Tag Archives: Tunisia

“The Game’s Afoot”: Protest in Repressive States and Its Field of Play

by Hank Johnston

In Egypt, Tunisia, and Ukraine, political regimes were brought down by mass movements of political protest. In contrast, peaceful Syrian protests against the al-Assad regime took a different course and spiraled into violence and civil war. One need only recall the unsuccessful Iranian protests against the fraudulent election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad or the unrealized Chinese “jasmine revolution” in 2011 to ponder the contingencies of the repression-mobilization relationship. In the Iranian and Chinese cases, the state effectively quashed protests. In the Syrian case, state violence led to escalation that al-Assad’s piecemeal reforms were unable to stop. In the Ukrainian case, police violence against waning protests caused public outrage and reinvigorated mobilization. Continue reading

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Repression Works – when it works (and not, when not)

by Jack Goldstone

Much recent research has highlighted the success of non-violent protest. Erica Chenoweth and Maria J. Stephan’s data analysis had demonstrated that disciplined, non-violent protests succeed more often than violent ones, even in the face of repressive actions by regimes.

And yet recent events in Bahrain, Egypt, Syria, Libya, and Ukraine give one pause. While Tunisia offers the example of a relatively peaceful protest campaign that overturned a dictatorship, in Libya civil war seemed necessary to overturn a regime about to massacre peaceful protestors in Benghazi. In Egypt, the peaceful protestors who brought down the Mubarak regime were soon marginalized, with the Muslim Brotherhood now outlawed and suffering mass executions at the hands of a counter-revolutionary military regime. In Syria, the dictatorship responded to peaceful protests with brutalizing attacks and seems likely to have crushed the protests if they had not recruited defecting soldiers and become militarized (although to be sure, we do not know what would have happened if the protestors had stuck to non-violence). Finally, in Bahrain, the most massive peaceful protests seen in the region, as a percentage of the population participating, were crushed by the military. By contrast, in Ukraine, it was only after peaceful protestors were galvanized by more violent “ultranationalists” who attacked police and burned buildings that the ruler fled (although again we cannot be sure what would have followed if this turn to violence had not occurred). Continue reading

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The Arab Uprisings Have Not Failed: They Are Continuing

By Joel Beinin

Ignited by the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi in the impoverished Tunisian city of Sidi Bouzid in December 2010, a prairie fire engulfed much of the Arab world during 2011. Social movements of the previous decade converged in the uprisings: broad pro-democracy activism exemplified by Egypt’s Kifaya (Enough!), campaigns against police brutality, in defense of judicial independence, prisoners’ rights, women’s rights, and in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain and Morocco, workers’ actions to defend their standard of living. However, the 2011 occupations of public space proclaiming “the people want the fall of the regime” and demanding “bread, freedom, and social justice” were much more than a social movement. They were popular rebellions with a revolutionary thrust directed, albeit vaguely and without a clear program, against both autocratic neo-patrimonial rule and neo-liberal crony capitalism. Continue reading

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Filed under Essay Dialogues, Social Movement Failure