personnel involved in killings, particularly the senior officers who gave orders to open fire on unarmed protesters during the first demonstration.

Despite promises of justice and the sacking of local officials, lawyers say no legal action has been taken against any security force suspects, in stark contrast to the rapid arrests and referral to the courts of political dissidents and those suspected of anti-government violence.

"There is no independent judiciary in Syria, no trustworthy legal process that will punish anyone working for the government for their crimes," said one man, who refused even to identify his tribe.

The government's inaction led influential figures in Deraa's strongest clans to conclude both that justice would not be done and that they would be shown no mercy for their public dissent, he said. Similar calculations appear to have fuelled violence elsewhere in the country, some of which has targeted security forces.

The government's claim of 120 dead soldiers and police officers is disputed by activists, who also insist that some have been summarily executed for insubordination after refusing orders to shoot at protesters. Human rights groups say some 850 civilians have been killed and many more wounded by Syrian security forces since March. Neither figure can be independently verified.

Syria's leadership has justified its use of tanks, infantry and mass arrests against centres of protest, including Deraa, Banias, and Hom, on the grounds that demonstrations have been hijacked by what presidential adviser Bouthaina Shaaban described as  "a combination of fundamentalists, extremists, smugglers and ex-convicts".

"You can't be very nice to people who are leading an armed rebellion, in a sense," she told The New York Times in a recent interview, adding that investigations were still on-going as to exactly who is behind the violence.

State-run media has aired gruesome footage of dead security personnel, and a series of confessions by people it says were involved in acts of violence. Some say they were pushed to do so and supplied with cash and arms by foreigners. Others have confessed to having criminal records and to taking part in "vandalism and riot acts" during protests, including drive-by shootings and arson attacks.

A resident of Syria's border region with Lebanon, where there have been frequent protests and some clashes between anti-government forces and the security services, agreed that criminals were involved in violent demonstrations there.

"These people near the border, many are smugglers, and they hate the border police, the customs authorities, the security, they see them as enemies," he said. "There are criminals and drug dealers, hard people who have been fighting the authorities in one way or another for years."

Nevertheless, he described circumstances more complex than mindless criminal activity and said Islamic radicalism was not in play.

"There are dishonest people involved in the violence, but there are also criminals who are nationalists and patriots who hate the system and they see this as their chance to do something about it," he said.

"Some of the criminals fighting now blame the authorities for their situation, they say they were forced into crime by corruption, poverty, prejudice and abuse by officials.

"They hate the system because they say it gave them no chance in life. They are angry and they have some weapons which they are not afraid to use."

A member of an influential clan from Deraa also brushed aside suggestions that Islamist ideology was playing an important role for those trying to fight government forces in the area.

"There are people fighting, but they are not religious extremists, they are tribal people, mainly farmers, and they are trying to defend themselves," he said. "The government started the killing and it didn't stop, so some people take up weapons as a last response."

He said some leading tribal figures had declined to join a delegation to discuss the issue with Syria's leadership, after early mediation

efforts came to nothing, in part because major clans felt they had been disrespected by authorities in Damascus.

"There is blood, so it's a tribal issue now and it will be settled in a tribal way," he recounted a leading clan member as saying.

Another member of a Deraa tribe described the mixture of community pride, stubborn defiance and a towering sense of outrage that had led some people there to fight against the overwhelming military force sent in to crush the uprising. Armed with unlicensed weapons that are found in many rural households, including hunting rifles, pistols and AK-47s, they refused to back down.

"In some of the villages near Deraa, people are almost crazy," he said. "It's not like Damascus. Down there, if the army comes for them, they'll stand and fight, even if they know they'll lose."

He said he knew of some tribe members in one village who had managed to obtain a small mortar and had fired a bomb at a nearby army encampment, after a relative had been killed by government forces.

"It's not an Islamic uprising - it's pride, it's tribal," he said. "There is a poem in Deraa that says it's an honour, not a source of shame, to be buried in your own soil. We believe that."

A secular Syrian dissident said that in Deraa and other Syrian communities, only a minority had responded to government brutality with violence.

"The regime sent the army and tanks in, and there was so much killing, so we have seen revenge killing from people there," he said. "I don't support that, but you have to understand it. It's a tribal area and if you see your cousin or bother or sister killed, and you know you can't tell the police about it because they're the ones who did it, you will use whatever weapon you can to defend yourself.

"They killed soldiers and security there, that's certain," he added. "But the motives are important and they were not jihad."

However, tribal members and secular dissidents have warned that people are being pushed towards violence and Islamic militancy, especially those who have seen family members killed.

A tribe member put it bluntly: "The government isn't killing Islamic extremists but with every protester that gets shot, it might be making them."

What is 'Soft Power'?

Soft power was first mentioned in 1990 by former US Defence Secretary Joseph Nye. 
He believed that there were alternative ways of cultivating support from other countries, instead of achieving goals using military strength. 
Soft power is, at its root, the ability to convince other states to do what you want without force. 
This is traditionally achieved by proving that you share morals and values.

KEY DATES IN AMAZON'S HISTORY

July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

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Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

SPECS

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Zodi & Tehu: Princes Of The Desert

Director: Eric Barbier

Starring: Youssef Hajdi, Nadia Benzakour, Yasser Drief

Rating: 4/5

If you go

The flights

Emirates flies from Dubai to Seattle from Dh5,555 return, including taxes. Portland is a 260 km drive from Seattle and Emirates offers codeshare flights to Portland with its partner Alaska Airlines.

The car

Hertz (www.hertz.ae) offers compact car rental from about $300 per week, including taxes. Emirates Skywards members can earn points on their car hire through Hertz.

Parks and accommodation

For information on Crater Lake National Park, visit www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm . Because of the altitude, large parts of the park are closed in winter due to snow. While the park’s summer season is May 22-October 31, typically, the full loop of the Rim Drive is only possible from late July until the end of October. Entry costs $25 per car for a day. For accommodation, see www.travelcraterlake.com. For information on Umpqua Hot Springs, see www.fs.usda.gov and https://soakoregon.com/umpqua-hot-springs/. For Bend, see https://www.visitbend.com/.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Consoles: PC, PlayStation
Rating: 2/5

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

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Price: TBA

Dolittle

Director: Stephen Gaghan

Stars: Robert Downey Jr, Michael Sheen

One-and-a-half out of five stars

Hales' batting career

Tests 11; Runs 573; 100s 0; 50s 5; Avg 27.38; Best 94

ODIs 58; Runs 1,957; 100s 5; 50s 11; Avg 36.24; Best 171

T20s 52; Runs 1,456; 100s 1; 50s 7; Avg 31.65; Best 116 not out

The bio

Favourite book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Favourite travel destination: Maldives and south of France

Favourite pastime: Family and friends, meditation, discovering new cuisines

Favourite Movie: Joker (2019). I didn’t like it while I was watching it but then afterwards I loved it. I loved the psychology behind it.

Favourite Author: My father for sure

Favourite Artist: Damien Hurst

Specs: 2024 McLaren Artura Spider

Engine: 3.0-litre twin-turbo V6 and electric motor
Max power: 700hp at 7,500rpm
Max torque: 720Nm at 2,250rpm
Transmission: Eight-speed dual-clutch auto
0-100km/h: 3.0sec
Top speed: 330kph
Price: From Dh1.14 million ($311,000)
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HOW TO WATCH

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BUNDESLIGA FIXTURES

Friday (UAE kick-off times)

Borussia Dortmund v Paderborn (11.30pm)

Saturday 

Bayer Leverkusen v SC Freiburg (6.30pm)

Werder Bremen v Schalke (6.30pm)

Union Berlin v Borussia Monchengladbach (6.30pm)

Eintracht Frankfurt v Wolfsburg (6.30pm)

Fortuna Dusseldof v  Bayern Munich (6.30pm)

RB Leipzig v Cologne (9.30pm)

Sunday

Augsburg v Hertha Berlin (6.30pm)

Hoffenheim v Mainz (9pm)

 

 

 

 

 

ROUTE TO TITLE

Round 1: Beat Leolia Jeanjean 6-1, 6-2
Round 2: Beat Naomi Osaka 7-6, 1-6, 7-5
Round 3: Beat Marie Bouzkova 6-4, 6-2
Round 4: Beat Anastasia Potapova 6-0, 6-0
Quarter-final: Beat Marketa Vondrousova 6-0, 6-2
Semi-final: Beat Coco Gauff 6-2, 6-4
Final: Beat Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 6-2

RESULTS

2pm: Handicap (PA) Dh 40,000 (Dirt) 1,200m
Winner: AF Senad, Nathan Crosse (jockey), Kareem Ramadan (trainer)

2.30pm: Maiden (PA) Dh 40,000 (D) 1,000m
Winner: Ashjaan, Fabrice Veron, Eric Lemartinel.

3pm: Maiden (PA) Dh 40,000 (D) 1,700m
Winner: Amirah, Conner Beasley, Ali Rashid Al Raihe.

3.30pm: Handicap (PA) Dh 40,000 (D) 1,700m
Winner: Jap Al Yaasoob, Szczepan Mazur, Irfan Ellahi.

4pm: Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan Cup Prestige Handicap (PA) Dh 100,000 (D) 1,200m
Winner: Jawaal, Fernando Jara, Majed Al Jahouri.

4.30pm: Handicap (TB) Dh 40,000 (D) 1,200m
Winner: Manhunter, Ryan Curatolo, Mujeeb Rahman.

COMPANY PROFILE

Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded

Confirmed bouts (more to be added)

Cory Sandhagen v Umar Nurmagomedov
Nick Diaz v Vicente Luque
Michael Chiesa v Tony Ferguson
Deiveson Figueiredo v Marlon Vera
Mackenzie Dern v Loopy Godinez

Tickets for the August 3 Fight Night, held in partnership with the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, went on sale earlier this month, through www.etihadarena.ae and www.ticketmaster.ae.

SPECS

Engine: Two-litre four-cylinder turbo
Power: 235hp
Torque: 350Nm
Transmission: Nine-speed automatic
Price: From Dh167,500 ($45,000)
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