In the Middle East, each district has a chief recognized by the authorities. He/she is not a government employee but usually the longest residing citizen in the area.
Their duties include verifying people's identities or place of residence. For example, if you want to register your child in school and you are living in a friend or relative's house and don't have a proof of residence, this person would provide you with a letter stating that you do reside in the area and the district school would accept it.

Is there such system in the west? If yes, what is the appellation of such person?

I thought of "district chief" but I can't say I am 100% sure...

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    What is this person called in Arabic? Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 17:33
  • 1
    Mukhtar.. the chosen person
    – user186499
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 17:35
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    This system seems very medieval to my British mind; the fact that someone gets power simply for being old is (forgetting the House of Lords) simply ridiculous. As such, there is not modern equivalent of this word. However, you may be interested in the olde-worlde term 'elder' which covers a wise old person who is looked to for guidance but they only really exist or have any power in games and films set in the olden days. Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 17:38
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    There simply isn't anything like such a system in the US.
    – jamesqf
    Commented Nov 7, 2016 at 17:45
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    In English, when not being applied to a particular country, "district" is a somewhat vague term. It only acquires a specific meaning in the context of a particular country's laws.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Nov 8, 2016 at 2:24

3 Answers 3


Mukhtar is a word in English too (although I've never heard it before):

(in Turkey and some Arab countries) the head of local government of a town or village.

Oxford Dictionaries

The responsibilities of a mukhtar are unique; there's nothing exactly the same in the west (which is why we borrowed the term).

I'm not an expert in law (especially Middle Eastern law), so this Turkish site helped to explain some of their duties:


The mukhtar is both the representative of the village and symbolizes the state in the village. The Village Law ... imposes significant functions and responsibilities on the mukhtar as well as equips him/her with very important powers. The mukhtar plays an active role in ensuring the security of the village and procuring all public services. S/he facilitates the work of central government agencies.


The neighbourhood mukhtar serves as a bridging link between the neighbourhood residences and public bodies including particularly the municipality. The mukhtar discharges such significant functions as identifying the poor and provision of assistance, renewing voter registers, informing the relevant agencies of problems and failures in services of education, health, security and sanitation etc.

In my experience, these duties are handled by the government (spread through multiple departments and entities it subcontracts with). On the other hand, in the US at least, nobody needs to help prove your residency (if you don't have something like a driver's license, your mail will work instead).

Of course, there isn't one "system in the west", and there are various differences between each one. (You can often find different systems inside sovereignties themselves, such as state law in the US.)

  • Please provide a reference that Mukhtar is a word in English. In other words, where does your dictionary quote come from? (Otherwise, good answer though).
    – AndyT
    Commented Nov 22, 2016 at 12:31

I would translate mukhtar as chieftain:

  1. the chief of a clan or a tribe.
  2. a leader of a group, band, etc.: the robbers' chieftain.

Historical Examples

During a formal visit to the chieftain of the tribe, he was offered tea.
The Soul of a Child Edwin Bjorkman

The chieftain gave his orders for the defense of the village.
Despoilers of the Golden Empire Gordon Randall Garrett



While this is not an exact match of duties, a "notary public" might work.

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