From the Journals: Arab Uprisings; Egypt; Displaced Syrians

We’ve collected a few interesting and relevant journal articles as part of our new series From the Journals. This week, we’re highlighting:

Civilian Victimization and the Politics of Information in the Kurdish Conflict in Turkey by Ceren Belge.


During the 1990s, thousands of Kurdish settlements in Eastern Turkey were forcibly evacuated, resulting in the displacement of more than one million Kurdish villagers. This article examines why some villages survived while the populations of others were forcibly displaced. It also addresses the broader question of why particular groups of civilians become more vulnerable to coercion in the course of armed conflict, and how their vulnerability is shaped by the extent and quality of information that states possess about population groups, particularly minorities deemed dangerous to the regime. The author argues that state practices to categorize the identity of minority groups and to collect information about their behavior and allegiances are integral to the dynamics of violence. Such practices make certain categories of citizens more vulnerable to victimization and often introduce biases into the information gathered. Focusing on Turkey’s population census, elections, and the use of informants embedded in communities, the author examines information-gathering practices from the national to the local level. The author uses original data on displacement, Kurdish insurgent violence, and election results, as well as interviews with displaced persons and progovernment militia members, tochallenge the view that civilian victimization in counterinsurgency wars stems primarily from states’ inability to distinguish civilians from insurgents.

World Politics, February 2016.

The State of Social Justice in the Arab World: The Arab Uprisings of 2011 and Beyond by Michael Robbins and Amaney Jamal.


The Arab uprisings were sometimes seen as calls for democracy, but we argue that in fact they were more accurately calls for social justice. Citizens across the region took to the streets to demand better economic, political and social outcomes including reducing levels of inequality, eliminating corruption and in- creasing respect for human dignity. These protests yielded significant changes across the region, including the downfall of numerous long-standing leaders. However, to what degree have their underlying calls for social justice been realized? By comparing data from nationally representative public opinion surveys conducted at the time of the Arab uprisings and a few years after these events, we find that citizens experienced some tangible improvements after the uprisings including declines in the importance of wasta. Still, major reforms targeting corruption, economic outcomes and to improve the effectiveness of government remain needed.

Contemporary Readings in Law and Social Justice 8, no.1 (2016).

Policing neoliberalism in Egypt: the continuing rise of the ‘securocratic’ state by Maha Abdelrahman.


This article examines the increasing power of the police, their centrality to the reproduction of the neoliberal global order and their dynamic relationship with various elements of the ruling elite. It focuses on the case of the post-2011 uprising in Egypt to examine how the police institution has taken advantage of the uprising to increase its power and relative autonomy. The article demonstrates the centrality of the police to the Sisi regime’s efforts at reducing political discourse to an inflated and simplistic concept of ‘security’ in an attempt to establish its long-term legitimacy.

Third World Quarterly, February 2016.

The limits of hospitality: coping strategies among displaced Syrians in Lebanon, by Cathrine Thorleifsson.


Based on qualitative fieldwork in the Sunni village of Bebnine, located between Tripoli and the northern Syrian border, this paper explores how displaced Syrians adjust to life in Lebanon under the threat and actuality of violence. The marginalised refugees do not only appear as passive victims of crisis but draw on a diverse repertoire of coping strategies to deal with displacement and dispossession. Self-settled Syrians have exploited social networks, savings, aid, education and work opportunities to create a new livelihood system for themselves. Nevertheless, everyday life in Lebanon is not conceptualised as a safe zone. Syrian refugees are increasingly being used as scapegoats for the poor economy and political challenges in the country. While practices of hospitality towards the Syrian refugees were widespread, ambivalent feelings and prejudice frequently surfaced. Refugees expressed concern that the Syrian civil war would escalate into further sectarian violence in Lebanon, pushing the country closer to war.

Third World Quarterly, February 2016.

Sources of Authoritarian Resilience in Regional Protest Waves: The Post-Communist Colour Revolutions and 2011 Arab Uprisings by Steve Hess.


This article takes a comparative look at two historically and geographically interconnected waves of large-scale unrest: the colour revolutions of the post-communist region during the 2000s and the Arab uprisings of 2011. From this vantage point, it considers the power of alternative approaches in explaining the resilience or breakdown of autocratic regimes in the face of exogenously inspired protests. These explanations centre on the destabilizing impact of sudden economic downturns, the varied resilience of authoritarian subtypes, linkages to the outside world, the advantages of resource wealth and the threats posed by leadership successions. Drawing a deliberate comparison between these two waves of contention reveals several findings: first, structural factors such as resource wealth, monarchical political organization and weak political links to the outside made autocrats more resilient in the face of regional protest waves. Second, regimes temporarily undergoing leadership transitions were more vulnerable amidst regional waves.

Government and Opposition, Volume 51, Issue 01, January 2016, pp, 1-29.

Decentralising authoritarianism? The international intervention, the new ‘revolutionaries’ and the involution of Post-Qadhafi Libya by Mattia Toaldo.


In 2011, Libya became the only country of the Arab Uprisings where NATO and the Arab League intervened militarily, ostensibly to protect the civilian population, but in reality in support of the opposition National Transitional Council. This article argues that, since 2011, Libya has transitioned from Qadhafi’s centralised authoritarianism to a new decentralised authoritarianism where multiple centres of power coexist and sometimes overlap, while leaving room only for formal democratic institutions. This is the result of decisions taken by the ‘revolutionaries’ after the overthrow of the dictator, and a consequence of long-standing features of the Libyan state and society.

Small Wars and Insurgencies 27, No.1 (2016)

Generals and Autocrats:How Coup-Proofing Predetermined the Military Elite’s Behavior in the Arab Spring by Hicham Bou Nassif.


When embattled autocrats threatened by the Arab Spring’s mobilizations turned towards their armed forces for support, the stage was set for the military elite to shape the outcome of the critical junctures in 2011. Some acted as the regime’s gravediggers when they defected whereas others tried to impede change and answered the autocrats’ call for repression. Accounting for Arab senior officers divergent behavior remains one of the fundamental puzzles of the Arab Spring. To do so, this dissertation problematizes the relationship between the senior officers and their subordinates, rather than treating the officer corps, let alone the military at large, as a unified actor. Just as importantly, I maintain that institutional interactions between autocratic rulers, the military elite and the mid-ranking and junior officers, shaped by decades of coup-proofing tactics, predetermined whether the military elite had a vested interest in the status-quo and, when this was the case, the capacity to defend it. In other words, I contend that institutional legacies from the post-decolonization decades need to be re-examined for a deeper understanding of opportunities and constraints structuring the top officers’ behavior in 2011. The three cases under study cover the whole range of combinations presented by the Arab Spring: a military elite that had the incentive, but not the capacity, to defend the status-quo (Egypt); a military elite that had both the incentive and the capacity to do so (Syria); and, finally, a military elite that had neither the incentive, nor the capacity, to keep the ruling elite in power (Tunisia). By analyzing these cases, I aim to present a theoretical framework applicable to other contexts as well, both inside and outside the Middle East.

Political Science Quarterly (Wiley-Blackwell). Jun2015, Vol. 130 Issue 2, p245-275.

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