Explorer Mikael Strandberg

An insight into Tribal Yemen, part 2; Expedition Yemen By Camel

They didn´t target you” , the Sheikh of a Northern province laughed and continued chuckling: ”The shooter hid in the minerat of the mosque and managed to injure two people before we surrounded the mosque and forced him and his friends out. He was unhappy with the decision last week.”

At first I didn´t really understand what he meant. I was to occupied watching all big and small sheikhs entering the grand hall of my host, Sheikh Mohammed Naji Abdul.Aziz Al-Shayef, but than I realized he was talking about what happened a week back, at the my first visit to a tribal court, and we were hurried away and forced to sit inside the armoured jeep. Some where just not impressed with the desicion being forgiveness and one Bakil sheikh from Sanaa, told me that this was an unacceptable behavior.

We call it black shame, it is not good at all.”

As I explained in the last report, see here, tolerance, forgiveness, negotiation and dialogue is the theme words when talking about tribal conflict resolution. This time a high level Bakil had somehow killed a high level Hashid and last week they had reached an agreement which forgave the killer, when the shooting started out of disappointment. I figured since I was here to see the final part, when they were supposed to pay the penalty the tribes had agreed on, that they had sorted these problems out. And I was right. I didn´t even have to travel in the armoured jeep, but my friend, Hisham, brought me in his jeep. He complained after the first stretch:

I fit carries on like this, I will have to change my brake blocks soon!”

For security reasons, the shejk Mohammed Naji Abdul.Aziz Al-Shayef, travels himself in an armoured Lexus and together with at least 50 cars, who stop, take over each other, block the rest of the traffic and on top of that, he has armed guards along the route. It is to say the least, a very entertaining drive. And the tribes love having their pictures taken, whether they´re on the back of a truck holding their Kalshnikovs or once the caravan stops, and every one gets out and start moving quickly. Once out of the car, I joined the tribal men heading for the open court theater as i would call it. It was exactly like going to a soccer game, with the rowdy fans singing and shouting for their team, all of them full of adrenalin.

This time there were armed tribal men from Hashid and Bakil even on the roofs and next to the mosque. Once again I had a feeling of being at a soccer game. Both sides of the pitch where covered by armed tribes men. In the middle, a hundred meters apart, stood a line made up of Hashid Sheiks on one side and Bakil on the opposite side. The atmosphere was thrilling. I was so excitted by it all, so I didn´t hear the Bakil sheikhs starting to call. I did hear the Hashid answer. This was followed by the two sides starting walking towards each other, some of them where singing. Two young men suddenly turned up in front of me to show a sticker on their rifle. It said:

God is great. Death to America, Death To Israel, Curse On The Jews, Victory for Islam.”

These guys came from Saada. They were young, thought it was really funny and I guess, it isn´t unheard of such sentiment I am afraid, but almost immediately elder tribes men turned up and told them off. Suddenly I was pushed in a crowd towards the meeting of the tribal leaders, as sudden TV-crews turned up and microphones. After a speech from the Bakil, Hashid accepted and they started to kiss, hugg and walk around holding hands.

There´s 44 cow´s in that truck” , a guy who spoke English told me; ”On top of that, they have given the family money and weapons.”

I got pulled away by more men who wanted their photos taken. So I actually missed the last part. As sudden as it started, it was over. And as after the final whistle in a soccer game, the crowds left the ”arena” and returned to wherever they came from.

I didn´t get an interview with the shejk this day either. But I talked to some people who are really involved with the tribes of Yemen and they said that there are many challenges ahead for the ageless tribal system. The generation gap being the biggest, which I fully can understand, since with the Arabian Spring pressing on, the young have a less understanding and less commitment to tribal traditions. On top of that, which I realized when i walked from Zabid to Sanaa, they´re poorly educated and have limited possabilites in life. And this worries me, because restless, uneducated young men is with the most dangerous we have on earth today.

More photos of the Tribal Outdoor Court, see here!

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