Iraq: Tribes Announce the Renewal of Confidence in the Anbar Covenant

from Sanad for Peacebuilding
Published on 19 Dec 2018

Baghdad, Iraq, December 19, 2018 - Leading tribal leaders and community actors from Anbar jointly announced their agreement on principles and mechanisms to guarantee the support of rule of law, prevent collective punishment and revenge, foster the safe and voluntary returns of IDPs, and promote overall sustainable social cohesion at a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq. To realise endurable justice, security, and stability in Anbar, the key actors have agreed on amendments to the People's Covenant of Anbar which was originally signed and announced in July 2016. The key actors committed to upholding and adopting the clauses of the amended agreement, which include among others, the rejection of collective punishment against families of suspected ISIS members and supporters, commitment to identifying ISIS members through legal channels, support for security services in achieving stability, rejection of extremist and sectarian discourse, and the establishment of mechanisms and activities aimed at ensuring the sustainability of the agreement.

“It was evident during the past fourteen months working on this process with more than 140 tribal and community leaders from different areas in Anbar, that they are genuinely wanting to find an inclusive solution for the families suspected in their affiliation with ISIS, in addition to the fact that they really want to be supportive of the rule of law and the state. Today, they have renewed their commitment, as a social power, to refrain from using the tribal customary laws as a parallel and competing element to the state’s justice and security structures. This is a turning point, and a replicable example indeed,” said Haider Al Ibrahimi, Executive Director at Sanad for Peacebuilding Organization.

The agreement, signed by 38 individuals, is an outcome of an initiative led and implemented by Sanad for Peacebuilding (Sanad), a non-governmental, non-profit organization, which works to promote peace and non-violence across Iraq. The initiative, supported by the Peace and Stabilizations Operations Program of the Government of Canada, involved facilitated dialogues and interviews with Anbari tribal and community leaders to identify opportunities to strengthen the Covenant and to have a better understanding of the main challenges and opportunities to achieving peaceful coexistence, support for the rule of law, and stability. The dialogues were run by Sanad’s strategic partner, the Network of Iraqi Facilitators (NIF).

“The original covenant, which was signed on July 23, 2016 contributed to protecting the community from internal division and fight,” said Sheikh Khalid Al Yawer of the National Reconciliation Committee.

The population of Anbar governorate, located in western Iraq, is largely Sunni Arab and has historically had strong tribal bonds, which have become more pronounced in recent years due to the lack of security in the region. Currently, the governorate is witnessing great challenges to social cohesion and enduring stability in the wake of the crimes and atrocities committed by ISIS, who seized large areas of the governorate in early 2014. Military offenses, which began in 2015, led to the area's eventual liberation in late 2017. As of October 2018, over 1 million IDPs have returned to Anbar, while tens of thousands from the governorate remain displaced. Originally drafted and announced in July 2016, the People's Covenant of Anbar was developed by tribal leaders from the governorate to contribute to post-liberation stability. The amendments announced today greatly strengthen, expand, and advance the original document through the inclusion of clauses which offer legal avenues for solutions related to families of suspected ISIS members, support for the rule of law and official judicial and security institutions, condemnation of collective punishment and revenge, and the censuring of extremist and sectarian rhetoric.

“The tribal leaders played a major role as change agents to revisit the Covenant and open a new page with all members of Anbar community,” said Ammar Zakri, Sanad's Programs Manager.

As a reflection of inclusivity and unanimity, the 84 conference attendees included:

  • Members of the Central Reconciliation Committee in Anbar
  • Heads of local peace committees
  • Tribal leaders from all districts who are members of the local peace committees
  • A representative from the Sunni Endowment
  • A representative from the National Reconciliation Committee