The ISIS Massacre of the Sheitat Tribe in Der ez-Zor, August 2014

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After the Syrian uprising became a civil war, state authorities in the peripheral areas of the north-eastern part of the country receded. The retreat of the state from the rural areas led to a sharp rise in tribal solidarities. Members of tribes locally established different militias, which tried to gain as much of the spoils of the ongoing war as possible, including the oil and gas fields. The renowned Sheitat tribe in Deir ez-Zor was one of these tribes that acquired power
in its area. The news of its massacre at the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq in Syria (ISIS) preoccupied international media for years. After heavy fighting between ISIS and members of the Sheitat tribe in their three villages in late July and early August in 2015, ISIS succeeded in quelling the revolt and controlling the three villages. Straight after the battle, ISIS committed a large-scale massacre against members of the Sheitat tribe, killing more than a thousand disarmed fighters or unarmed civilians. This article aims to answer the question why ISIS committed the massacre against the Sheitat tribe, despite having achieved a decisive victory against them in a battle that lasted for sixteen days. It argues that ISIS wanted to consolidate its newly established state through the monopolization of violence. Therefore, the massacre against the Sheitat tribe was used strategically as a weapon of terror that was intended to be a lesson for other tribes to deter them from revolting against ISIS or collaborating with Western powers to fight against it.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Genocide Research
Publication statusPublished - 4 Oct 2021


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