By Ako Muhammed
The Kurdish Globe
A report of August 2007
New "social committees" will attempt to settle rivalries.Rivalries between families and tribes still exist, leading to murder as a form of revenge. Courts cannot always end disputes, and this is where tribal reconciliation is most important.
When his father was killed in the 1980s, Herish Ahmed was a little boy. Herish's father was murdered by another man during a quarrel with relatives. As an adult, Herish was still not satisfied with the reconciliation made between his and the murderer's families at that time. So he killed the man who murdered his father, reigniting a family rivalry.
Herish escaped jail, as he refused to be behind bars for committing a crime he considered his right. Fearing revenge, Herish and a dozen of his relatives left their homes in Shawes district near Erbil and went into hiding. When his father was killed and after the reconciliation, a number of the murderers' families were obliged to leave Shawes and settled in Soran town.
Rivalry between tribes and families because of murder and honor crimes as well as property violations has rooted itself in the Kurdish community and still exists. The law limits the criminal's punishment, because the law cannot stop the hostility. After and sometimes before the court's rulings, both sides are brought together to reconcile and end the rivalry in a special meeting known as "tribal reconciliation." Such a meeting is managed by well-known heads of tribes, religious clerics, and high-ranking officials. Now, the political parties in Kurdistan have created so-called "social committees" to heal disputes between families and/or tribes.
"Each time we reconcile two sides, we provide the court a copy of the agreement signed by both sides. We consider the law and act in accordance with the courts," said Amin, who also mentioned that he has taken part in over 200 tribal reconciliations in the past three years. Tribal reconciliation begins when the law ends.
"Sometimes you see that a murderer has completed his punishment after being in jail for several years, and yet he is exposed to revenge. From here we act to settle the rivalry," Amin said. He explained that there are two rights of each crime, personal and public. For public rights, the court could punish by imprisonment, while personal rights could be achieved socially.
Amin said that they interfered to return the deported families while they leave Herish's legal case to the court. "Law does not care for returning those families; it just sentences the criminal," he added.
When criminals cannot be charged by law or when the law releases criminals by general amnesty, the persecuted side never lets its personal rights go in vain. Usually, such rights are compromised on in tribal reconciliations. The victimized side forgives the criminal by making deals, such as being paid large sums of money.
Amin explained that the reconciliations now arranged by the political parties' social committees are legal and done in accordance with law. "We never arrange reconciliation that opposes law and custom. For instance, we would never accept a victimized, innocent woman being compromised for the sake of ending a rivalry.