Accepted paper:

Conservation Theory and Bedouin Livelihood Realities in the Syrian Badia


Haian Dukhan (University of St Andrews)

Paper short abstract:

The Bedouins constitute an important part of Arab Society. Most of the sedentary population in the Arab world today descends from Bedouin origins. Historically, the settlement of the Bedouins was not always permanent and some individuals may return to a nomadic life whether temporarily or permanently, if the care of the herd calls for that. The Bedouins have always preserved their culture, traditions and way of life. However, since the 1950s new challenges have emerged that threaten the Bedouin way of survival and their culture in Syria. Economic and environmental factors in addition to government policies have threatened desert culture and the traditional livelihoods of the Bedouins and have pushed them to give up their life in the desert and move to live in the outskirts of Palmyra, Homs and Damascus.

Paper long abstract:

The Bedouins are an important part of the Arab culture. They still hold to a desert culture and traditions which are symbolized by the most prized Bedouin values such as honour, generosity, hospitality, chivalry and bravery. The cultural heritage of the Bedouins is threatened due to a combination of environmental and economic factors. Government policies and the plans of international developments have had a great impact on their life. The Bedouins in Syria, as with the rest of the mobile indigenous peoples all over the world, are facing a combination of challenges starting from extreme climatic and environmental changes to increasing marginalisation and sedentarisation efforts by the governments of the countries in which they live. They are confronting continued difficulties in having their knowledge and their voice integrated into policy making in any development projects initiated by international development agencies. In recent years an increasing number of Bedouins in the Middle East have suffered from top-down implementation of national and international conservation projects. Protected areas and conservation schemes have been established and carried out within the steppeland of the region (the Badia) usually by dispossessing the Beoduin from their traditional grazing pastures. These projects were implemented without a national legal framework and have created additional problems for the Bedouin through dispossession of their traditionally best-quality pastures. Through a synthesis of ethnographic, economic, environmental and geographical data taken from two sites in the Syrian Desert, this presentation will shed the light on Conservation Theory and Bedouin Livelihood Realities in the Syrian al-Badia.

panel MMM09
The emerging world of pastoralists and nomads (IUAES Commission on Nomadic Peoples)