By Sgt. Serena Hayden, USA
Special to American Forces Press Service
Aug. 6, 2007 - Tribal leaders in Diyala province, Iraq, have joined forces and are working together to fight terrorists in their homeland. Eighteen paramount tribal leaders representing 14 major tribes in the province swore on the Koran and signed a peace agreement last week that unifies the tribes in the battle against terrorism.
"Let's build this tent and live under it like one family – all the tribes and all the people of Diyala. You have to be one family," Ra'ad Hameed Al-Mula Jowad Al-Tamimi, governor of Diyala, told the tribal leaders during an Aug. 2 meeting at the Baqubah Government Center.
Sheikhs representing three Shia tribes, 11 Sunni tribes and 60 of Diyala's 100 sub-tribes attended the meeting, which was led by Ra'ad, Staff Maj. Gen. Abdul Kareem, commander of Iraqi security forces in Diyala province, and U.S. Army Col. David W. Sutherland, commander of coalition forces in Diyala.
After discussing tribal differences and why it is important to unite, the sheikhs signed a reconciliation agreement and swore on the Koran as a promise to uphold the agreement.
Conditions of the peace treaty include ending tribal conflicts and attacks; cooperating with the ISF; fighting al-Qaida, militia groups and other terrorist organizations; working with the security forces to eradicate corrupt members; returning displaced families to their homes; reporting and removing improvised explosive devices; and respecting all sects, religions and women's rights.
Ra'ad stressed the importance of the sheikhs in the country's efforts towards stability and security. "Problems can be solved by the sheikhs because they have great influence on their tribes," Ra'ad said, adding that the tribes are the key to success in Diyala.
"We have to consider the fact that local people are helping us. We have to work with them hand-in-hand and go forward," Ra'ad said. "If anyone is standing in our way as an obstacle, then we will have to take that obstacle away from our path."
Sutherland emphasized that taking part in the agreement and joining forces is in the best interest of the tribes and their people.
"Those tribes that do not choose to participate in the way ahead for a secure Diyala will be left behind," Sutherland said, addressing the tribal leaders. "Don't say, 'I need,' until you say, 'I've done.' Do for your families, do for your tribes, and do for Diyala."
Sheikh Mahmood Abdul-Shinba Al-Hassani said the tribal leaders "can change the hearts of the people," and said that "instead of cheering for the terrorists driving through the streets, the people will cheer for the Iraqi security forces in the streets."
Sheikh Adnan Abdul-Mehdi Al-Anbaki pointed out that the number of terrorists is relatively small. "We have to stand together and we need to kill the terrorists. We know who they are," he said.
(Army Sgt. Serena Hayden is a journalist assigned to the Multinational Division North Public Affairs Office.)