Bedouin in Lebanon: the transformation of a way of life or an attitude?
The populations of the Middle East have experienced particularly rapid socio-economic change over the past 40 years, due largely to the consolidation of the nation-state after the break-up of the Ottoman Empire at the close of WWI. The basic social, political and cultural rights of the pastoral populations (the Bedouin) of this region have been largely ignored, however, in part due to their remoteness and inaccessibility, but also because of the very fact of their mobility and physical marginality. With a few exceptions - such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia - cultural differences between the mobile Bedouin and the settled urban and agrarian populations have translated over time into development of discriminated minorities. The Bedouin way of life has come to be regarded as backward and primitive; in some places their very authenticity as part of the nation-state has been questioned as they fail to ‘Modernise’ at the same pace as surrounding populations. Thus in Lebanon the majority of Bedouin are ‘stateless’ without papers and live beyond the ‘boundaries’ of government services. Their mobile way of life is largely a thing of the past, but their sense of tribal belonging remains strong. Their desire for nationality papers reflects a wish to end their marginalisation and statelessness and be able to access government services.