Tribes in Syria's eastern Deir ez-Zour Province are an integral component of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Large scale meetings were held by tribal leaders in the towns of Diban and Gharanej, including hundreds of local residents, to establish 13 Committees covering all work of the Civilian Council in Deir ez-Zour. Previously, local Arab tribes, but particularly the Shaitat tribe, accused the YPG and Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) of discrimination against them by excluding them from decision making and forcing the conscription of their tribal members.
The SDF entered Syria’s Deir ez-Zour province in 2015 with the permission of the region’s tribal leaders. The SDF appealed to the mostly Arab tribes, who maintain significant influence of the province’s population, as well as the local politics and economy. Furthermore, the tribes have a vast knowledge of the local terrain and without their cooperation and guidance, victory for the SDF would have come at a greater human and financial expense.
In return for SDF cooperation, tribal leaders also contributed local personnel to assist the SDF in the fight against ISIS, who had controlled the province since early 2014.
The goal of the tribes establishing an effective Civilian Council, as well as contributing personnel to the fight, is to restore stability and security to the province.
The two biggest tribes in the province, Shammar and Shaitat, were divided over who to support in the fight against ISIS. Shammar sided with the SDF. Shaitat, who suffered heavy losses to ISIS after the resisted their occupation, chose to side with Syrian Arab Army (SAA) forces south-west of the Euphrates River.
SDF’s operation to recapture the oil wealthy province, named “Jazira Storm”, commenced one month later than SAA operations. Operation Jazira Storm focused on the areas east of the Euphrates River and had a further stated goal of capturing Deir ez-Zour city. However, the city is currently controlled by the SAA and its allies.
The fight against ISIS is still not complete. The militant group still occupy territory within the SDF controlled area of the province, adjacent to the Iraqi border. Due to the redeployment of SDF fighters to the north-west of Syria to defend its territories against the Turkish-led Operation Olive Branch, it is likely that the fight for the remaining ISIS region will be slowed down.