Repression without Borders: The Long Arm of Authoritarian Regimes


arab spring democracy2Immigrant groups remain subject to authoritarian repression even after they leave their homelands, according to new research by Dr. Dana Moss, a sociologist at the University of Pittsburgh. However, these repressive effects may be overcome if a large-scale activist event in the homeland takes place, like the 2011 Arab Spring (in which there were demonstrations, uprisings, and protests across the Arab world, Moss writes in “Transnational Repression, Diaspora Mobilization, and the Case of the Arab Spring,” for the academic journal Social Problems:

authoritarianism globalBefore the Arab Spring, Libyan and Syrian individuals living in the West experienced heavy sanctions from their former regimes if they engaged in activism against those in power in their home-countries, such as threats, surveillance, and acts of violence, even within their new countries in the West. They faced issues with their home countries as well, including problems traveling back home to visit or threats or acts of harm towards relatives at home. These sanctions instilled fear in many potential activists and effectively deterred public anti-regime mobilization before the Arab Spring, even in new country environments that promoted freedom and civil liberties.

However, during the Arab Spring, many of the barriers to transnational activism fell. For example, regimes were now perceived as incapable of making good on the traditional threats that they had relied on and the risks and sacrifices of activism now seemed to be worth it, which allowed activists of authoritarian regimes to mobilize publically during the Arab Spring to an unprecedented degree.

Diaspora politics can be viewed as not only enhancing or challenging state power in particular cases, but also contributing to new forms of global identity politics that transcend state institutions, analyst Fiona B. Adamson, writes in The Growing Importance of Diaspora Politics, in the latest issue of Current History.

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