Open Access (free)
Sovereignty, violence and revolution in the Middle East
Author: Simon Mabon

In events that have since become known as the Arab Uprisings or Arab Revolutions, people across the Middle East took to the streets to express their anger and frustration at political climates, demanding political and economic reform. In a number of cases, protest movements were repressed, often violently, with devastating repercussions for human security and peace across the region.

While a number of scholars have sought to understand how the protests occurred, this book looks at sovereignty and the relationship between rulers and ruled to identify and understand both the roots of this anger but also the mechanisms through which regimes were able to withstand seemingly existential pressures and maintain power.

Open Access (free)
Simon Mabon

211 8 Houses built on sand The crisis consists in the fact that the old [order] is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a large variety of morbid symptoms appear. Antonio Gramsci, Passato e presente Ana wa akhi ala ibn ammi, ana wa ibn ammi ala algharib. [My brother and I against our cousin, my cousin and I against a stranger.] An old Beouin saying In the fallout from the Arab Uprisings, a number of parallels have been drawn with the Thirty Years’ War across Europe in the seventeenth century.1 Take the opening lines of an article by Richard

in Houses built on sand
Open Access (free)
Janet Wolff

7: Houses and barns The technicolour place I moved to in 1956 at the age of thirteen was Didsbury, in south Manchester. Fifty-five years later, in February 2011, I returned to live there. My apartment, in a late nineteenthcentury mansion called Lawnhurst, is a few minutes’ walk from the house where I lived in my teens. Less than five miles from the centre of Manchester, Didsbury, listed as a small hamlet in the thirteenth century, was still more or less rural until the mid-nineteenth century. Its main shopping street is still referred to as ‘the village

in Austerity baby
Open Access (free)
The end of the dream
Simon Mabon

characteristics to these divisions, creating conditions that give rise to mafia groups who are able to capitalise on marginalisation and instability. The allocation of resources and jobs becomes a mechanism through which control is exerted and as such, performing identity becomes essential to ensuring survival. With the fragmentation of the state and emergence of competing claims to sovereignty, the biopolitical regulation of life provided the mechanisms of control to regulate life through stripping it of its political meaning. Across the region, the 236 236 Houses built on

in Houses built on sand
Open Access (free)
Simon Mabon

to simultaneously create a national identity and state, take place within the context of this broader regional environment, deriving legitimacy through recourse to the norms of the environment. 34 34 Houses built on sand A key part of efforts to survive was the ability to lay claim to legitimacy. Academic discussions about legitimacy rarely find consensus but it is generally accepted that in the Middle East, legitimacy deficits are responsible for malaise and political instability. In a groundbreaking discussion of legitimacy in the Arab world, Michael Hudson

in Houses built on sand
Simon Mabon

degree of protection. The city is a fluid entity, often viewed through the lens of networks that go some way into ordering life.3 Beyond this, the aesthetics of a city can be used to develop a national identity, which also brings about exclusion. Decisions over infrastructural and development projects are taken for political reasons, driven by domestic and regional concerns, yet impacting on the lives 126 126 Houses built on sand of citizens and non-​citizens within states and across space. This chapter explores the role of urban environments as sites of sovereign

in Houses built on sand
Open Access (free)
Simon Mabon

investigation into events in Rabaa documents a systematic attack against ‘unarmed persons on political grounds’, where lethal force was used indiscriminately.4 Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, referred to it as one of the world’s largest killings of demonstrators in a single day in recent history, a violent crackdown planned ‘at the highest levels of the Egyptian 182 182 Houses built on sand government’.5 The report names Abdul Fatal Al Sisi, the Egyptian President, as one of the individuals complicit in events. In the weeks that followed, some

in Houses built on sand
Open Access (free)
Simon Mabon

in the months that followed, Islam played a prominent role in regulating life across the new republic.8 The new republic placed Shi’a values at the centre of its approach to politics, both domestic and foreign and, as such, dramatically altered the nature of Middle Eastern 94 94 Houses built on sand politics. Values of resistance and counter-​hegemony became integral to understanding Tehran’s foreign policy, extrapolating from the Karbala Narrative in Shi’a history.9 Revolutionary fervour dramatically altered the regional order, fusing geopolitical concerns

in Houses built on sand
Open Access (free)
Simon Mabon

sectarian violence. 2 2 Houses built on sand Lebanese politics has long been characterised by religious difference that is built into the very fabric of the state, embedded in a constitution that shares power along sectarian lines. This organisation of political life has left the state open to the geopolitical aspirations of others, leading to the penetration of Lebanese politics by Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and others, resulting in the conflation of domestic and regional politics. Regulating life, a key part of a sovereign’s responsibilities, becomes

in Houses built on sand
Simon Mabon

resistance. This chapter traces this history of protest and resistance, locating the uprisings within a broader narrative of the contestation of sovereign power, arguing that protest movements which emerged in 2011 should not be viewed as isolated incidents. To do this I  look at historical 150 150 Houses built on sand examples of unrest, before turning to a consideration of socio-​economic factors and finally, exploration of the impact of environmental degradation that brought about rapid transformations of social and political landscapes in the years leading up to

in Houses built on sand