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Advances in Applied Sociology
2012. Vol.2, No.1, 19-29
Published Online March 2012 in SciRes (http://www.SciRP.org/journal/aasoci) http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/aasoci.2012.21003
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 19
A Study on Hierarchical/Normative Order, Marriage and Family
Patterns in Bin Yousuf Tribe of Southeastern Turkey
Tülin G. İçli1, Şevket Ökten2, Aslıhan Öğün Boyacıoğlu1
1Department of Sociology, Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey
2Department of Sociology, Harran University, Şanlıurfa, Turkey
Email: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Received January 30th, 2012; revised February 27th, 2012; accepted March 12th, 2012
Ashirat (tribe), an Arabic-origin word, defines the first and the most important community among the
small groups, constituting a tribe and it refers to a big family. The aim of this study is to describe hierar-
chical order and social status, normative/legal order and marriage and family patterns in Bin Yousuf ashi-
rat settled in Harran valley of Sanliurfa province, Southeastern Turkey. Naimi and Bradat are the two
clans loyal to Bin Yousuf ashirat. In this study, by using techniques of in-depth interview, observation
and focus group interviews, a qualitative research was carried out upon the members of the Bin Yousuf
Tribe. Results of the study revealed that the basic feature of this social structure is the loyalty to the in-
troverted institutions such as the tribe and aghaism, which are interlaced with each other through the very
long history. Ashirat as an institution in the area where there is no strong governmental organization or
security over any matter, maintains its function in overcoming difficulties and solving the problems such
as the need of getting and using bank loans, establishing security and solidarity. This situation considera-
bly maintains the loyalty of the members to the ashirat.
Keywords: Ashirat; Tribe; Ashirats in Turkey; Social Structures of Ashirats
A societal organization primarily depends on the thoughts,
beliefs and emotions of its members. In this sense, in regional
communities where tribal organization is effective, the kinship
system which embraces economic, social, political and moral
dimensions, largely defines the place of the individual in com-
munity and specifies the proper behavioral codes as well. In
other words, economic, social and political aspects of daily life
is dominated by the ideology of the tribe.
Tribal identity is just one of the identities in the region that
people may acquire and although loosing its effect there are
always people being e member of a tribe. According to Heck-
mann the tribal ideology is primarily constituted through a form
of patriarchal type of solidarity, which is based upon patrilineal
ancestry, common culture and history. At the central core of this
interdependence and solidarity we see close and strong bonds
between patrilineal kins and these bonds weaken in the pe-
riphers of tribal kinship (Heckmann, 2002: p. 146).
Ashirat (tribe), an Arabic-origin word, defines the first and
the most important community among the small groups, con-
stituting a tribe and it refers to a big family. On the other hand,
the words of kabila (clan) and ashirat are used in this region
differently from their standart use in the Turkish language.
While the word kabila is used for family in the Arabic language,
being not used in the meaning of big family, the same word in
Turkish refers to “oymak” (tribal subdivision) or “boy” who lives
a nomadic or semi-nomadic life (Yinanç, 1995: pp. 709-710).
There is no other term than “tribe” to describe such a com-
plex organization type in English. Given the geographical cha-
racteristics of the region, this conceptual contradiction or re-
duction seems to be accounted for. Orientialists firstly studied
the northern Africa where Arabs and Bedouin groups were
living. The type of organization that is described as Ashirat in
Turkish is called “Kabila” (qabilah), whereas sub-units in this
organization type is called “Ashirat” (ashirah) in Arabic. There-
fore, the identification of tribe with qabilah became dominant
in previous studies on the topic and then, all similar organiza-
tions have been covered and analysed under the concept of tribe
(Aydın, 2004: p. 12).
The term tribe in Social Sciences Dictionary is defined as “a
society basing its membership on kinship” (Reading, 1978: p.
223). Therefore, ashirat nearly in all related research has been
regarded as a kinship group based on blood relation.
This orientalistic view can be seen both in Durkheim’s model
of solidarity, Maine’s theory of social contracts, and in Weber’s
typology of traditional authority. According to this view, these
types of communities form the basis of rural organization in
closed societies where the primary type of social relationships
based on kinship is prevalent. However, when we look closer, it
can be seen that the central importance given to blood ties in
qabilah dissapears in tribal organizations. Relationships based
on blood ties in the sub units of the tribe are usually constituted
through marriage and they are temporary. In fact it is quiet possi-
ble that social units within the tribal community may join other
groups as well as new units from different social groups may
join the tribal community.
Theoretical basis of the definition of ashirat as a group de-
pending on blood relation is mostly the analyses of Henry Lewis
Morgan and of Engels. When a deeper approach is adopted, it is
seen that the principle of blood relation becomes vague and
insignifcant in the ashirat type of organization. In fact, ashirat
is a type of organization that units around “common interest
unity” and is a political entity in nature. “Common origins” and
“common lineage” that are regarded as a dominant and basic
T. G. İÇLİ ET AL.
quality in regard to ashirat organization are significantly fictive
(Aydın, 2004: p. 12).
Today, the concept of ashirat is perceived in different ways
with different perspectives. Very common of this perception,
which is the most erroneous is describing tribes romantically as
nomadic shepherds. This perception is completely incorrect. In
the past, although the number of real nomads was much more
than today, they were not even the half of the population living
in the region. For this reason, regarding the ashirat and asiratchilik
(tribalism), it is necessary to avoid the unrealistic view of ‘no-
madic tribes’. Since “the factor which distinguishes tribes from
the other groups is not being nomads or shepherds, but exis-
tence of powerful relations between its members” Another er-
roneous evaluation is to undoubtedly assume the people who
live in the region as members of a tribe. Here there have always
been people living out of tribes. These people are called Kir-
manj, qualifying them as belonging to no tribe (Bruinessen,
1992: p. 205).
The other miscoption about this topic stems from the reduce-
tionist perspective that is dominant in the Western anthropolgy.
In accordance with this perspective, ashirat organizations rep-
resent a common type of organizations for all socities of the
Central Asia, Asia Minor, Africa, South America and Oceania
that are based on common lineage and underdeveloped in con-
tast to feudal organizations of modern states. One of the dis-
agreements about the concept of ashirat is the use of kabila in
the same meaning with ashirat. The uncertainty around the the
term of qabilah which cannot be classified among the standart
concepts of anthropology, resulted in its common use as im-
plying nomads. On the other hand the use of the term kabila
meaning as lineage groups implied in the concept of “segmen-
tary lineage”, which is borrowed from anthropology is largely
accepted among many historians and writers (Aydın, 2004: p.
27). In this sense, Crone, a writer studying the early Islamic
period defends gabilah as being “exclusively and absolutely a
rural concept” (Crone, 1986: p. 55).
It is significant that studying human groups based on the
findings of ethnogrphic studies or studying history of these
groups require to take into consideration the cultural differences
and to avoid ethnocentrisim and anacchronism. In other words,
such studies should consider cultural differences at the dimen-
sions of place and time among societies. This is particularly
evident in the studies on tribes and ashirats. As stated earlier,
using the findings of the studies regarding African and Ameri-
can societies are not so much functional for the studies of Turkish
ashirat and tribe facts. Because the economical and political
systems as well as geographical position of socities are very
In this region, the term kabila is used for sub-branch of an
ashirat. During our study, we found that the biggest community
in this kind of social organizational hierarchy is called ashirat,
and other families constructing the tribe are called “kabila”.
Gokalp also specifies the same structure. He stated that the tribe
consists of a few clans and the clans include families. Accord-
ing to Gokalp’s description, “the tribe is a community in which
there are members having common ancestors or kinship rela-
tions and it is governed by their own leaders (rais)” (Gökalp,
1992: p. 159).
Bruinessen who made research upon the tribes living in the
Eastern and South Eastern regions of Turkey, defines the tribe
as “a socio-political and in general, territorial (and as a result of
this, economical) unit based on actual or close family rela-
tions”( Bruinessen, 1992: p. 77).
Clan communities, ashirat, in Arabic mean “big families”
coming from the same source (from one grandfather, his son
and grandsons) and it is regarded as the first and the smallest
unit. On the other hand, the concept of tribe does not mean a
big family in Turkish; it is used in the meaning of oymak or boy
living nomadic or semi-nomadic life. According to Yalkin, the
word “oymak” is used in Turkish for ashirat in Arabic, and
“oba” is used for kabila (Yalkın, 1997: p. 18).
All the terms translated into English as “tribe” (kabile) are
vague (for instance, kabile, il, aşiret, taifa) and therefore, as-
signing definite meanings to these terms will lead to miscon-
ceptions. It is argued that the term “tribe” as an analytical con-
cept should be defined as a type of social organization that is a
thinking style and an action model that is against the public
institutions (Tapper, 2004: p. 31).
With its own historical conditions and different social and
cultural characteristics, the Southeastern Region of Turkey de-
picts a specific social structure distinguishing it from the other
regions of the country. The economy in the region is mainly
based on stockbreeding. As a result of this, the nomadic and
semi-nomadic life style has been dominant in this region until
recently. Even today, the tribal order, which is regarded as a
typical organization that is characterized by a nomadic life, is
prevalent in almost every kind of social institution or relation.
The main reason for this is that, in the tribal structure, the
strong relationships among the members of the tribe, not the
nomadic life, is the distinguishing factor. The origin of the
tribal order goes very far back in the history. The distinctive
structural feature of the region is based upon the beylik/aghalik
order (local, big landownership order). And the tribe relations
are interlaced with this order. Whether sedentary or semi-sed-
entary, the tribal organization in this region is balanced with the
order of local big landowners. The most significant factors that
affect the development and continuation of the tribal organiza-
tion in the region are as follows: the difficulties in the admini-
stration of the area is directly related to its geographical loca-
tion (being at the border line) and in being a buffer zone be-
tween two or more countries.
Ziya Gokalp, the Turkish sociologist who conducted the first
systematic study on clans and tribes in Turkey, indicates that
both geographical and political factors are effective in the de-
velopment and maintenance of the tribal organizations in the
region. Gokalp (1992: p. 45) states that people living in desserts
and mountains are faced with threats of consecutive attacks and
accordingly, they have to be organized and armed perpetually
against potential enemies. This organization is generally consti-
tuted under the leadership of one person or by coming together
with other members of the same family or different families.
According to Bruinessen (1992: p. 208), the administration
of the Southeast Region of Anatolia has generally been pro-
vided by leaders (rais) of the tribes; a situation, which still is
the case today. Tribal relationships have been very influential
upon the social structure of the region. Apart from this, coun-
tries that are geographically close to each other have provided
power to the personalities who are leading the political activi-
ties in the area.
This situation continued from the time of the Ottomans until
the foundation of the Turkish Republic and it can still be ob-
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
T. G. İÇLİ ET AL.
served today. In 1517 during the invasion of Ottoman Empire,
the Southeast Anatolian Region and some parts of the East
Anatolia were considered as a buffer zone against the Shiite
State in Iran and the administration of this area was organized
in this sense. “At the time of Yavuz Sultan Selim, some places
were given to the leaders of tribes as yurtluk-ocaklik and Sanjak
due to their loyalty to the Empire, their success won against
Shah Ismail and their contribution to the invasion of the area by
the Ottomans in 1517” (Sencer,1997: p. 595).
Although the actual conditions that caused the emergence of
the tribes no longer exist, they are still influential at political,
economic and social levels. Today, due to the progress in in-
dustrialization, urbanization, communication facilities and trans-
portation, the structure of the tribes has changed. Most of the
factories and commercial enterprises in this area belong to lan-
downers and noblemen of the tribes. Landlords who employed
the villagers as shareholders or tenants of their lands have turned
to be the ‘bosses’ of factories and workplaces in urban areas.
The findings of recent studies carried out on this Region in-
dicate that the rate of people who specify themselves as being
members of a tribe and report that this membership is very
important for them is very high (Baran vd., 1998). According to
the findings of a research conducted by Sencer (1993: p. 38) in-
cluding the provinces of South Eastern Anatolia Project (GAP),
nearly half of the families (47.3%) stated that they belong to a
tribe. This ratio increases up to 57.2% in rural settlements and
decreases to 33.3% in urban areas. When the province of San-
liurfa is considered alone, the ratio of family members belong-
ing to a tribe is 80.9% in urban settlements and increases to
92.6% in rural settlements. Since 1995, when effective irriga-
tion started, a great increase in the agricultural production is
recorded in the GAP region.
One of the significant problems experienced in the region is
unequal distribution of the ownership of agricultural fields and
of the running of these fields. Majority of the agricultural busi-
ness have non-productive fields that are not enough to have
high levels of profits. Therefore, such economical activities pro-
vide the people with only income levels for their living. Major-
ity of the agricultural fields are controlled by minority. The rate
of the people without any land ownership is higher than that of
those who are owners of fields (For details, please see Sencer
1993, Ökten 2006, GAP Bölgesinin Sosyo-Kültürel ve Yapısal
Özelliklerinin Aile Yapısına Etkileri, Aile ve toplum dergisi yıl:
8. cilt: 3. sayı 9, T. C. Başbakanlık Aile ve Sosyal Araştırmalar
Genel Müdürlüğü, Ankara: 2006). In order to improve this une-
qual distribution, a series of arrangements has been realized.
However, it may be argued that such arrangements have not
solved the problems, but increased the inequalities (Aksoy,
1992: p. 53).
The land ownership order in the area has been dominant for a
very long time and people earn their living from agriculture and
livestock rising. In fact, most of these lands belong to the lead-
ers of tribes. Deputies of the area and other important political
figures coming from this region are either leaders or noblemen
of a certain tribe. Consequently, they play important roles and
occupy critical positions in the government and in the decision-
making mechanisms concerning the Region.
The leaders of tribes have always received great compliments,
since for politicians to obtain the votes of majority of people in
the area is much easier by just negotiating with the leaders of
the tribes who hold an important influence on members. There-
fore, for the leader, keeping members together using “the tribal
tie” is important for the sake of being more powerful in the
above-mentioned aspects. In this regard, the leaders use their
economic and political powers to keep members tied to the
group. Members of the tribe work at their leader’s lands as
tenants or shareholders, they are provided with job facilities,
obtain financial aid and every kind of support they need. Con-
sequently, the members who are well aware of these advantages
and opportunities regard this “tie” as very important.
On the other hand, apart from economic and political factors,
there are social and cultural factors which support tribal ties;
within the socio-cultural context, loyalty to tribe is regarded as
a norm, carrying primary importance.
It is certain that ashirat organzations in the region differ in
terms of both forms and activities. Based on geographical con-
ditions, coexistence of social groups and the levels of moderni-
zation, the existence and activities of ashirats vary.
On the other hand, the tribal tie has been very important in
every aspect of people’s lives in this region for centuries. Loy-
alty to the tribe not only means nobility in the area, but also is a
symbol of “priority” over people or groups who do not have
such a tie. Tribal structures include religious, political and so-
cial values, which depict their members’ “ideal” behavioural
patterns. People who obey the rules of their tribes are regarded
as self-governing and noble heroes in the region and are rewarded
with the title of asir, which, according to Gökalp (1992: p. 18),
Asirs who behave in consistency with the rules of the tribe
should carry certain characteristics. These reflect his and his
tribe’s honour and prestige: such as bravery, generosity, honour,
chastity and good fortune.
Granting good fortune (baht, aman) means to protect a per-
son who is in difficulty and to take him under protection. An
asir who gives baht to a man has to protect this man even he is
the murderer of his father. If he does not so, he loses his honor
and pride1. Namus (honor) is another concept, which is strongly
emphasized among the tribal values; According to tribal tradi-
tions, “Kara Çadir namussuzlugu asla affetmez” (The Black
Pavilion—in which the leader of the tribe lives—does never
Aim of the Study
As it was in the past, the tribal formation still preserves its
function in providing most of the needs of the local people in
the region. Many “facilities” from finance to protection, from
providing justice to receiving help from each other have been
provided by or through this formation. In this sense, industri-
alization, urbanization, or social changes alone cannot wipe
away these social formations. On the contrary, they may trans-
form and empower them. Unless modern organisations, which
will perform the functions of tribes, are set up, to evaluate the
transformation of tribal constitutions as downfalls will not be
logical or realistic.
The aim of this study is to describe hierarchical order and
social status, normative/legal order and marriage and family
patterns in Bin Yousuf tribe settled in Harran valley of Sanli-
urfa province, Southeastern Turkey. Naimi and Bradat are the
two clans loyal to Bin Yousuf tribe.
1There are many proverbs among tribes on this matter such as “Bahti tahta
degismem” (I do not give up baht even if I am enthroned), “Baht yigidin
kalesid ir” (Baht is the castle of a braveman), “bahtsiz insan köprü de olsa
üzerinden geçme” (even if a person who does not have baht is a bridge, do
not cross over it).
Copyright © 2012 SciRes. 21
T. G. İÇLİ ET AL.
In this study, by using techniques of in-depth interview, ob-
servation and focus group interviews, a qualitative research was
carried out upon the members of the Bin Yousuf Tribe who
dwell in the villages and pastures that are within the adminis-
trative regions of Akçakale and Harran districts of Sanliurfa
province for four months from June 2011 to September 2011.
Their population in 1970 was 5378 and it is estimated to be
The tribe of Bin Yousuf is a sedentary tribe who lives around
the Harran valley. Naimi and Bradat are the two clans who are
under this tribe (Table 1). The reason why we have concen-
trated more upon the Bin Yousuf tribe during our interviews
and observations is that because it is believed that the members
of Bin Yousuf tribe are descendents of the Prophet and consid-
ered as having the most trustworthy and highly honoured fami-
lies in the region.
In the region, the titles of sayyid or sheikh has been used for
those persons whose ancestry is regarded as distinguished. This
“honor” that belongs to the families having this “royal” ances-
try differentiates the families and is owned by the same families
and the members of these families. Therefore, divinity includes
not only sheikh and his immediate family but also his extended
family members as a result of social thinking in which the ide-
ology of ashirat/kinship and its basis, namely blood relations,
are very decisive (Ökten, 2010: p. 183).
At the beginning of the research, we determined the exact
places where the Bin Yousuf tribe is densely populated. We
used the techniques of in-depth interview and observation in the
villages of Karali and Karatepe where a great number of Bin
Yousuf members dwell. We asked appointments from the lead-
ers who would be interviewed as key informants. At first, they
refused our requests, so we acquired the expert assistant of
locally well-known people who have a great influence over the
Tribes and sub-clans that are settled in the Harran valley: tribes and
clans who speak Arabic (Doğanay, 1997: p. 21).
CUMAYLE SIYALE Bin. MUHAMMAD BİNİECİR B. YOUSUF
Isahasan Hubait Gajar Nubakne Naim
Zeyneddin Taan Fiteet Saramda Bredet
Nafle Maacile Ubade Duveyced
Abucindi Nuaceh Davud Biniset
Hileybi Binizeyt Bişecma Meşhur
Haşimi Cihem Çuağan Biniamir
Ciedana Abuisi Tammah
During the interviews, a considerable amount of data con-
cerning the family life and structure, the normative order, the
hierarchy and the status system within the tribe, was gathered.
Interviews were held as either open personal interview or in
some cases as group discussions with both male and female
members of the tribe. These interviews were realized in order to
collect data about the critical subjects like blood feud, property
rights, relations between the agha (the local big land-owner)
and the tribe members, responsibilities and duties for the agha.
In addition to these interviews, we held face-to-face focus
group discussions with a group of six young members of the
tribe on issues concerning the process of social change, which
has occurred in the tribe. Furthermore, we held group discus-
sions with twenty old members of the tribe in order to get in-
formation about issues like social relations, history and tradi-
tions of the tribe.
Hierarchical Order and the Concept of Status
Status is considered as a very important concept in tribes and
the “status” of a person depends on his/her family, wealth and
acquired holly/spiritual powers.
The influence of status is reflected in the daily lives of the
local people in various ways. For example, in tribal gatherings
and house visits, the words to be spoken and the place where
the leader will sit are pre-planned carefully. Another important
subject to be emphasized here is the sensitivity of indicating the
equality of status: people having the same status, state this
clearly when they come together. Another symbol of status is
having “primacy”. Taking the first order in the row and a prior-
ity is a symbol of high status according to the culture of this
Since there is a leader of every level in the hierarchical order,
each tribe and clan have their own leaders. Dynasty, the family
from which the leader comes, is the core of the tribe. All of the
members have a wide range of responsibilities against their
leader who is dominant in both ruling the tribe and taking deci-
sions regarding the tribe. In the patriarchal kinship structure of
the tribe, as soon as a girl gets married with a man from another
tribe, she is considered to be a member of her husband’s tribe.
In the specific terminology of the area, there is an important
difference in naming the leaders of different levels in tribes,
clans and families: all of them are called agha in Kurdish and
sheikh in Arabic, but the leaders of tribes, clans, groups (taife)
and families (soy) have different names. Including close rela-
tives, households at the basic level of the tribal hierarchy are
called “soy”. Households coming from the same leader (who is
named as mezin (great) or maqul (wiseman), father, grandfather
or ancestors distinguish themselves from the others. People
speaking Arabic or living close to the Arabs use sheikh/rais
(Arabic word for leader) for the tribe or clan leader.
Mir and bey (read as bay, meaning sir) are originally feudal
titles and used only for great leaders. These titles, which are
attached to names such as Bedirhan Bey, Sidar Bey are no
longer used today. They lost their validity in terms of their feu-
Bey/Beg (sir) was used for old landowners at managerial po-
sitions. Agha (master) is the tribe leader living together with the
members of the tribe in mountains or valleys (villages). Bey
may live in the city and he is not necessarily the leader of a
tribe. But the important thing here is that the term agha has a
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
T. G. İÇLİ ET AL.
rather different meaning from the one, which is normally used
in daily, spoken Turkish. According to the standard Turkish,
the agha is the richest person in the village and possesses lands,
but not necessarily political power. However, the agha in this
region may not possess a significant amount of wealth, but he is
the absolute governor.
The most determinative factor in the hierarchical organiza-
tion of the tribe is the dynasty family, which constitutes the
foundation of the tribal organization. Selected members of the
dynasty form the ruling and decision-making mechanism of the
tribe. A leader coming from the dynasty is situated at the top of
this hierarchical order. Follow respectively after the leader, the
siblings, the children of the leader’s and the leaders of the clans
of the tribe, respectively.
Although the high number of population and possessing
economic wealth has great significance in the eye of local peo-
ple, being a member of the dynasty is a privilege in this area.
The dynasty acquires a special inborn status. People coming
from the dynasty, also naturally come into the possession of the
leadership (reis or agha). The basic distinguishing factor of the
dynasty is the “nobility”.
The feelings of “honor” and “dignity” are dominant in ashi-
rats. Therefore, they always need to make a connection between
themselves and a noble lineage. Noble lineages such as Khalidi,
Abbasi and Umayyad are frequently preferred noble ancestry
for sayyids (Kılıç, 2003: p. 131). Thus, tribe leaders in the re-
gion attempted to use lineage register, linking them to leading
Islamic, mostly Arabic, figures in order to legitimize their posi-
tions in the society. However, these connections are false, but it
seems that such attempts reinforce their power (Bruinessen, 2003:
As the leader often consults it, the council constituted by the
elderly and noblemen of the tribe has an important function in
the tribal system. The responsibility of the council is to solve
disagreements and provide judicious decisions in accordance
with tribal customs. Among the tasks of the council are solving
the problems related to ending vendettas, struggles among the
members of the tribe or with other tribes, returning stolen goods
to their owners and acting as a mediator in disagreements con-
cerning kidnapping young girls for marriage, grazing livestock
and watering. The council of the older people expresses the will
of the community while common people of the tribe affect the
aims and decisions of tribal leaders.
Although for giving important decisions, the leader consults
the older and experienced members of the tribe such as the
Talba, Arfa, he still holds the the right to give the final decision.
Upon the leader’s call, arfas and talbas meet and discuss a
matter but the leader gives the last decision.
There are two important consultant groups in the tribe con-
cerning the implementation of the customs and solving indi-
vidual and social problems. One of these groups is called Talba
carrying the function of solving individual or social conflicts, as
a judiciary and conciliating institution for the inter-tribal and
intra-tribal problems even today. The later one is called arfa, a
group of people function as a family consultancy and as an aid
agent within the community that provide solidarity.
The people in these groups are selected from the older people
who know the history of the tribe very well and receive respect
from their own members and from other tribes. They are not
selected by vote or appointed. With their manners, experience
and knowledge, the older individuals who in time gain trust and
respect from the other members automatically undertake this
People who later join into the tribe are at the lowest level of
this hierarchy, simply because they are out of the family soli-
It is a well-known fact that each society has developed cer-
tain rules and norms of behaviour in accordance with their own
customs and traditions in order to regulate rights and obliga-
tions among individuals. Each society’s perception of law and
regulations are directly connected with their socio-economical
and cultural structures.
Cognitive and symbolic anthropologists such as Goodenough,
Schneider and Geertz define culture as symbolically coded
information rather than collective behavior. According to them,
the notion which distinguishes certain information and beliefs
as “cultural” is the collective use of it by community members.
As collectively shared information and common belief systems
propose meaning pertaining to social world, it is quiet possible
to evaluate them as meaning systems. For Geertz, culture is “an
historically transmitted pattern of meanings embodied in sym-
bols, a system of inherited conceptions expressed in symbolic
forms by means of which men communicate, perpetuate, and
develop their knowledge about and their attitudes toward life”
(Geertz, 1973: p. 89) The agents responsible for a child’s so-
cialization such as parents, relatives and teachers, play an im-
portant role in transmitting ideas, emotions, reactions and be-
havioral patterns. In other words, the meaning system, which
includes culturally constructed beliefs and values of the com-
munity are transmitted to the child. (Altuntek, 2008: p. 40).
Living a communal life, tribes have also developed certain
rules regulating the relations within the tribe. These norms,
being altered from the previous generation to the next, have
formed the customs and traditions.
One of the most important mechanisms of a tribe is the un-
written social rules or conventions, which are called tore-örf
(mores). Each tribe has its own particular fundamental values
(mores). Obeying these rules in any condition is obligatory for
the tribal members and heavy punishments are applied in cases
of violation. Within the tribe, the leader’s authority is rein-
forced by intensively emphasizing the peace, the privilege of
and respect to the ancestors in the tribe.
The most common conflicts break out in the region is the
disputes over lands, vendettas, molestation and attacks against
one’s property and kidnapping girls with the intention of get-
ting married. According to the customs and traditions of the
tribe, there are certain sanctions for these crimes. According to
these sanctions, to kill or exert any other criminal act against
one member of the tribe is considered as the whole tribe mem-
bers are assaulted, because all of the members of the tribe are
believed to descend from the same ancestor and any damage or
harm to one of them is taken as it is done to the common an-
cestor and since all members are accepted as relatives, tribe
members react such cases in concord a situation which causes a
dispute that breaks out between two men to spread into two
tribes as vendetta.
The religion has been organized around common blood rela-
tion. Therefore, each person is “blood” of the others. Here the
term “blood” sociologically refers to coming from the same
ancestry and to kinship. It also refers to the fact that each per-
son is one of the basic elements in maintaining the life of the
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group as “blood” in bological terms is one of the basic elements
in one’s life. Furthermore, blood represent the groups’ honor.
Thus, attacking anyone belonging to the group is perceived as
an attack to the whole group. In other words, since attack
against any member of the group is regarded as an attack to the
blood and honor of the group, it is considered to spatter the
group as a whole. In order to socially fix it, the only solution is
taking the revenge or “cleaning the blood” (Ökten, 2010: p. 4).
In the region, vendetta indicates hostility as a result of killing
a member of a tribe by a member of another tribe. The basic
criterion is “blood relation” as indicated above. A vendetta is
pursued with the idea/principle in mind that revenge should be
taken for “shading the blood of their member”.
Two basic internal dynamics of the ashirat organization are
the very strong feeling of “we” and of “solidarity”. These dy-
namics developed both common attack and common defense
mechanisms (Doğanay, 1995: p. 18). Basic reason for solidarity
in ashirats is the “confrontational” patterns between individuals
and groups. The most known example of this fact is vendetta.
Confrontational pattern and solidarity pattern that cause and
reinforce each other is a way of surviving developed against all
people and groups that are considered to be “the other” (Al-
tuntek, 2002: p. 4).
As a result of the “we” concept which is widespread in the
social/cultural structure of a tribe, it causes an attack to be
committed altogether and defence mechanisms are activated by
all members of the tribe. That means, the tribe in a full unity
takes a defensive position fencing around their member who is
Findings of the studies on the region indicate that there is a
causal relationship between vendetta and events leading to it
and that there are common problems reinforcing all disagree-
ments as well as vendetta. These findings also reveal that the
reasons for vendetta are related to similar topics. These topics
are as follows: landowning, irrigation, grazing areas, distribu-
tion of family inheritance, rape, honor killings, status contradic-
tion among families and political confrontations (see Ünsal,
1995: p. 102; Tezcan, 1991: p. 57).
Basically, economical, political and social causes lie beneath
vendettas. Major economical reasons involve conflicts over
landowning, grazing areas and watering, political reasons are
related to the local administration (muhtarlik) of a village, bitter
rivalling to gain the “power” especially in local and general
elections, while problems associated with “women” are the
basic social reasons that break out vendettas. A “woman” is one
of the most important reasons for committing murder because
of the importance the society give to chastity and honour.
However, there is no necessary causal relationship between
problems contributing to the disputes and vendetta. Because it
is observed that in addition to disputes stemming from the
socio-economical conditions of the region, very simple dis-
agreements may lead to vendetta. The significant point here is
not the reason for the beginning event of vendetta, but tradition
that recommends taking the revenge. Therefore, the significant
point here is not the complexity or simplicity of the event lead-
ing to vendetta, but the social environment that provides the
grounds to make any dispute the cause of vendetta.
Although the principle of collective responsibility assumes
that all members of the groups to which perpetrator and ag-
grieved belong may attack or be the subject of this attack, there
are various criteria about who will be responsible for the event.
The first criterion is the kinship rank. The actualization of this
criterion appears to differ in different societies. For instance, in
the Arabic tribes, responsible individuals are all male relatives
from first to fifth rank of the aggrieved, in Kurdish tribes rela-
tives from seventh rank are also considered to be responsible.
Additionally, age and gender factors are also taken into con-
sidereation to determine responsible individuals in the revenge
attempts (Ökten, 2010: p. 6).
Tradition of carrying guns, lack of proper governmental au-
thority, extreme devotion to honour, display of bravado, swag-
gering show of courage, fights that erupt due to the excitable
nature of people, the strong urge to take revenge and high level
of ignorance because of lack of education are among the other
social causes, which support vendettas. Although today, it is
not as widespread as it was in the past, to consider gun-carrying
merely as a tradition and as a phenomenon that has roots in the
earlier times of the history, is necessary for us to understand the
subject in terms of “sociological imagination” in Mills’ termi-
According to traditional norms, if a girl falls in love with a
boy from another tribe and runs away with him, both the girl
and the boy are sentenced to death. Even if they may get mar-
ried, this punishment is applied to the boy who takes away the
girl, because he or his family did not pay the “bride price” (ba-
slik) to the girl’s family and disgraced their honour.
If a married woman escapes with another man, both of them
are also sentenced to death. Either the husband or the relatives
of the woman may kill them as soon as they find them.
However, vendettas are effective factors in reinforcing the
solidarity in the tribe, because it provides a sort of peace within
the tribe and consolidates the authority in terms of concepts like
“us” and “them”. Tribes that commit vendettas strengthen inner
solidarity in their own tribe by clamping together, as they are
always vigilant and equipped with arms.
In a vendetta, target people at the first rank to be killed or the
people who are responsible for paying the blood indemnity are
determined. These people are selected according to their level
of kinship with the murdered person. By this way, family
groups coming from a common ancestor are also categorized.
So, it is claimed that those who are at the target or those who
are primarily responsible for paying the blood indemnity form a
true family group. This situation reveals a differentiation in the
region between the Kurdish tribes and Arabic: Arabs regard
people going back until the fifth father in the family tree who is
the common ancestor, as responsible for paying the blood in-
demnity; whereas the Kurdish tribes consider people until the
seventh father responsible for the indemnity.
Another significant factor that causes vendettas to occur is
the very common and unbreakable traditional practice of kin-
ship marriages; a phenomenon, which can be seen at all levels
of the tribe. By reinforcing the segmental structure of families,
the insistent practice this tradition caused a total separation
In an event of vendetta, united altogether within their own
community, tribes come face to face filled with rigorous feeling
of “taking revenge”. This revenge feeling is not exerted only
towards the murderer, but the whole tribe including the leader
and the family of the murderer and consequently in return,
members of the opposing tribes murder a member of the origi-
nal tribe and this feud goes on by mutual murdering.
In the nomadic or semi-nomadic periods, carrying weapon
was necessary due to the factors such as unsafe roads, am-
bushes, difficult natural conditions, exports and imports con-
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T. G. İÇLİ ET AL.
ducted over borders between different regions or countries,
potential conflicts among tribes, etc. Moreover, at the time of
the Ottoman Empire when relations with the government was
limited to paying taxes and providing the Empire with armed
forces when necessary, the more a tribe had members and
armed forces, the more it was favored by the government. Un-
der the superior identity of Ottomans, Muslims and non-Muslims
were living peacefully together where non-Muslims working on
non-prestigious jobs were not taken into the army service, (they
did not wish to join the army any way). In those days when the
concept of bravery was strongly emphasized, carrying weapon
was a symbol of being prestigious in the society. Walking
around without a gun was regarded as something “disgraceful”.
There used to be many cases reflecting this situation one of
which was explained by Erdost (1987) who performed his army
service in Şemdinli (Hakkari) in 1965, as this:
“Osman Kaya who had ambushed six soldiers at the begin-
ning of summer in 1960 was in Iraq at the time. Towards the
end of the summer of 1964, he went to the farmers who culti-
vated the lands that Osman was used to cultivate before, and
seized all the harvest by claiming that it is his share. Upon that,
Molla Mustafa called Osman, took all his guns and expelled
him. Those people telling the story commented about the case
as follows: Osman was walking around without a gun. This was
such a shame of him that it would be better if he would die”.
A man who does not take his revenge for his “shaded blood”
is not considered as an adult, real man in the region. He looses
his entire honour and status in the society and he is treated as an
In the social settings where vendetta is perceived or regarded
as a social task or value, taking revenge is not a personal choice,
but a compulsory social task given to the individuals by society.
Revenge of the person killed can only be taken through killing
the responsible individuals. Otherwise, it is thought that the
spirit of the person killed cannot be pleased and that the honor
of his relatives will be “spattered”. Taking revenge is a basic
and dominant behaviour in ashirats that are in continous power
struggle with one another. It means nobility and having honor,
while those who did not take their revenge lose their material
and spiritual power and are regarded as inferior by their rivals.
An elderly interviewed in the study summarizes this fact as fol-
lows: “Here those who have power win” (Ökten, 2010: p. 6).
Upon the explanations on vendettas and some events that are
evaluated based on the tribal traditions that can be regarded as
causes of vendettas, give us an idea about solutions. Some in-
formation about the applications of tribal traditions was ob-
tained through interviews as follows:
When a murder is committed as a result of struggle between
two members of a tribe, relatives of the murderer have to per-
suade the relatives of the murdered by paying them the blood
indemnity. If they don’t do it, the relatives of the murdered
(may) kill the relatives of the murderer whenever and wherever
they see him.
In a case of a murder, the tribe or the relatives of the mur-
dered may plunder the goods of the murderer. This is called kan
tozu (blood dust) in the region. Plunderers are not accepted as
criminals, since this plundering is a right according to tribal
traditions. Besides, if peace is generated, the plundered goods
are accepted as blood indemnity.
Traditionally, when a fight breaks out between two tribes and
their members start to beat each other, tribes that are nothing to
do with the fight try to stop the fight and prevent them to injure
To achieve a peaceful solution to the conflict, a mediator
who is accepted by both of the sides should be chosen. If the
mediator is a member of one of the fighting tribes or if the me-
diator has an organic tie with one of them, his mediation is not
In some cases, the leader of the neighbour tribe tries to be a
mediator between the conflicted tribes in a vendetta. But some
powerful members of conflicting tribes may not permit the
leader to mediate. Because this situation provides more prestige
to the mediator in his own tribe which turns the situation against
For this reason, generally mediators are accepted from those
who belong to the upper positions such as a sheikh or an unbi-
ased person from the government. A proverb is widely used in
the area summarizing the situation; “leaders are found very
easily, but a leader to whom other leaders listen is found very
Generally, sheikhs are outside of the tribal structure, they do
not belong to any tribe. They are religious figures, who receive
loyal devotedness from a group of believers. Their positions are
deemed to be very respectful. Consequently, they are regarded
as the most appropriate individuals to be applied for being a
mediator. Nearly in all conflicts sheikhs are chosen as media-
tors. This, in turn, reinforces their positions within the society.
According to traditional rules, if a fight between two families
in a village ends with a murder, the murderer and his family
should migrate from the village. They cannot come back to the
village until the peace is settled. The same rule also applies to
other situations such as “kidnapping a girl”, etc. If there is any
plundering during the attacks of two tribes, the plundered goods
should be returned to provide the peace. Otherwise, the tribe
whose goods are plundered will continue the hostility and they
will try to find out an opportunity to re-attack the enemy.
Debts taken from the members of the tribe or other tribes
must be paid back. The leader should solve problems that have
risen among the members of the tribe because of these debts.
He can transfer the goods of the debtor to the creditor to com-
pensate the loss. If one of the members of two different tribes
does not pay his debt on due, under the protection of his own
tribe, the creditor can confiscate the goods of one members of
the debtor’s tribe as a pledge. These goods are given back when
the debt is paid. This is not accepted as robbery in the area. It is
called vesge in the terminology of the area. Members of a tribe
can renounce their credits. But the creditor has the right to take
the debtor’s goods such as his livestock as compensation for the
For a robbery case that has been committed in the village, the
tradition applied by the tribe is as follows; somebody who is
protected follows the tracks of the thief. If these tracks end in a
village and the thief cannot be found there, the people of the
suspected village have the right to follow the tracks on their
own by the help of other followers. If the people of the village
cannot prove the tracks going out of their village, for instance if
the follower brought by the suspected villagers is agreed on the
tracks’ ending in the village, the owner of the goods has the
right to require from these villagers to compensate his loss or to
search for his goods at each house in the village. If he chooses
to search for his goods in the village and cannot find them, then
his right for compensation is no more valid.
“Feuds” of a tribe is tried to be solved by their own efforts in
accordance with traditions. These cases are not brought before a
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T. G. İÇLİ ET AL.
judicial court or any other authority of the state. If a tribe can-
not find the solution themselves, it will cast a shame upon them
because their shedded blood and murdered member would be
left without any retaliation.
The murderer may be arrested by the security forces of the
state and sentenced to certain punishments or released, the hos-
tility still will not be erased, until the indemnity is paid or the
peace is provided. The tribe does not give up their allegation
until the case is solved in accordance with their conventional
law. According to the tribe, tribal law and the law of the state
are different and the former is more important than the latter.
The basic and the most important factor recognized in every
event is the fact that the tribe members are accepted as part of
one family in terms of their inter-relations among themselves.
In tribes, paternal kinship is valid and all members are close or
distant relatives to each other. Nobility, blood ties, being a
whole family or coming from the same race are important at-
tributes of this kinship to be protected. According to traditions,
members of a tribe in which the concept of ‘us’ is dominant act
together in every event. The same thing happens also in other
events as well as vendettas or facing any attack. Members of a
tribe help each other in funerals, weddings, in cases of illnesses,
etc. Other members or the relatives of a person, who is ill,
murdered or in jail are jointly responsible to take care of his
wife and children.
Honesty, chastity, keeping one’s words all of which is sum-
marized as controlling of one’s hand-waist-tongue, bravery,
friendship, good reputation and dignity are sacred values in
tribes. Hospitality, generosity, thanking God for the things He
gives and being modest are the basic characteristics of a tribe.
Patterns of Family and Marriage
In the following section, the results of our interviews and ob-
servations, our findings related to marriage, family and posi-
tions of man and woman in the family are discussed.
Although extended families are still seen, nuclear family
structure is dominant in the tribe. Especially among families
who do not have lands, nuclear families are prevalent due to
Although nuclear family structure is dominant in the area, the
tribe and kinship ties are still effective in the constitution of
these families. These ties also influence their behavioural pat-
terns in the frame of traditional values and norms.
At the end of our interviews, we have found out that, as an
institution, the tribe is an important impediment for the nuclear
families to put forward their individual enterprises and inde-
pendent participation. The most outstanding example of this
effect can be seen during the elections when the political party
for which individuals will vote is pre-determined by the tribe.
In our interviews, the majority of people state that lands
should be inherited only to men. Another study that is carried
out in the region16 revealed that the ratio of people who
claimed that lands should be inherited to only males was 55.7%.
The rate of people asserting that all children should equally
share the heritage was 49%. On the other hand, due to the so-
cialization, opinions of girls upon the heritage sharing devel-
oped in favour of their brothers. Since owning vast lands is
considered as the real source of gaining wealth in the area, it is
clear that sharing and controlling of heritage are done on behalf
of men. Another factor, which supports this control, is the in-
termarriages. A certain level of flexibility can be seen when
goods, rather than lands, are under concern
A typical family of the region is a core family including
mother, father and children. On the contrary to what is gener-
ally believed, families based on monogamous marriages and are
not patriarchal. Marriage is a must; there cannot be seen old
bachelors or maidens in the area. Neither bachelor oath due to
religious reasons nor free love can be found in the region. The
age of marriage is low; men at the age of 20, girls at the age of
16 - 17 get married by the demand of their families (Baran vd.,
1998: p. 25).
Our informants indicated that although intermarriages are
common, some brides from other tribes are also taken in mar-
riage in order to develop a kinship with them and to provide a
peace among tribes, which are in conflict. Marriages among
cousins are also quite common.
The ties of ashirats have continued to affect the behaviour of
individuals. Kinship has to functions: a holding system encom-
passing the individuals and a basic context for social solidarity.
Therefore, the groups in the region are based on kinship de-
pending on real or imagined “blood relations”. Ashirat order is
organized around the principle of patriarchal solidarity. In this
order, solidarity is determined based on kinship degree. Mar-
riages are also shaped depending on the preferrence over patri-
archal kinship degree. Thus, such a preferrence entails the mar-
riages between children of two brothers.
The marriages between children of two brothers are common
in the region. Such a marriage, in fact, is not only a preferrence,
but also a right for males. Therefore, males may not accept to
marry to their uncles’ daughter. When a foreigner wants to
marry a girl from the ashirat, her father consult his relatives,
particularly his cousins. If the cousins want to marry her, they
have priority over the other people. Otherwise, male cousin
may refuse the marriage and “prohibit” the girl since he has this
right. Another person cannot propose this girl since it is unac-
cepted traditionally and may lead to serious disputes. There are
several eamples of such cases in the region. On the other hand,
this case is regarded as a result of male cousins (Ökten, 2009:
Marriages among the children of real or categorical uncles
are preferred. It is also preferred to marry a person who is not a
relative but a member of the tribe, a situation that still con-
serves the endogamous character of marriages. Virginity of the
newly wedded girl is absolutely obligatory and she has to prove
this at her nuptial chamber.
The number of polygamy marriages is not so high and
moreover, there is almost no marriage with more than two
women. In a study carried out in the region it is found that 92%
of the males interviewed have one spouse, whereas 6% of them
have two spouses. No participant is found to have more than
two spouses. Polygamy is more widespread among the leaders/
aghas, or the elite people in tribes. This type of marriage is a
symbol of wealth and power, and a means of providing man-
power as well as “soldiers” to the “army” of the tribe; in other
words, the armed forces of the tribe. Beside these features,
household members participated in this study, consider condi-
tions like wife bearing, no child, old age, or having a sickness
as important causes for polygamy (Ökten, 2004: p. 132).
Although this finding allows us to say that the tribal ties are
getting loose in cities, the woman whose husband has brought a
second wife, continues to stay at her husband’s house, as a
widowed woman stays at her father-in-law’s or brother-in-law’s
house. Although there is no such tradition that the wife whose
Copyright © 2012 SciRes.
T. G. İÇLİ ET AL.
husband died should get married with his brother or one of his
close relatives, this type of marriages (called levirat) still can be
seen. This occasional situation can be explained in terms of the
worries of keeping the widowed woman (who is considered to
be the honour of the family), children and goods inside the
Even though the notion about couples must come from the
same family, creed or village is valid even today; we can say
that the biggest determining factor of marriage is coming from
the same tribe.
It is fundamental to live in accordance with the traditions and
customs of the tribe and marriages and ceremonies are arranged
due to these traditional principles. The bride price is paid to the
bride’s family and berdel, which is a mutual exchange of girls
from two families (it is preferred not to pay any bride price), is
a widespread method of marriage.
The bridegroom or his family pays the bride price or the
goods to the bride’s family. The amount is determined on the
basis of common practice and socio-economical situations of
both families. It can be paid either in cash or in goods such as
giving a certain amount of livestock, mill, land, etc.
This money or goods carry economical importance for the
bride’s family and at the same time, it is considered as a neces-
sary social insurance. Thanks to this practice, men consider
women more valuable, or at least it acts as a dissuasive factor
Another type of marriage is called berdel, a mutual exchange
of girls between two families. In this type of marriages, mutual
attitudes of spouses are fundamental rules directing the mar-
riage. Each spouse should develop appropriate reactions to each
other’s behaviours. This dual marriage tradition is practiced in
many aspects; from the beginning of the marriage to the type of
furniture and jewelry that are bought for the brides, to the
houses for them to live should be the same and as long as the
marriage is valid the same mutuality continues. The man’s fam-
ily chooses the girl to their son’s wife. The wedding ceremony
is performed under the permission of both parents of the girl
and the boy.
Traditionally, a girl is strictly forbidden from declaring the
man whom she loves. The families arrange most of the mar-
riages. Even after getting married, a woman is always responsi-
ble to her father and brother(s). It is just due to the fact that her
father and brother(s) continue to undertake her responsibility in
certain aspects. Her husband, even her father—may be more
than her husband—is responsible of her actions; for example if
a crime is committed by a woman, her father is responsible as
much as her husband, or even more than him, for her misde-
meanour. It is not traditionally proper for a woman to demand
her share from the inheritance. However, there are cases in which
a father can voluntarily leave his heritage to his daughter.
Getting divorced is not welcomed at all by the tribal tradi-
tions. For this reason, divorce is very rare in the area. Instead,
the tradition of bringing a second wife (called hewi) to the
house and keeping her together with the first wife in the same
house is widely spread.
A man may get divorced, but if his ex-wife marries another
man or stays at her father’s house, this is considered as a shame
for him. Moreover, in order to keep his sons under his paternity,
the husband keeps his both wives at the same house.
Polygamy is applied when a man cannot have a son or a child.
On the other hand, if the wife is very old or if the man has an
irresistible desire of showing off power, polygamy becomes a
factual in the area. As mentioned earlier, polygamy marriages
that are practiced in the region generally consist of only two
Tribe members perceive the above-mentioned negative state
of women very differently. They think that, even though women
do not hold an equal position with men in the family especially
in taking decisions, it is a result of division of labour that exists
between men and women. Moreover, they believe that women
are respected in tribes. The main authority in the family is the
man; but the woman has also the right to express her ideas.
When the relation between husband and wife is considered,
woman has got a sort of priority; she has an equal status with
the men in the village aristocracy and among educated people
living in cities.
The tribe members accept this position of a woman as a
natural phenomenon. It is definitely thought that this situation
arises just because of the fact that woman is in need of protec-
tion because of her fragile, delicate nature.
Women receive great respect among the tribe members and
this is protected under the tribal traditions. The results of our
research reveal that women are untouchable in cases of feuds or
other type of conflicts. Her chastity and honour is strictly for-
bidden to be gossiped about and this wrongdoing is seen as a
great shame and considered as a big crime. According to tribal
traditions, when an attack against a woman occurs, the unbiased
tribes may also interfere.
Another example of respect shown towards women is seen
when they are used as mediators in severe conflicts that cannot
be easily solved. The problems, which cannot be solved by
male mediators, are solved by the support of female mediators.
When a woman comes to solve the problem as a mediator, it is
a very big shame to refuse her, no matter how big the problem
Another important tradition about the need of a woman’s
help for resolution appears during an unfair situation. A woman
in trouble expresses her anger by knotting a respected man’s
puşi, or chafya (headgear) in her tribe. In such a case, whatever
the problem is, and whatever it may cost, all members of the
tribe do their best to help her. If they do not, this will cast a
shame upon their honour and respect.
The position of a woman in the tribe changes depending on
her age and status. This state changing can be observed from
her status at home and in public and from her way of garment-
ing. Within a period that a woman marries and gives birth to a
son and brings him up until a certain age, her status changes in
the tribe and receives an increasing respect. Old women are
said to have the absolute right to express their ideas in the tribe.
The way of dressing for married and single women is differ-
ent. As a girl is dressed up differently from a married woman, a
married woman’s garments are different that of a widowed wo-
man. By this way, it is easily recognized that whether a female
is a virgin girl, a woman or a widow. The most outstanding
difference is the caps used by women. For example, young girls
tie their headscarves called yazma, in a way that their necks are
visible. Married women tie their embraced or plane headscarves
called dolbent to cover their necks and hair. A widow who lost
her husband uses a black or dark coloured headscarf.
In this study we focused on hierarchical order, status, norma-
tive order and family/kinship structure in Bin Yousuf Tribe and
observed that the dominant traditional organization determines
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T. G. İÇLİ ET AL.
the main aspects of social structure in the region. The basic
feature of this social structure is the loyalty to the introverted
institutions such as the tribe and aghaism, which are interlaced
with each other through the very long history. The most char-
acteristic element appears to be the possession of a strong cul-
tural and emotional commitment to tribal community and a
strong feeling of identity being manifested in ethnocentricism,
like most tribes worldwide. Belonging to the tribe means to be
of distinguished and noble ancestry and is linked to pride. The
people in the tribal community share the notion of being dis-
tinct from others. The “us” feeling creates strong ties among
members which underlines solidarity.
Here we have to emphasize the critical role of the tribal
leader. He acts both as a political and social authority in the
tribe and held responsible for the acts of community members.
The power of the leader come from his noble ancestry.
Majority of the individuals still living in the area consider
themselves, firstly, as members of a clan, then members of a
tribe to which their clan belongs to. Patriarchal loyalty is the
basic factor affecting the inter-relations. In this context, a tribe/
clan is believed to be constituted by families having “blood
ties”. Therefore there’s a strong emphasis on inheriting “blood”
from patrilineal ancestors and accordingly patrilineal inheri-
tance of group membership. As kinship is considered to be
given at birth, it is fixed, ascribed and performative in every
respect. In fact, tribal kinship is seen to be about sharing all
aspects of life including both emotions and substance. On each
level of social life, effects of these ties including various tribal
responsibilities can be observed.
Due to the rapid social change and the transition period that
the region is going through lately, communities living in this
area are suffering from great difficulties and adaptation prob-
lems. An important conclusion we derived from our study is
that although the traditional social structure of the region is in
the dissolution process and reveals transformations, the tribal
values, norms, laws and relations resist against modern life and
tribe members preferentially try to reconstruct the traditional in
modern life. Even though the physical outcomes of this struc-
ture no longer exist today, this structure still retains its influ-
ence at political, economical and social levels, in other words
the more informal local power structures, which are tradition-
ally oriented are effective in the form of a segmentary tribal
We observed that all matters of order are mostly settled
within the traditional tribal norms. In fact, the tribal tie has a
determinative effect on every social stage of social life such as
the political attitudes of individuals, normative order, and the
structure of marriages and families. The tribe mostly decides
upon the party for which the members vote. It still is a consid-
erable means of providing economical support and solidarity.
The tribal ties are especially taken into account when children,
especially daughters, are given in marriages by their families.
Accordingly we have to stress that there is a strong, culturally
based social control system which is reinforced by custom,
mostly unquestioned, which effect and regulate behavior and
decisions. It is observed that these are longstanding practices
that have been operative in the community. As the tribe is par-
ticularist in its normative system and has its own moral order,
an attack against a member means an attack to the whole mem-
bers. Here we have to stress the unilateral form of social control
in the form of self-help which may lead to restroring to exra-
legal methods such as vengeance and vigilantism. Here crime
may be a form of social control (Horwitz, 1990). As tribal so-
cieties need to work around emotive, tight social bonding, they
may fall prey to destructive feuding. This also may be consid-
ered as a form of negative reciprocity.
The most outstanding demographic feature of the population
in the area is the increase rate, which is a result of intention and
desire of having many children. The traditions and values of the
tribal society originate this intention. As far as the maintenance
of the tribal values are concerned marriage seems to be one of
the most important institutions. Endogamous, arranged mar-
riages and bridewealth appears to be quiet common. Tre tribal
community as a whole provides a rather effective control on
women. Girls are expected to get married at early ages.
The tribe as an institution in the area where there is no strong
governmental organization or security over any matter, main-
tains its function in overcoming difficulties and solving the
problems such as the need of getting and using bank loans,
establishing security and solidarity. Here we observed the tribe
as a unit of subsistence and this situation considerably main-
tains the loyalty of the members to the tribe.
In summary, it is seen that the tribal ties continue affecting
the people in the region intensively and extensively. It can be
stated that this structure can undergo some different forms and
dimensions by the time elapses and the tribal structure under
concern may sometimes exert more influence or may recede
depending upon the conjuncture, but it will never lose its func-
tion and effectiveness. On the other hand, the tribe as a struc-
tural concept or as a principal of social order is just a compo-
nent within a more complex social and political web. The only
way to remove the absolute loyalty to the tribe, which keeps
functioning in many matters, is to establish firm and modern
institutions and organizations that will take over all the func-
tions that have previously been performed by the tribe.
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