chapter  4
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Tribal problems

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As explained in Chapter 1, the greater part of Iraq’s rural population had a tribal organization. This tribal population included nomadic, semi-settled, and settled elements. As is shown by the official reports examined in previous chapters, the Ottoman authorities regarded the presence of this large tribal population as a major obstacle to good government in Iraq, and to economic and social progress. The tribes were seen as a standing menace to law and order, as recalcitrant to taxation and conscription, and as an obstacle to the establishment of effective governmental authority. At the root of these problems lay the tribes’ status as semiautonomous political, social, and even military units, ruled by their own chiefs, bound by their own internal loyalties, and governed by their own customary laws. Before examining the Hamidian regime’s approach to the tribal issue, therefore, it is appropriate to consider some of the main characteristics of tribal society in Iraq.1