Sulayman N. Khalaf
Socioeconomic and political changes occurring within the last four decades have transformed the life conditions of tribal/peasant communities of the Euphrates Valley in the ArRaqqa region of northern Syria. The general sequence of historical changes has been a shift from a semisedentary mode of social life characterized by a subsistence economy to an entrepreneurial capitalist agriculture that developed rapidly during the laissez-faire period of the late 1940s and 1950s. Finally, new socialist agrarian transformations were brought about under the leadership of the Ba'th Party. Since 1963 the Ba'th Party, relying on mobilizational politics, agrarian reform, and the peasant collectivization movement, has restructured society according to a new socialist design while still accommodating the operation of a sizeable commercial private sector.
This chapter examines these changes as they affected class structure in the rural communities of the Euphrates Valley. Specifically, it examines the impact of land reform on the dynamics of social classes. Before proceeding, however, my analysis here should be encapsulated within the broader context of national economic and political developments.
The analysis to follow is based on field research done in the Ar Raqqah region of north Syria, specifically on the al-Meshrif landowning family in their village of Hawi al-Hawa located ten kilometers west of the town of Ar Raqqah. The field work was begun in the early 1970s and supplemented by intermittent short visits until 1986.