Panel 8C

Democracy, Authoritarianism and State Institutions in the Middle East

11.30 – 13.30
Chair: Shimaa Hatab, Cairo University

Handling the Wave: Authoritatarian Survival in Egypt after the Arab Uprisings

Begüm Zorlu, University College London

At the beginning of 2011, after two weeks of contentious protests setting off from Cairo and spreading to numerous cities in Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, who was ruling the country with an iron fist for 25 years, left his seat. Albeit his departure and the characteristic of the social movement that presented a capacity for a change towards democratization, the direction of the progression turned into the reconstitution of the authoritarian regime which was strengthened with the military coup in 2013, creating a more repressive mode of governance before the uprising. The paper setting off from this repercussion, discloses the strategies deployed by the regime to reconstruct authoritarianism in Egypt at the aftermath of the popular uprising that took place in 2011, as a single case study. To deduct the path that led to authoritarian reconstruction in Egypt, the theoretical framework covers the literature on authoritarian survival and social movements theory. The second part of the study presents the historical background of protest activity in Egypt with a focus on the process between 2011 to 2013 by parting it to three waves; the 18 days that led to Mubarak’s fall, the reign of the military and the Morsi era. The third section gathers and decodes the process and discloses the strategies that were used to re-establish authoritarianism at the aftermath of the historical case of the popular uprising in Egypt.

Contested Ideational Frames and Authoritarian Upgrading in Egypt in the Post-2013 Period

Shimaa Hatab, Cairo University

How did the momentarily triumphant political and social opposition forces fail to establish genuine pro democracy alliance? What accounts for the marginalization of societal forces from the political dynamics in the post-2013 period? The paper draws on the literature “frame” analysis to unpack the role of social movements/groups in a polarized context, showing how, in the aftermath of the uprisings, they worked erratically with problems of coordinating a broad alliance, and ultimately fell into patters that undermined their struggle to alter the authoritarian power structures. Initially able to frame cumulative grievances through a rallying cry for “Bread, Freedom, Social Justice, and Dignity,” the coalition mobilized large swaths of Egyptians from across the political spectrum and socio-economic strata. But over time protest groups moved away from that all-encompassing “anti-system” frames that toppled Mubarak to “renewal” frames, within which they revived the very authoritarian and personalist power structures that the 2011 uprising had targeted. Investigating the processes of developing collective action “frames” helps in looking beyond particular contentious events to the underlying beliefs about politics and society that orient social actors. Framing politics entails a dialectical process of frame transformation for some ideas and meanings in order to generate new ones. That is, the main endeavour is to shift the analytical focus towards a more contested and nuanced account of framing transformation from the uniting vantage point that melded together diverse cumulative grievances until the repressive turn and reactive sequences in the aftermath of the 30 June period.

Democracy, Cyber Policy and Data Localization: Evidence from Turkey, Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia (Virtual Movements: Social Media, Gaming, and Global Communications Networks)

Hamid Akin Unver, University of Oxford / Kadir Has University

The continuing success of digitization initiatives among the countries of the Middle East brings with it an added and growing exposure to the risk of cyber attacks. These attacks — by other states and by increasingly sophisticated criminal rings from around the world — have the potential to derail the progress of digitization, and threaten the benefits delivered through it. Some countries have created new laws aimed at protecting electronic transactions and prosecuting cyber crimes. Others have established critical information infrastructure protection polices and cyber-security plans, and have vested responsibility for cyber security in existing agencies or directorates. Still others have initiated national incident response protocols, and have begun building cyber-security awareness and capabilities. These are all good steps toward improving national cyber security. However, these steps alone they will not suffice to manage risks associated with the digital assets of an entire country. This paper is built on a quantitative study that tests the relationship between Turkish, Egyptian, Iranian and Saudi Arabian cyber policies and their track record in suffering from cyber attacks. The study yields two main findings: first, when democracy and political representation are controlled, significant differences emerge between these countries’ susceptibility to cyber attacks and two, lack of democracy is strongly correlated to a country’s insistence on data localization. This study and its findings give us a good grounding in the study of the Internet and cyber policy in the Middle East, as well as how these countries respond to social networks and online expression.

The Cyber Impact on Political Performance: The Activation of Users’ Role and The Competition for The Ownership of Space

Reem Albarakat, Queen’s University, Belfast and Gehan Selim, Queen’s University, Belfast

Public spaces play an important role in displaying power relations in the city; and cyberspace has become an online stage for interaction, through the rapid increase in cyber users around the world. This phenomenon has reinterpreted the role people can play and the power they hold to influence political or democratic movement in public spaces. This paper investigates the theoretical ground of the cyber impact on reshaping public spaces during phases of urban unrest as productive sites of political mobilisation and recent conflict. It aims at investigating the conceptual and theoretical grounds of the influence of cyber activities on the collective experience and actions during political movements in physical space. It looks at the case of Martyrs’, Nijmeh and Reyad Alsolh Squares during the political movements of Lebanon, 2015. Based on the archival written and visual material of selected reliable newspapers and TV channels prime time news, the paper uses the protesting events method to map the protesters’ modes of engagement in the squares within the main intervals of a continuous series of major events. The case study will show the impact of social media on motivating and mediating the spatial practices, thus redefining and adding new dimensions to our reading of space.

Fighting for a Civic Nation: The “I am an Israeli” Organisation as a post-Zionist/post-“Canaanite” Phenomenon

Roman Vater, University of Oxford

The paper will explore the struggle of the “I am an Israeli” organization for the recognition of the Israeli nation by the state and law authorities of Israel. Created in the late 1990s by the only surviving founding member of the “Canaanite” movement Uzzi Ornan, the organization uses various legal and advocacy techniques to make headways into the Israeli public with its modernising vision of a cohesive, secular, national, non-Jewish society. It opposes in particular Israel’s citizenship legislation, which discriminates between a jus soli and a jus sanguinis nationality, the latter determined by an ethno-religious origin. In its struggle for a “state of all its citizens”, “I am an Israeli” is undoubtedly a reflection of the presence of post-Zionism in Israeli public life. At the same time some of its core principles are derived directly from the “Canaanite” ideology. The movement thus articulates an Israeli non-sectarian nationhood which is both in keeping with the tenets of classical nationalism as well as with the tenets of post-national post-Zionism. My purpose will be to investigate the sources of these two constitutive elements of “I am an Israeli” and the ways they function together. I will see to what extent Ornan has departed from “orthodox” “Canaanism” on the one hand and to what extent post-Zionist in itself is “Canaanite” on the other. I shall compare the movement’s struggle with similar struggles in Israeli history and try to judge what the prospects for an Israeli nationhood are in the 21st century.

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