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Volume One -> E. Resisting Oppressive, Dictatorial, Military or Authoritarian Rule -> E. V. Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East since 1945 is associated primarily with conventional wars and various forms of guerrilla warfare. Nevertheless there have been significant examples of unarmed resistance, most notably in Iran and the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), and most recently in the Arab uprisings of 2011. Protests in Tunisia, Egypt and Bahrain in early 2011 were primarily peaceful, although in Libya, Yemen and Syria the initially unarmed protests have developed into forms of civil war.

Two significant anthologies, separated by nearly two decades, are:

Includes chapters on ‘Violent and Nonviolent Struggle in Arab History’ and ‘Arab-Muslim Cases of Nonviolent Struggle’, and appendices by Gene Sharp and Ronald McCarthy.

Opens with thematic chapters – on the dynamics of nonviolent action, on Arab nonviolent struggle (Crow and Grant, see above), on Islam, on humour and resistance, and on the role of external actors. Follows with case studies on various struggles or episodes in Palestine, Western Sahara, Lebanon, Iran, Egypt, Kuwait, Syria, Turkey and Egypt.

For a brief overview of unarmed struggles up to 1999, see:

Zunes, Stephen , Unarmed Resistance in the Middle East and North Africa In Zunes; Kurtz; Asher, Nonviolent Social Movements: A Geographical Perspective (A. 1.b. Strategic Theory, Dynamics, Methods and Movements)Oxford, Blackwell, 1999, pp. 41-51 .

Two major examples of civil resistance – the 1977-79 revolution against the Shah of Iran and the First Palestinian Intifada, 1987-1991 – are referenced below. The subsection on Palestine brings the story up to date with references on the development of unarmed methods (for example against the ‘Separation Wall’) in recent years. There are also subsections on the 2005 ‘Cedar Revolution’ in the Lebanon, and on the Sahrawi resistance to Moroccan occupation of the Western Sahara, since its turn to internal civil resistance, rather than externally led armed resistance, in 2005. Although the latter is a secessionist struggle, its campaign for human and democratic rights has implications for Morocco as a whole.

The ‘Arab Spring’ of 2011 and subsequent events in the countries involved are covered separately under E.V. B.

After the Second World War Iranian moves towards electoral democracy were thwarted when the US and British intelligence services collaborated in 1953 to overthrow the elected prime minister Mohammed Mossadeq, who had nationalized the Anglo-Iranian oil company in 1951. The Shah had tried unsuccessfully to oust Mossadeq and had to flee the country, and the CIA was able to mobilize his supporters. The Shah returned to assert the dominance of the dynasty (founded in 1921 when his father had seized the throne). His regime was subsequently severely criticized for human rights violations.

The Shah’s authoritarian regime was overthrown in 1977-79 by impressive, predominantly nonviolent mass protests which showed that people power can prevail over regime brutality. Millions went on strike and filled the streets, and the resistance continued despite the shooting of thousands of unarmed protesters. This brutality led at the end of 1978 to a split in the armed forces, with the army deciding to stay in its barracks. A very wide range of groups with differing ideological perspectives took part in the mass strikes and demonstrations. But a key symbolic and organizing role was played by the exiled Ayatollah Khomeini, whose supporters were in due course able to seize power.

Abrahamian, Ervand, Iran Between Two Revolutions, Princeton NJ, Princeton University Press, 1982, pp. 561

For the protests leading to the overthrow of the Shah, see pp. 496-537. See also Abrahamian, Ervand , Mass Protests in the Iranian Revolution, 1977-79 In Roberts; Garton Ash, Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present (A. 1.b. Strategic Theory, Dynamics, Methods and Movements)Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009, pp. 162-178 .

Albert, David H., Tell the American People: Perspectives on the Iranian Revolution, Philadelphia PA, Movement for a New Society, 1980, pp. 212

Albert also comments briefly on the Iranian Revolution to illustrate the dynamics of power relationships (pp. 29-36) in his booklet: Albert, David H., People Power: Applying Nonviolence Theory Philadelphia PA, New Society Publishers, , 1985, pp. 64 .

Bashirey, Hossein, The State and Revolution in Iran 1962-1982, London, Croom Helm, 1984, pp. 203

Chapters 5-7 focus on the demonstrations.

Foran, John, The Iranian Revolution of 1977-79: A Challenge for Social Theory, In Foran, John , A Century of Revolutions: Social Movements in Iran Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, , 1994,

chapter 7.

Kapuscinski, Ryszard, Shah of Shahs, [1985], London, Penguin Books, 2006, pp. 152

Celebrated analysis by distinguished Polish journalist of later years of Shah’s regime and meditation on power, the role of fear and the nature of revolution.

Kurzman, Charles, The Unthinkable Revolution in Iran, 1977-1979, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press, 2004, pp. 304

Contends that the revolution was truly unpredictable by critiquing five sets of retrospective ‘explanations’. Includes essay on available source material.

Ritter, Daniel P., On the Role of Strategy in Nonviolent Revolutionary Social Change: the Case of Iran, 1977-1979, EUI MWP; 2011/07, Florence, European University Institute, Max Weber Programme, 2011, pp. 19

Are revolutions made or do they come? This question is at the heart of revolution theory and has received plentiful attention from scholars. In this paper I suggest that adherence to this traditional dichotomy may not be the most useful to approach the study of revolutions. Therefore, I argue that theorists of revolutions are well advised to examine the role of the strategic decisions made by revolutionaries in their struggles against the state. Drawing empirically on the nonviolent revolution of Iran in 1977-79, I show that the strategic decisions made by the opposition movement not only allowed them to capitalize on a political opportunity, but that their strategic choices in fact helped bring that opportunity about in the first place.

Stempel, John D., Inside the Iranian Revolution, Bloomington IN, Indiana University Press, 1981, pp. 324

US diplomat describes and assesses the evolution of protest.

Once they had established their dominance, the Ayatollahs initially controlled a draconian regime based on religious extremism more brutal than the Shah’s, and relying heavily on various security services. The political constitution does, however, allow (within a theocratic framework) regular parliamentary and presidential elections, which supporters of moderate reform could attempt to use. It was in response to the regime blatantly ‘stealing’ the election from the opposition candidate for the presidency in 2009 that the ‘Green Revolution’ erupted. The western press dubbed the protests the ‘Twitter revolution’, but the importance of Twitter in the organization of the protests has been contested. The Arab Spring prompted a brief resurgence of protest in early 2011.

Buchan, James, Impasse in Iran, New Left Review, issue 59 (Sept./Oct.), 2009, pp. 73-87

Mostly an analysis of broader Iranian history, but discusses June 2009 protests and their aftermath.

Democracy, Journal of, Section on ‘Iran in Ferment’, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 20, issue 3 (October), 2009, pp. 6-20

Articles by:

  • Afshan, Ali and Graham Underwood, ‘The Green Wave;
  • Milani, Abbas, ‘Cracks in the Regime’ (focusing on role of Islamic Revolutionary Guard corps and dissent in Ministry of Intelligence’;
  • Bouroumand, Ladan, ‘Civil Society’s Choice’ (stressing human rights and referring back to her article Bourourmand, Ladan , The Untold Story of the Fight for Human Rights Journal of Democracy, 2007, pp. 64-79 ).

Falasiri, Arash, Iran’s Green Movement: Decapitated but not Defeated, London,, 2011

Hashemi, Nadar ; Postel, Danny, The People Reloaded: The Green Movement and the Struggle for Iran’s Future, New York, Melville House, 2011, pp. 440

Anthology exploring the nature of the movement, including expert and participant analyses, manifestos, communiques, interviews and debates. A number of the presentations, including that by co-editor Danny Postel and Charles Kurzman’s ‘Cultural Jiu-Jitsu’ can be viewed on YouTube channel ‘Iran: Politics of Resistance’.

Majd, Hooman, The Ayatollahs’ Democracy: an Iranian Challenge, London, Allen Lane, 2010, pp. 282

The author, an Iranian journalist living abroad, provides lively analysis of the Green Movement and current Iranian politics. See also: Majd, Hooman , Think Again: Iran’s Green Movement. It’s a Civil Rights Movement, not a Revolution Washington DC, Foreign Policy, , 2010 , online at

After the 'Green Movement' in Iran, opposing the dominance of the Shia clerics and their Revolutionary Guards over the parliamentary system, was brutally crushed by the security services in 2009-10, major protests were for a while quelled. Although the revolutionary wave of 2011 across the Arab world stimulated some expressions of dissent in Iran, widespread popular unrest across much of the country did not erupt until December 2017-January 2018. These protests were a prelude to the extensive demonstrations in most parts of the country in November 2019, which were primarily a response to increasing economic hardship. This unrest was due partly to the re-imposition of international economic sanctions, after President Trump destroyed the nuclear deal negotiated under Obama. As a result, the Iranian government announced a further cut in economic subsidies and a rise in fuel prices in mid-November 2019. Other reasons for demonstrating included anger at corruption and desire for political change. Protests occurred in 29 of the 31 provinces in Iran and an estimated 100 cities, and included ethnic Arabs and Kurds from border provinces. The social composition of the 2019 upsurge was broader than in 2017-18, but students, workers and the poor were dominant. The regime responded ruthlessly, and shot hundreds of protesters.

Iran is sometimes mentioned in the context of a 'Second Arab Spring', and some protesters in November 2019 did express solidarity with those in Iraq and Lebanon resisting the role of Iran in their internal politics. However, popular anger erupted onto the streets primarily in response to Iranian issues, as in January 2020, when mass protests occurred over the accidental shooting down of a Ukrainian passenger jet by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.

The references below cover the 2017-18 protests, November 2019 and January 2020, but also include some analysis of the background of the regime created after 1979, the Green Revolution and its aftermath.

Iran: More than 100 protesters Believed to be Killed as Top Officials Give Green Light to Crush Protests, Amnesty International, 2019

Amnesty issued this early condemnation of regime violence against 'verified video footage', eyewitness reports and other information on the 'excessive and often lethal force' used to crush largely peaceful protests in over 100 cities. Amnesty also notes the role of security forces in seizing the bodies of the dead, or compelling relatives to bury protesters without an autopsy, as well as the internet shutdown imposed by the regime.

See also: Human Rights Watch, 'Iran: No Justice for Bloody Clampdown', 25 February, 2020, pp. 18.

This lengthy report, written after the mass demonstrations had been crushed, provides information about protests, and the authorities' response, in different provinces. It also indicates the difficulty of getting precise figures for deaths (estimated at a minimum of 304) and imprisonments (about 7,000 according to one member of parliament), given the closing down of the internet and regime threats to families.

Beauchamp, Zack, The Massive New Protests in Iran Explained, Vox, 03/01/2018,

Report on how small group protests in Iran's second largest city, Mashhad, in December 2017 rapidly grew into major demonstrations reported in most provinces across Iran, with crowds often demanding an end to the dominance of senior clerics and the Revolutionary Guard. Beauchamp notes that protests on specifically economic issues, the responsibility of the parliamentary leader President Rouhani, could be acceptable to the religious leaders, but a direct challenge to their own dominance was not. 

Ehsani, Kaveh ; Keshavarzian, Arang, The Moral Economy of the Iranian Protests, Jacobin Magazine, 2018

The authors start from the 2017-18 protests, significant for their 'geographical scope and range of grievances', but emphasize that local unrest linked to a range of economic grievances has been frequent - especially since the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988 - and largely ignored by western media. They consider why the goal of social justice, central to 1979, has not been achieved and the change in policy after 1988 towards 'commercial priorities and top-down policy making'.

Golkar, Saeid, Protests and Regime Suppression in Post-Revolutionary Iran, Policy Notes PN85, Washington D.C., The Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 2020

Golkar examiines the November 2019 upsurge of protests, comparing it with 2017-18.  He also analyzes the regime responses, its investment in new technologies for its security forces, but also attempts in 2020 to improve welfare for the poor. 

Mohseni, Ebrahim ; Gallagher, Nancy ; Ramsey, Clay, Iranian Public Opinion after the Protests, School of Public Policy, Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland, 2018, pp. 44

Interesting survey of Iraian public opinion after the 2017-18 protests.  The survey covers a wide range of economic and political issues,  including Iran's foreign policy.  The findings show that many see Iran's economy as worsening, but blame inefficiency and corruption more than international sanctions.  The survey also indicates that a majority of the respondents disagree with criticism of the regime and or of strictness in enforcing Islamic laws, and also support the police response to protests. However, a majority does not endorse harsh punishment for peaceful protesters.  For a summary of the findings see:

Parsa, Misagh, Democracy in Iran: Why It Failed and How It Might Succeed, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2016, pp. 406

An analysis of the theocratic regime installed in 1979 and the problems facing the country, including corruption and cronyism, deep economic inequality and a brain drain of professionals. The author discusses the potential of the Green Revolution and its suppression, considers whether there is any scope to reform the regime from within, and concludes that the best hope is another revolution.

See also: Boroumand, Ladan, 'Iran's Exclusionary Republic', Journal of Democracy, vol. 29 no. 2. (April 2018), pp. 406.

This review of the 2016 book Democracy in Iran (see below) begins by commenting on the mass demonstrations that broke out in late December 2017 across 72 cities, calling for regime change, and how they were suppressed (48 killed and 4,792 arrests). Boroumand asks how 'recurrent explosions of popular anger in the Islamic Republic can be explained, and how the most recent protests related to the strong majority vote for the moderate President Rouhani six months earlier. She then turns to the book as a helpful analysis of developments since 1979, when Ayatollah Khomeini came to power.

The mass political movement that erupted in October 2019 had been preceded by earlier protests against failure of basic public services such as water and electricity supply and in reaction to the increasingly dire economic conditions in Lebanon.  A prolonged breakdown in rubbish collection in the summer of 2015 prompted demonstrations against the political system, and led to some groups promoting independent candidates in the 2016 municipal elections and the parliamentary elections in 2018. The October 2019 uprising was also preceded by a series of strikes by trade unionists and demonstrations by military veterans in April and May 2019, against proposed cuts in the salaries of government workers and in military pensions. But the October protests were on a different scale: an estimated two million demonstrators out of a population of 4.8 million. The movement was predominantly young, but included all age groups, transcended the usual class and religious divides, and was actively promoted by women as well as men. Despite rioting on the eve of the major protests in October 2019, and frequent violence by the security forces against protesters,  the movement has been primarily an expression of nonviolent civil resistance.  The protests were sparked by the dire economic situation and the government's attempts to meet the crisis through new taxes and austerity measures, but soon extended to challenge the banking system. 

Protesters also opposed the existing political system, based on the principle of power-sharing between the Christian, Shia and Sunni political groups.  The top political roles of president, prime minister and parliamentary speaker were divided between the three. Power-sharing was designed to overcome the sectarian tensions that led to the bitter civil war of 1975-90, and was the outcome of negotiations to end the war. But although it operated within a parliamentary context with regular elections, the sectarian parties operated through patronage; so administrative positions were not based on ability but distributed to meet sectarian quotas. Power also remained primarily in the hands of  key individuals, who in many cases had become prominent during the civil war; for example President Michael Aoun had been a general in the war.  It was generally recognized that the whole system was deeply corrupt, with the most powerful plundering state funds.

The October 2019 movement secured a rapid response from Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who had sponsored the emergency economic measures and who resigned at the end of October. After President Aoun had conducted prolonged negotiations, former education minister, Hassan Diab was appointed on 19 December as the new Prime Minister to head a technocratic government. He was rejected by the protesters demanding  a new kind of  politics. The more left wing sections of the movement, such as the Communist Party, the Popular Nasserist Organization and Youth for Change, also strongly criticized neoliberal economic theory and privatization as a solution to economic crisis.

Lebanon's political problems have been intensified by the intervention of other Middle Eastern states. Armed conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants based in Lebanon had led to partial Israeli military occupation (as in 1982), a war with Israel in 2006, and more temporary military incursions into Lebanon.  But systematic attempts to control Lebanon's internal politics have come from Syria (as dramatized by the Cedar Revolution of 2005 - see above), and from  Iran (exercised mainly through the powerful movement Hizbollah).  Since Syria became engulfed in its long-running civil war from 2012, Lebanon has provided refuge for up to one and a half million Syrian refugees, who added to the pressure on its resources and struggling public services.

The Lebanese economy has long been precarious and deeply in debt, and up to 400,000 Lebanese migrated to jobs in the Gulf states.  Their remittances home provided up to a fifth of Lebanon's GDP.  But from 2017 external economic and political change combined to worsen Lebanon's  position. A drop in the price of oil, which impacted on Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states, led to a fall in expatriate remittances back to Lebanon; Saudi Arabia is also planning to dispense with foreign workers. The Trump presidency in the US also undermined the Lebanese government, cutting by half its annual $200 million in military aid which financed weapon procurement from the US and  military training.

Given the multiplicity of Lebanon's problems there were obvious questions about the ability of the October 2019 movement, despite its impressive scale, inventiveness and  determination, to bring about any major political reforms. It was most unlikely that there would be a sufficiently constructive response from within the existing political system, and the movement lacked a clear united leadership or programme. The difficulties facing the movement were intensified in 2020 by the impact of the Covid-19 virus and by spiralling economic decline, with the Lebanese pound falling sharply in value. Then an explosion, on August 4 2020, of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate (used for fertilizer and  explosives) stored in the port of Beirut, killed over 200 people, injured about 5, 000, and caused enormous damage not only to the port but to much of the city centre, including the hospitals full of Covid patients, which then received many of those hurt by the blast. The explosion dramatized the total irresponsibility of  the regime - the highly dangerous nitrate had  been stored in the port for six years since it was unloaded from a Russian tanker. It prompted  a large angry demonstration against the authorities and further protests by those backing  the October 2019 movement.  It also led a week later to the resignation of Prime Minister Diab, who declared the explosion was the result of endemic corruption.

In the immediate aftermath of the explosion the October movement was revitalized by hopes for major political change,  President Macron of France also visited Lebanon to offer substantial aid, provided there were guarantees it would not be siphoned off corruptly.  However, by October 2020 the public mood had turned to despair, with many trying to emigrate or risking death to reach Europe illegally. 

On the anniversary of the explosion on 4 August 2021 press assessments conveyed an even direr picture. The investigation into the causes of the blast had still not reported and so nobody had been held accountable.  Lebanese politicians had failed for a year to form a government, which meant that offers of foreign aid conditional on political reform had not been received. The economy, undermined by the engrained political corruption, was in dire straits with spiraling inflation for food and  other basic necessities, widespread unemployment and  poverty, shortages of medicines, erratic power supplies and a rapidly depreciating currency. There were some angry demonstrations about the failure to hold anybody accountable for the blast, or to reform and rebuild after it. But most people were just trying to survive or to leave the country.         

Alem, Hajar ; Dot-Poullard, Nicas, Behind Lebanon's Protests, Le Monde Diplomatique, 2020

Two months after the mass demonstrations started, the authors note that protests are continuing, despite the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri on 30 October. Many of the demonstrators did not approve of his replacement Hassan Diab, appointed on 19 December to head a government of technocrats. The article comments on the evolution of a left wing economic agenda and the groups within the movement who support it. But the main focus is on the longer term and recent causes of the financial crisis which prompted the outbreak of major protests.

Chulov, Martin, Lebanon Rises Up Against Years of Corruption, Guardian Weekly, 25/10/2019,

The paper's Middle East correspondent provides a snapshot of the immediate and longer tern causes of the major protests that erupted in October 2019, on a scale not seen since the 2005 'Cedar Revolution'.

Gade, Tine, Together All the Way? Abeyance and Co-optation of Sunni Networks in Lebanon, Social Movement Studies, Vol. 18, issue 1, 2019, pp. 56-77

The author discusses the findings from a case study of Sunni networks in the Lebanese city of Tripoli over three decades, based on fieldwork, primary Arabic sources and secondary literature. The article argues that if a network survives, even if there are periods of disengagement or cooptation, changing circumstances may unite people against the authorities and the network can enable rapid mobilization.

Geha, Camen, Co-optation, Counter-Narratives, and Repression: Protesting Lebanon's Sectarian Power-Sharing Regime, The Middle East Journal, Vol. 73, issue 1, 2019, pp. 9-28

The article examines how the Lebanese government and sectarian political establishment responded to two earlier waves of protest against the sectarian system of government. She finds that they try to end such protests through a combination of 'co-optation, counter-narratives, and repression'.

Geha, Carmen, Politics of a Garbage Crisis: Social Networks, Narratives, and Frames of Lebanon's 2015 Protests and their Aftermath , Social Movement Studies, Vol. 18, issue 1, 2019, pp. 78-92

Geha notes that the 'century-old sectarian framework' of  governing through clientelist networks and individual patronage, together with socio-economic crisis and political deadlock, make official opposition very difficult. But social networks can mobilize protests, and after these have died down sustain 'a loosely organized informal political opposition both on the streets and in the ballot box'. This thesis is illustrated by a study of the 2015 movement responding to an escalating garbage crisis in the summer of 2015, the cessation of activism after the crisis was resolved in September 2015 and  the resurgence of opposition during the 2016 municipal elections.    

Haimoni, Massa ; Maarouf, Nader ; Awadi, Jessica ; Abdelfadi, Malaz ; Sahili, Salma Al, Framing the Lebanese Protests by MTV Lebanon and OTV between January 2020 and June 2020, KIU Interdisciplinary Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol. 1, issue 3, 2020, pp. 73-89

This open access article by academics at the American University in Dubai studies coverage of the 2019-20 protests and confirms that the ideological slant of the two TV stations (the pro-government OTV and the anti-government MTV) influenced their depiction of the protest movement. It begins by summarizing the causes and nature of the movement and comments on Lebanese people's often unfavourable attitudes to international media coverage of the demonstrations.

Khneisser, Mona, Lebanon's Protest Movement is Just Getting Started, Jacobin Magazine, 11/07/2019,

The author, a PhD student at a US university, examines the Lebanese movement in its fourth week. She summarizes its origins, immediately after fire destroyed over 3,000 acres of woodland in the country, as a reaction to new taxes on online calling apps, fuel, cigarettes and consumer goods,

and notes how it developed to challenge corruption and the nature of the regime. She argues the movement's scale (about 2 million protesters on Sunday October 20) its national spread, including to sectarian strongholds, and its inclusion of different religious and class groups, made the protests unprecedented in recent history.  As a result of demonstrations, strikes in schools and universities, and blockades the government abandoned its tax plans and the Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, announced his resignation on 29 October.   

Majed, Rima, Lebanon's October Revolution, Red Pepper, 2020, pp. 28-29

This article by a sociologist at the American University of Beirut examines the movement after a year of 'struggle, crisis and destruction'. It summarizes  the causes of  the October 2019 uprising, its unprecedented scale (an estimated 2 million out of a population of 4.8 million), and its transcendance of all regional, social class and sectarian political divisions. It also notes that the protesters rejected both the political system based on 'sectarian clientelism', and the banking sector. Since October the financial crisis has intensified, leading to the rapid growth of extreme poverty. Majed argues that the lack of clear leadership of the movement, though it initially encouraged wide participation, by early 2020 meant that there was no strong organization or clear goals. This lack of focus contributed, together with growing financial hardship, political fatigue and regime violence against protesters, to undermine the movement.

Melki, Jad ; Kozman, Claudia, Selective Exposure during Uprisings: Examining the Public's News Consumption and Sharing Tendencies during the 2019 Lebanon Protests, The International Journal of Press/Politics, 2020

This study, based on a survey undertaken during the Lebanese uprising of October 2019, examines use of traditional and social media and assesses public trust in these media and  their sharing  of news.  The study suggests that the theory of 'selective exposure' is relevant outside a western context.   

Sinno, Wael, How People Reclaimed Public Spaces in Beirut during the 2019 Lebanese Uprising, The Journal of Public Space, Vol. 5, issue 1, 2020, pp. 193-228

In the context of discussing the importance of public spaces where citizens can protest and make public speeches, this article examines how the Lebanese demonstrators have used and reshaped multipupose public spaces such as streets, open public spaces such as gardens, and abandoned urban facilites such as a partially built cinema.

The assassination of a former prime minister, Rafiq Hariri, prompted large numbers to go on strike, take to the streets and pitch tents on Martyrs’ Square in March 2005, to protest against the dominance of Syria in internal politics. This upsurge of protest did succeed in securing the resignation of the pro-Syrian prime minister and, with the help of US pressure, resulted in Syrian agreement to withdraw their troops (present since the earlier civil war from 1975-91 in Lebanon). But the demonstrators were mostly Sunni Muslims, Christians and Druze, and Hizbollah mobilized a counter-demonstration of up to 300,000 poor Shias in favour of Syria, raising fears of reviving the conflicts of the civil war. Despite car bombs and assassination attempts, civil war has been avoided, but attacks on Israel from Lebanese territory led to an Israeli invasion in 2008 which brought widespread destruction. In general Lebanon suffers not only from internal religious divisions but from its role in regional and international rivalries, with Israel and the USA opposing Syrian and Iranian influence. These wider conflicts can also impinge on interpretations of the Cedar Revolution. There were revived protests in January 2011 against the accession of a Hizbollah-backed prime minister, and since then Lebanon’s proximity to the bitter struggle between the regime and the opposition in Syria 2011-12 has also polarised Lebanon, with the Sunni community generally supporting the Syrian opposition.

Hirst, David, Beware of Small States: Lebanon, Battleground of the Middle East, New York, Nation Books, 2010, pp. 496

Analysis by the Guardian Middle East editor of Lebanese politics.

Kerr, Michael ; Knudsen, Are, Lebanon: After the Cedar Revolution, London, C. Hurst, 2012, pp. 256

Covers Lebanon since the mass movement in response to Hariri’s assassination, covering the role of Hizbollah and other political groupings.

Young, Michael, The Ghosts of Martyrs Square: An Eyewitness Account of Lebanon’s Life Struggle, New York and London, Simon and Schuster, 2010, pp. 336

Sympathetic account of the ‘Cedar Revolution’ by journalist of mixed Lebanese-American parentage.

Zimmer, Benjamin, Budding Hope: Lebanon's Cedar Revolution, Harvard International Review, Vol. 27, issue 3 (22 November), 2007

Discusses the mass protests and Syrian troop withdrawal in 2005.

The creation of Israel in 1948 (and the expulsion of many Palestinians from their land) left Palestinians without political representation and subordinate to the conflicting goals of the Arab states and Israel. Organized independent guerrilla resistance began to emerge by 1965, but Palestinian political consciousness grew after the 1967 Arab Israeli war, which ended with the Israeli occupation of the remaining Palestinian areas of previously Arab Palestine – Gaza, the West Bank of the Jordan river (previously controlled by Jordan) and Jerusalem.

Palestinian resistance is often associated with the well-publicized guerrilla tactics of groups such as Al Fatah, headed by Yasser Arafat, which drew recruits from the refugee camps and put the Palestinian cause on the world’s map from the late 1960s. But Palestinians inside the occupied territories did begin to resist in various ways the imposition of Israeli control and the taking of their land for Israeli settlements. The most effective internal opposition began in 1987 and continued into the early 1990s, though it had begun to flag by 1990. In combination with other developments in Arab and international politics, this campaign led to Israel entering into negotiations for the creation of an independent Palestinian state. This (first) ‘Intifada’ – literally ‘shaking off’ – was a mass movement of active civil resistance involving old and young, men and women, and using a range of nonviolent methods, including mass boycotts, as well as increasing self-organization through popular committees, for instance on health. Stone-throwing, often by children, is perhaps the dominant international image of the intifada, but the movement avoided use of firearms. It demonstrated not only Palestinian solidarity and determination, but the existence of an autonomous people asserting their rights. It drew international criticism of Israeli repression, and enabled the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), then based in Tunis, to enter into negotiation with Israel. These resulted in a historic Declaration of Principles in 1993 and the so-called Oslo peace process, which was undermined by increasing Israeli settlements and de facto Israeli economic and military control.

Useful overviews of Palestinian resistance, and specifically the role of nonviolent action, from the early 20th century to the present are:

D'Aprile, Futura, For a Different Hebron, New Internationalist,, 2020, pp. 60-61

This article discusses the work of Youth Against Settlements, which opposes Israeli settlements in this Palestinian city in the West Bank, and describes the range of nonviolent tactics used by them, such as documenting human rights abuses, legal action and direct action. D'Aprile also meets with other civil society organizations, which are involved in community work, including the Christian Peacemaker Team organizer who supports Palestinian-led grass roots resistance to the occupation.

Darweish, Marwan ; Rigby, Andrew, Popular Protest in Palestine: The Uncertain Future of Unarmed Resistance, London, Pluto Press, 2015, pp. 215

Two experts on Palestine examine the history of Palestinian political resistance to the creation of the state of Israel from the late 19th century to 1939, and provide a balnced assessment of the phases of primarily unarmed popular resistance to Isreali domination. They cover the First Intifada and (after the mainly armed resistance of the Second Intifada) the growth of nonviolent forms of protest since the building of the Separation Wall in 2005. 

Norman, Julie, Beyond Hunger Strikes: The 'Palestinian Prisoners’ Movement and Everyday Resistance, Journal of Resistance Studies, Vol. 6, issue 1, 2020, pp. 40-68

Studies how the focal points of resistance by prisoners, hunger strikes, are made possible by longer term lower key strategies. These included  encouraging forms of communication between prisoners, development of  political education, and by less dramatic acts of ‘everyday’ noncooperation, for example with strip searches or some prison routines. The article is based on interviews with former Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank and some interviews with lawyers and NGOs supporting prisoners.

Pearlman, Wendy, Violence, Nonviolence, and the Palestinian National Movement, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2011, pp. 304

Qumsiyeh, Mazin, Popular Resistance in Palestine: A History of Hope and Empowerment, London, Pluto Press, 2010, pp. 304

Rigby, Andrew, Palestinian Resistance and Nonviolence, Jerusalem, PASSIA – Palestine Academy for Study of International Affairs, 2010, pp. 80

See also:

Scott Kennedy, The Druze of the Golan: A Case of Nonviolent Resistance, Journal of Palestine Studies, 1984, Account widely reprinted (including in both Crow, Ralph E.; Grant, Philip ; Ibrahim, Saad E., Arab Nonviolent Political Struggle in the Middle East Boulder CO, Lynne Rienner, , 1990, pp. 129 , and Stephan, Civilian Jihad: Nonviolent Struggle, Democratization, and Governance in the Middle East (A. 1.b. Strategic Theory, Dynamics, Methods and Movements) , (above) of the (Syrian) Druze resistance to incorporation into Israel after the occupation of the Golan Heights in 1967.
Jawad Botmed, Civil Resistance in Palestine: The village of Battir in 1948, Coventry, Coventry University, 2006, MA dissertation by grandson of leader of village’s resistance to incorporation into Israel.
Alimi, Eitan Y., “Constructing Political Opportunity”: 1987 – The Palestinian Year of Discontent, Mobilization, Vol. 11, issue 1 (February), 2006, pp. 67-80

Analysing Palestinian print media in 1987 reveals a convergence in calls for action.

Aronson, Geoffrey, Creating Facts: Israel, Palestine and the West Bank, 2nd edition, London, New York and Washington, Kegan Paul International with Institute of Palestine Studies, 1990, pp. 334

Covers the growing resistance from 1967 inside the Occupied Territories.

Bregman, Ahron ; El-Tahri, Jihan, The Fifty Years War: Israel and the Arabs, Harmondsworth, Penguin Books, 1998, pp. 301

Published in conjunction with a BBC TV series. Chapters 27 and 28 (pp. 187-199) cover the first Intifada, the impact on Israel and the initiatives taken by the PLO.

Dajani, Souad R., Eyes Without Country: Searching for a Palestinian Strategy of Liberation, Philadelphia PA, Temple University Press, 1995, pp. 238

See also Dajani, Souad R., Resistance in the occupied territories In Zunes; Kurtz; Asher, Nonviolent Social Movements: A Geographical Perspective (A. 1.b. Strategic Theory, Dynamics, Methods and Movements)Oxford, Blackwell, 1999, pp. 52-74 .

Galtung, Johan, Nonviolence and Israel/Palestine, Honolulu, University of Hawaii Institute for Peace, 1989, pp. 79

Hudson, Michael C., Palestinians: New Directions, Washington DC, Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, Georgetown University, 1990, pp. 268

Includes analysis of the role of the labour movement (chapter 3), of traders (chapter 2) and of women in the Intifada.

Khalidi, Rashid, The uprising and the Palestinian question, World Policy Journal, Vol. 5, issue 3 (summer), 1988, pp. 497-517

King, Mary Elizabeth, A Quiet Revolution: The First Palestinian Intifada and a Strategy for Nonviolent Resistance, New York, Nation Books, 2007, pp. 304

Argues that the First Intifada represented a mass nonviolent mobilization in which women played a significant role, and looks at the global history of nonviolent resistance to suggest that nonviolent strategies are the way to achieve a just peace. See also King, Mary Elizabeth, Palestine: Nonviolent Resistance in the Struggle for Statehood, 1920s-2012 In Bartkowski, Recovering Nonviolent History: Civil Resistance in Liberation Struggles (A. 1.b. Strategic Theory, Dynamics, Methods and Movements)Boulder CO, Lynne Rienner, 2013, pp. 161-180 .

Lustick, Ian S., Writing the Intifada: Collective action in the Occupied Territories, World Politics, Vol. 45, issue 4 (July), 1993, pp. 560-594

Review article covering nine recent books, and providing overview of movement and noting the impact on the Arab world (Algeria and Jordan) and wider world.

O'Ballance, Edgar, The Palestinian Intifada, Basingstoke and New York, Macmillan/Palgrace and St Martins Press, 1997, pp. 252

Also covers negotiations, the Oslo Accords and the new Palestinian Authority.

Peretz, Don, Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising, Boulder CO, Westview Press, 1990, pp. 246

Charts the evolution of the movement from spontaneous protests to highly organized resistance.

Rigby, Andrew, Living the Intifada, London, Zed Books, 1991, pp. 233

Account of the ‘unarmed resistance’ of the First Intifada and also an analysis in the context of theories of nonviolent action. Addresses the issue of leverage when the regime has no direct dependence on a population but would rather expel them. See also: Rigby, Andrew , The Legacy of the Past: The Problem of Collaborators and the Palestinian Case Jerusalem, PASSIA – Palestine Academy for Study of International Affairs, , 1997, pp. 94 , which considers the issue of ‘collaboration’ in more detail.

Sharp, Gene, The Intifada and nonviolent struggle, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 19, issue 1, 1989, pp. 3-13

See in same journal: Sharp, Gene ; Safieh, Afif , Gene Sharp: Nonviolent struggle Journal of Palestine Studies, 1987, pp. 37-55 .

Vogele, William B., Learning and nonviolent struggle in the Intifadah, Peace and Change, Vol. 17, issue 3 (July), 1992, pp. 312-340

Argues the need for nonviolent resisters to re-evaluate strategies and tactics in the light of the opponents’ reactions; and (more exceptionally) to redefine their interests and goals.

The peace process launched in 1993 was always opposed by sections of the Israeli population, especially the settlers, and by some Palestinians, including the Islamist political movement Hamas, which maintained the right to respond to Israeli provocation and was responsible for some suicide bombings within Israel. In September 2000, following frustration at the lack of substantive change in circumstances despite the so-called peace process, and the provocative visit by Ariel Sharon to Temple Mount/Haram Sharifi (holy to both Muslims and Jews), a second uprising broke out. Israel responded immediately to protests with shooting and systematic repression.

The Second Intifada was much more violent than the first. Individuals and groups in the Palestinian territories argued early in 2001 for mass involvement and nonviolent methods, but the armed militias were at the forefront of the struggle and sponsored the new tactic of suicide bombings inside Israel, which in turn prompted Israeli retaliation and major military incursions into Palestinian territory. Over time, however, many Palestinians have adopted a range of primarily nonviolent methods of protest. The Israeli decision in 2002 to build a separation wall between the West Bank and Israel, in the process expropriating Palestinian land, has in particular become a focus of continuing unarmed resistance by local communities affected by it supported by civil society groups. The ‘Karama (dignity) pledge’ launched in 2010 promoted a popular boycott of all Israeli settler produce (over 500 items were identified), and in May 2012 Palestinian prisoners managed to win concessions from the Israeli authorities by a coordinated hunger strike. Unarmed Palestinian protests have also been supported and publicised internationally by the involvement of a range of transnational solidarity activists and observers.

On the ongoing unarmed struggle, see:

Barghouti, Mustafa, Palestinian Defiance: Interview by Eric Hazan, New Left Review, issue 32, 2005, pp. 117-131

Barghouti is the leader of Al Mubadara (the Initiative), launched in 2000 with a petititon signed by 10,000, urging civil resistance, and formally established in 2002.

Carter Hallward, Maia, Creative Responses to Separation: Israeli and Palestinian Joint Activism in Bil’in, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 46, issue 4 (July), 2009, pp. 541-558

On a key focus of protest against the ‘Apartheid Wall’.

Carter Hallward, Maia, Struggling for a Just Peace: Israeli and Palestinian Activism in the Second Intifada, Gainesville FL, University of Florida Press, 2011, pp. 286

Carter Hallward, Maia ; Norman, Julie M., Nonviolent Resistance in the Second Intifada: Activism and Advocacy, New York, Palgrave MacMillan, 2012, pp. 196

Kuttab, Eileen, Empowerment as Resistance: Conceptualizing Palestinian Women’s Empowerment, Development, Vol. 53, issue 2, 2010, pp. 247-253

Najjar, Sonja, Women’s Empowerment and Peace-Building under Occupation?, Palestine-Israel Journal, Vol. 17, issue 3 & 4, 2011, pp. 59-66

Argues peacebuilding has to empower resilience and resistance to occupation.

Norman, Julie M., The Second Palestinian Intifada: Civil Resistance, London, Taylor and Francis, 2010, pp. 176

Shows Palestinians frequently resorted to nonviolent tactics, especially when these were framed as a practical strategy rather than just as a moral preference.

Pearlman, Wendy, Occupied Voices: Stories of Everyday Life from the Second Intifada, New York, Thunder's Mouth Press / Nation Books, 2003, pp. 257

Interviews with Palestinians. See also Pearlman, Wendy , Precluding Nonviolence, Propelling Violence: The Effect of Fragmentation on Movement Protest Studies in Comparative International Development, 2012, pp. 23-46 , which argues that ‘cohesion’ – to be assessed according to the strength of leadership, organisation and a sense of collective purpose – ‘approximates a necessary condition for nonviolent protest’.

Because Israel was created out of a war with the surrounding Arab states and faced the continuing threat of attack, military service was a citizen obligation and conditions were initially hostile to peace activity (although there were some committed pacifists). However, after moves for Egypt to recognise Israel in the later 1970s, desire for a peaceful settlement with Israel’s neighbours and for a negotiated return to the Palestinians of the territories occupied after the 1967 war (as required by UN resolutions) increased. peace activism and resistance to the draft was intensified as a result of Israel’s controversial invasion of Lebanon in 1982. The challenge posed by the First Intifada and the PLO’s 1988 decision to recognize the existence of Israel encouraged some Israeli opposition to the occupation and led to some reservists refusing to serve in the occupied territories. Peace groups committed to working with Palestinians met for joint discussions, and took part in acts of solidarity such as planting olive trees along the frontier between Israel and the West Bank to replace those uprooted by the Israeli government. Cooperation was assisted by the Palestinian Centre for Nonviolence based in East Jerusalem. A joint demonstration between Israelis and Palestinians, supported by an international presence, took place in 1989.

Since the Second Intifada of 2000 public opinion in Israel has tended to swing to the right and be more hostile to the Palestinian cause, but civil society groups have continued to cooperate with Palestinians, for example at checkpoints and defying house demolitions. Israeli groups have also helped to launch legal challenges to the separation wall and its course, both in Israel and at the Hague Court of International Justice. Some serving soldiers have publicly condemned Israeli military action or refused to serve in the occupied territories.

For more references on Israeli conscientious objection to the draft see G.3.b.ii of the first edition of the bibliography.

Deutsch, Yvonne, Israeli women against the Occupation: Political growth and the persistence of ideology, In Mayer, Tamar , Women and the Israeli Occupation: The Politics of Change London, Routledge, , 1994, pp. 88-105

Describes the growing number of organizations engaged in demonstrating solidarity with the Palestinians (e.g. Women in Black), meeting with Palestinian women in the Occupied Territories, helping Palestinian women political prisoners, or proposing peace plans.

Hurwitz, Deena, Walking the Red Line: Israelis in Search of Justice for Palestine, Philadelphia PA, New Society Publishers, 1992, pp. 208

Essays by 20 Israelis – some of them ‘selective objectors’ – who question standard definitions of nationalism, national security and loyalty.

Kaminer, Reuven, The Politics of Protest: The Israeli Peace Movement and the Palestinian Intifada, Brighton, Sussex Academic Press, 1996, pp. 248

Veteran Israeli leftist explores relations between moderates and militants, and gives special emphasis to rise of an autonomous women’s movement, especially Women in Black and their weekly vigils. With glossary of political parties and groups.

Kaufman, Edy ; Salem, Walid ; Verhoeven, Juliette, Bridging the Divide: Peacebuilding in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Boulder CO, Lynne Rienner, 2006, pp. 230

Includes chapter by Mohammed Abu Nimer, ‘Nonviolent Action is Israel and Palestine: A Growing Force’ (pp. 135-171) and others on the role of civil society and NGOs in both Israel and Palestine. Also profiles of a range of Israeli and Palestinian organizations.

Kidron, Peretz, Refusenik!: Israel’s Soldiers of Conscience, London, Zed Books, 2004, pp. 160

Documents from the soldiers’ resistance to the Lebanon War, the First Intifada and the Second Intifada.

Linn, Ruth, Conscience at War: The Israeli Soldier as a Moral Critic, Albany NY, State University of New York Press, 1996, pp. 245

Sharoni, Simona, Gender and the Israeli-Palestine Conflict: The Politics of Women’s Resistance, Syracuse NJ, Syracuse University Press, 1994, pp. 199

Explores how Intifada strengthened Palestinian women’s movement and stimulated an Israeli women’s peace movement and led to joint movement.

Increasing Pressure on Palestinians; 2011-2021         

When people took to the streets across the Arab world in 2011 demanding a change in their political regimes, commentators speculated whether the Palestinians would also rise in rebellion for a third time against continued Israeli occupation.  But although there were some significant Palestinian protests in 2011-12 (noted below), many had lost faith in the possibility of resistance bringing about a fundamental change in their position.  Despite the initially promising political outcomes of the First Intifada in the 1990s, the first decade of the 21st century had seen the (much more violent) Second Intifada provoke an increasingly repressive response from Israeli governments determined to protect Israeli citizens from attack. Moreover, the swing to the right in Israeli politics promoted increasing intolerance of Palestinian claims, and willingness to use military force.  However, there was still significant Palestinian resistance in the West Bank to Israeli measures such as the building of the separation wall (see E.V.A.3.b.). There were also well publicized international acts of solidarity with Palestinians, for example in opposing the bulldozing of Palestinian homes, and in 2005 Palestinian civil society groups launched the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which provided opportunities for solidarity activism by sympathisers in other countries.

After 2005 the position of Palestinians in Gaza had become significantly different from those in the West Bank. Israel, on the initiative of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, began to disengage from the Gaza strip which it had occupied in 1967.  Sharon forced reluctant Israeli settlers to leave and withdrew from military posts inside Gaza.  However, although Gaza technically became an independent state in September 2005, a few days later Israeli aircraft dropped bombs on it, killing not only an Islamic Jihad commander but damaging a school.  By 2006 Israel had begun to impose restrictions on Gaza, and by the end of 2007 it controlled land and sea borders and Gaza airspace, and had imposed a total siege. But the Israeli government refused to accept any responsibility for the welfare of the deeply impoverished Palestinians held inside Gaza. The Israeli blockade did, however, promote an international solidarity campaign resulting in a variety of dramatic attempts to challenge the siege.

The potential for effective political resistance by Palestinians has been greatly undermined by the split between Fatah, the dominant party in Palestinian politics in the occupied territories since the 1990s, and Hamas - the Islamic Resistance Movement committed to liberate all Palestinians and to end the Israeli state. Hamas originally focused on armed resistance, for example suicide bombings inside Israel, and on providing social welfare to Palestinians. But in 2005 Hamas also engaged in party politics, and won the most seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in 2006. But after bloody clashes in Gaza in 2007, Hamas became the sole party there, whilst Fatah under Mahmoud Abbas governed the West Bank in the context of Israeli occupation. 

One of the Palestinian responses to 2011 was to challenge not Israel, but the autocratic governmental style of both Fatah and Hamas, and to demand that they should cooperate. A new umbrella organization, the Independent Youth Movement, held weekly sit-ins in Ramallah from February 2011, calling for reconciliation between the two governing factions. The movement evolved on March 15 into large protests in both Ramallah and Gaza against the split and resulted in a formal agreement between Fatah and Hamas in May that year, but then failed to develop a more detailed political programme. Both governments have generally discouraged autonomous protests that are not under their control.

The second decade of the 21st century has seen Palestinians in the West Bank lose ever increasing amounts of their land to Jewish settlements, and in Gaza suffer several major Israeli military offensives designed to quell Hamas attacks, such as missile launches against Israel. The July-August 2014 seven-week Israeli offensive, which killed 2,250 civilians, destroyed or damaged over 70 clinics and hospitals and numerous homes and factories in Gaza, prompted widespread international protest. The government of Benjamin Netanyahu, the assertively nationalist prime minister who has been continuously in power since 2009, has downgraded Arab citizens of Israel to second class status, aggressively pursued taking over more Palestinian land for settlements, and threatened in 2020 to annex formally large swathes of the West Bank and to divide its territory, which would have ended all hope of an independent Palestinian state in the future.

There is also less international support at governmental level for the Palestinian cause in the west, and even in the Arab world, despite the UN General Assembly resolution in 2012 granting the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) non-member observer status. The violent aftermath of 2011 in Libya, the war in Yemen, and in particular the long-running and devastatingly destructive and multifaceted war in Syria created new crises, and promoted the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The role of Iran has also exacerbated the rift between Shia and Sunni and the struggle for dominance in the Middle East, to the extent that the common interests of Israel and the autocratic monarchies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in containing Iran resulted in the latter recognizing Israel in 2020. A third factor has been the rise of nationalistic right wing populist political leaders with whom Netanyahu had political affinities. He cultivated Hungary's Viktor Orban in the EU, for example, to divide EU responses to Israeli policy. But most important was the US presidency of Donald Trump from 2017-20. Trump was strongly supportive of Israel's claims, both by inclination and in deference to his Evangelical Protestant base, to the extent of  unilaterally recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and later moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, thus denying Palestinian claims to East Jerusalem. Trump also aspired to broker a peace deal envisaged almost entirely on Israel's terms. 

The election of President Biden at the end of 2020 created a US Administration willing to resume aid to Palestinians and more sympathetic to the goal of a Palestinian state, but there was no suggestion of moving the US Embassy, or immediately trying to revive the peace process. The Covid 19 pandemic has worsened the position of Palestinians - although the Netanyahu government has successfully vaccinated most of its own citizens, Palestinians remain vulnerable to the virus with minimal medical resources. The political position inside the West Bank also continued to be unpromising. The 85 year old president Mahmoud Abbas (who had succeeded Yasser Arafat in 2005 and was elected for a maximum of two four year terms) announced - after 15 years without elections - that a presidential election would be held in July 2021. Parliament has been in abeyance for years as a result of conflict between Fatah and Hamas, but parliamentary elections were also announced for May. These moves were interpreted as gestures towards the new US Administration rather than a serious attempt to create a more democratic government.

Palestinian Protests

Despite reasons for despair, there were some significant protests, both violent and nonviolent, in the West Bank and East Jerusalem after 2011.  Angry demonstrations occurred in response Israeli raids on the West Bank, leading to hundreds of arrests, after Palestinians (allegedly Hamas) kidnapped and later killed three Israeli teenagers in June 2014. Tension was exacerbated by a retaliatory Israeli kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian boy from East Jerusalem. Riots in Jerusalem and the West Bank were matched by rocket fire from Gaza, (This was the backdrop to the major military assault on 2014 noted above.) The rise in protest in 2014, which included engagement in the nonviolent BDS campaign as well as various forms of violence, was at the time quite often described as some form of intifada, but failed to cohere into an organized longer term mass movement. 

A number of imaginative nonviolent acts of resistance and nonviolent responses to Israeli repression (discussed in detail in references below) took place in 2017-18.  These included the Sumud Freedom Camp, which brought together local Palestinians and Israeli and international activists to reconstruct a destroyed village of Sarura on the West Bank, the July 2017 prayer protests in Jerusalem after Israel installed metal detectors at the entrance to the mosque complex, and the community response to the arrest of a 16 year old girl in a West Bank village after she slapped an Israeli soldier. However some knowledgeable and sympathetic analysts of Palestinian resistance detected a decline in Palestinians taking the initiative in forms of nonviolent resistance, noting the dominant role of Israeli activists (both Jewish and Arab) and of committed international groups.

The most dramatic and widely publicized act of resistance was the 'Great March of Return', a series of demonstrations in Gaza, starting on March 30 2018, when many thousands of Palestinians assembled near the fence with Israel, flying the Palestinian flag, wearing the traditional Palestinian scarf and carrying keys to symbolize the right of Palestinians to return to the lands they had lost. The Great March was planned as six weekly demonstrations leading up to May 15, the date annually remembered by Palestinians as the official confiscation of their land by the recognition of the state of Israel, but in fact continued for six months. The demonstrations were supported by Hamas, tactically adopting methods of nonviolent resistance after their ability to use military force had been increasingly restricted by Israeli control and surveillance of the frontier. But the organization of the march was independent, and the many thousands of men, women and children who took part clearly did so enthusiastically and often at great personal risk.

The Israeli government of Netanyahu and armed forces viewed the Great March of Return from the outset as a disguise for enabling acts of violence against Israel, and therefore treated anyone approaching the border fence, or attempting to plant flags by it, as potential armed attackers. Over the weeks some demonstrators did engage in forms of violence, such as burning tyres, throwing Molotov cocktails and stones at Israeli soldiers, or trying to fly kites towards Israeli territory with incendiary devices attached. But many unarmed demonstrators and bystanders well inside the Gaza border fence were shot and seriously injured, sometimes requiring amputation. Journalists were also targeted. During the Great March protests Palestinian medical personnel who treated those shot near the fence were also fired at and injured or - as in the case of the admired Sabrine al-Najjar and other paramedics - killed, despite wearing distinctive white coats and approaching the wounded carefully with their hands in the air. During the weeks of protest Israel also used drones to drop tear gas specially designed for use in Gaza, and it was accused of deploying an arsenal of lethal weaponry.

Six Months On. Gaza's Great March of Return, Amnesty international, 2018

After summarizing the dire economic and social conditions among the 1.9 million Palestinians in Gaza (70 per cent of whom are registered as refugees from other parts of Israeli territory) after years of blockade and damage from military attacks, Amnesty focuses on the destructive Israeli military reaction to the Great March.

See also: Wispelwey, Bram and Yasser Abu Jamel. 'The Great March of Return: Lessons from Gaza on Mass Resistance and Mental Health', HHR: Health and Human Rights Journal, vol. 22 no. 1 (June 2020), pp. 179-86.

The article describes how the blockade and Israeli attacks have undermined mental health in the community.  The authors assess the positive impact on communal mental health created initially by the March of Return resistance movement.  But they argue that this has been offset by the impact of death, disability and trauma many have suffered as a result, and by the longer-term failure to achieve better conditions. The authors then examine what health workers can learn about the 'psychosocial consequences of community organizing’.

Abusakim, Jehad, The Great March of Return: An Organizer's Perspective, Journal of Palestine Studies, Vol. 47, issue 4, 2018, pp. 90-100

The author argues that the March was an opportunity for ordinary Palestinians in Gaza to take the political initiative and that the March organizers tried hard to maintain the momentum. The problems of organizing in a politically divided context, and lack of international support, as well as the ruthlessness of the Israeli response meant however that momentum was lost. The March also raised many questions about how nonviolent methods could work when faced with serious military force. 

Carpenter, Michael, Palestinian Popular Struggle: Unarmed and Participatory, London, Routledge, 2020, pp. 212

Carpenter draws on participant observation and extensive interviews to examine protests in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and also the Great March of Return in Gaza, in 2017-18, and to gauge wider Palestinian views of the strategy.  He also considers the discourse of 'rights and global justice' which underpins Jewish Israeli and international support for Palestinian resistance.  Carpenter argues for unarmed struggle as an alternative to the apparent failure of both armed struggle and negotiations.   

See also: Rigby, Andrew, 'Reflections on Researching Palestinian Resistance', Journal of Resistance Studies, vol. 5 no. 2, pp.222-28.

Rigby reviews three books on Palestine, including Carpenter's, and raises critical questions about Carpenter's stress on ongoing popular Palestinian resistance, at a time when often Israeli citizens and international sympathizers were more prominent in demonstrations in the West Bank, and the willingness to take part among many Palestinians had waned.

Darweish, Marwan ; Rigby, Andrew, The internationalisation of Nonviolent Resistance: The Case of the BDS Campaign, Journal of Resistance Studies, 45-71., Vol. 4, issue 1, 2018, pp. 45-71

The article examines the factors promoting significant international solidarity with specific campaigns against injustice. It does so through a study of the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign launched by Palestinian civil society bodies in 2005. The article compares the BDS movement with the international campaign against apartheid in South Africa (an inspiration for BDS) and discusses why BDS has been less effective.

DeJong, Anne, Violence in Nonviolent Action: Power Relations in Joint Activism in Israel and Palestine, Journal of Resistance Studies, vol. 6 no. 2 (2020), pp.112-44., Vol. 6, issue 2, 2020, pp. 112-144

The article begins by describing the Sumud Freedom Camp in May 2019, where over 300 Palestinians, Israelis and international activists set up camp in the destroyed village of Sarura, with the aim of rebuilding it.  Despite raids b y the Israeli Defence Forces the rebuilding had some success.  The author as the title indicates queries the nature of power relations between the volunteers.  Her main example of unequal power relations (seen as form of structural violence) is, however, based on her analysis of a nonviolent protest at the Erez checkpoint into Gaza held in January 2008, promoted as a joint Palestinian-Israeli protest, but in fact only involving Israeli Arab and Jewish citizens (plus a few international participants), and planned and controlled by veteran Jewish Hebrew speaking activists.

Høigilt, Jacob, The Palestinian Spring That Was Not: The Youth and Political Activism in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Arab Studies Quarterly, Vol. 35, issue 4, 2013, pp. 343-359

Argues that Palestinian youth were constrained by the Israeli occupation, political oppression by both Fatah and Hamas, and 'political paralysis' resulting from the divisions between these two parties.  But youth activism did challenge the role of these parties. 

Pearlman, Wendy, Palestine and the Arab Uprisings, In Roberts; Willis; McCarthy; Garton Ash, Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring: Triumphs and Disasters (E. V.B.a. General Accounts and Analyses), Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 248-259

Pearlman provides a summary of the background of civil resistance in overall Palestinian resistance since 1917, and a detailed analysis of why there was no third intifada in 2011. She also examines the protests that did take place. The chapter is extensively referenced.

Stead, Rebecca, Remembering the Great March of Return, Middle East Monitor, 2019

Describes in some detail the first symbolic demonstration by 150 people on 29 March and the preparations for the major protests on March 30 and examines how the Great March and the Israeli reaction evolved.  

See also: Darweish and Rigby, Popular Protest in Palestine (E.V.A.3.)

The mass popular protests that broke out in Tunisia in December 2010 were triggered by both economic and political factors. The fall of President Ben Ali on 14 January 2011, after 23 years of dictatorial rule, became a signal for protests across a large part of the Arab World. In Egypt, where there was already a growing and organized political opposition, the major uprising began on 25 January and its drama centred on Tahrir (Liberation) Square. People power in Egypt also had initial success, in forcing the resignation and later trial of President Mubarak. Large demonstrations demanding greater democracy spread across much of the Arab world, with impressive protests in Bahrain, Yemen and Syria. The Bahrain protests were brutally crushed with the aid of the Saudi-Arabian rulers but dissent continued, some political reforms were promised, and change seems possible. In Yemen tribal and regional divisions have resulted in episodes of armed conflict, but unarmed demonstrations demanding democratic change have also continued. In Syria, after months of extraordinarily brave continued demonstrations, which resulted in thousands of deaths and arrests, deserting troops began to organize some armed resistance, primarily designed to defend the people in the most rebellious towns. During 2012 fighting became more widespread and destructive and extremist Jihadi groups began to become prominent in the armed struggle. The increasing number of deaths, and flow of refugees into Lebanon, prompted Arab League, and eventually UN, intervention – though negotiators and observers on the ground had little success in moderating the regime’s attack on its people.

The monarchies in both Morocco and Jordan responded swiftly in 2011 to signs of protest spreading to their countries by promising constitutional reforms, although their failure to deliver satisfactory change has led to some subsequent protests. The Saudi royal family, however, made clear it would not countenance any proposals for political change. The repressive politics and society of the kingdom are not, however, wholly immune to change. Some women have been contesting with some success the draconian restrictions imposed upon them, for example the ban on women driving cars. In Algeria there were also youth protests in early 2011, often violent, but calls for a pro-democracy rally on 12 February by a coalition of groups only mustered a few hundred protesters.

The country where initially unarmed protests were directly superseded by civil war was Libya, where regional and tribal divisions were manifested in the liberation of Benghazi whilst Colonel Gaddafi continued to control Tripoli (although not all the denizens of the city supported him) and key towns associated with him. The intervention of NATO (backed by the Arab League and initially with formal UN support) provided the air power that tipped the military scales, but only after fierce fighting and many deaths.

The Arab Uprisings had parallels with 1848 in Europe, a region-wide set of mutually inspired popular revolts against autocratic regimes, but more directly with the ‘velvet revolutions’. of 1989 in the Soviet bloc. Despite degrees of physical violence (often defensive), the emphasis of the first few months of 2011 was on unarmed resistance. Demonstrators often stressed to reporters that they were ‘peaceful’ in contrast to the violence used by the regimes, especially in Syria, until some of the deserting soldiers took up arms against the regime. In Egypt, the most significant of the ‘revolutions’ both because of the regional importance of Egypt and the scope of the protests, some activists were aware of Gene Sharp’s writings on the strategy of nonviolent resistance and also of the lessons of the ‘Colour Revolutions’.

Even in Tunisia and Egypt, where the protesters had initial success in deposing their presidents, it soon became apparent that bringing about a total change of regime would be more difficult – although by mid-2012 Tunisia had achieved a new constitution and peaceful elections. In Egypt, despite the trial of Mubarak, the military and security services clearly hoped to maintain effective control – and brutally suppressed some of the renewed protests. But voting did go ahead for a new constitution and presidential elections in an unprecedented free atmosphere were held in May 2012. The Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Morsi was elected as president, but began to antagonise not only his more liberal opponents but also some who had originally voted for him, through a number of arbitrary measures including forcing through a new Islamist style constitution. On the anniversary of his inauguration on 30 June 2013 huge crowds gathered in Tahrir Square and also in Alexandria and elsewhere to demand Morsi’s resignation. Muslim Brotherhood supporters rallied behind the President. The army intervened on 3 July to depose Morsi and call for new elections. Whilst many protesters welcomed the military action, the Muslim Brotherhood protested vigorously against the military takeover, were bloodily suppressed and then outlawed as an organisation. Morsi was under arrest and on trial by October 2013 and the future of Egypt very uncertain.

The trend towards greater repression in Egypt, evident by the end of 2013, was consolidated during 2014 with the arrests of thousands of members of the Muslim Brotherhood and others seen by the military regime as subversives, including student protesters and journalists. In March 2014 a court condemned 529 supporters of former President Morsi to death, in response to earlier violent protests against the military regime. The regime gained formal legitimacy when Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (who ousted President Morsi) was elected president in May 2014 with a declared 93 per cent of the votes cast - in a turnout of less than 46 per cent. His left-wing opponent condemned the election as 'an insult to the intelligence of Egyptians'. The election was boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood (though not by all Islamist parties) and the 6 August youth group, active in the 2011 movement, also called for a boycott. In December 2014 criminal charges against the former military leader, Mubarak, were dropped and in January 2015 the high court overturned the only remaining conviction against him.

In Syria the civil war, which developed out of the months of peaceful protest in 2011 and the desertion of many army officers and soldiers with their weapons, has since been complicated by the involvement of extremist Sunni groups – offshoots of Al Qaida – and since 2014, the even more fanatical Sunni group ISIS, the so-called Islamic State. These groups also seek the overthrow of the Assad regime – which is itself backed by Iran and Hamas fighters – but also seek to destroy the more moderate rebels. The successes of ISIS, both in Syria and Iraq, have caused international alarm and prompted US-led air strikes, exacerbating the already extreme humanitarian crisis.

Following the ‘Arab awakening’, events in many countries affected are changing quite rapidly. We will attempt to update this section regularly online at

Many journals have had special issues responding to the Arab awakening. Middle East Institute Viewpoints has had three: ‘Revolution and Political Transformation in the Middle East’, Vol. 1, Middle East Institute, Revolution and Political Transformation in the Middle East Washington DC, Middle East Institute, , 2011, pp. 45 , with contributions from Erica Chenoweth, Stephen Zunes, as well as authors from the region. Vol. 2, Middle East Institute, Revolution and Political Transformation in the Middle East Washington DC, Middle East Institute, , 2011, pp. 36 , Vol 3, Middle East Institute, Revolution and Political Transformation in the Middle East Washington DC, Middle East Institute, , 2011, pp. 32 .

Mobilization, vol. 17. no. 4, December 2012, contains an overview by Charles Kurzman. ‘The Arab Spring Uncoiled’, and articles on Egypt, Iran, and Syria.

Swiss Political Science Review, Vol. 17, no. 4, December 2011, pp. 447-491, dedicates a section with articles from leading US-based social movement theorists, including Mario Diani, William Gamson, Jack Goldstone, and Jeff Goodwin – ‘Why we were surprised (again) by the Arab Spring’, pp. 452-6 – with Sharon Erickson Nepstad on ‘Nonviolent Resistance in the Arab Spring: The Critical Role of Military-Opposition Alliances’, pp. 485-491.

Fisk, Robert ; Cockburn, Patrick, Arab Spring Then and Now: From Hope to Despair, London, Mango Media, 2017, pp. 292 pb

This book sponsored by The Independent newspaper is written by its two major Middle East reporters and cover the events of 2010-11 and the aftermath.  Both correspondents have extensive expertise on their area, and have tended to diverge in their assessments from much mainstream western reporting.

After the Arab Spring, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 26, 2015

This issue of the Journal published six articles assessing the regional uprisings.  Michele Dunne 'After the Arab Spring: Caught in History's Crosswinds' suggests that despite difficulties in understanding the failures of the 'Spring' some lessons can be drawn; Michael Robbins 'After the Arab Spring: People Still Want Democracy' argues that data from the Arab Barometer suggested most Arabs still want democratic government; Marc Lynch, 'After the Arab Spring: How the Media Trashed the Transitions examines how the media that supported deposing dictators 'can make it harder to build democracy'; Charles Kurxzman and Didem Turkoglu 'After the Arab Spring: Do Muslims Vote Islamic Now?' assess whether Islamic parties have become more popular than they were before 2011, and Mieczslaw P. Boduszynski, Kristin Fabbe and Christopher Lamont, 'After the Arab Spring : Are Secular Parties the Answer?' examine sceptically whether the existing secular parties are equipped to play a positive role.  (The sixth article on Tunisia is listed under E.V.B.b.2. Tunisia.)

Achcar, Gilbert, The People Want : A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprisings, Berkley, CA, University of California Press, 2013, pp. 358

Achcar rejects the concept of a sudden 'Spring', arguing instead that there is a long term deep-seated revolution which will take many years to develop. Achcar's Marxist inspired analysis stresses the basic socio-economic changes required.  He also covers the role of both the relatively tolerant monarchies of Morocco and Jordan and the 'oil monarchies' of the Gulf. 

Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Africa and the Arab Spring: A New Era of Democratic Expectations, ACSS Special Report No. 1, November 2011, Washington DC, ACSS, 2011, pp. 72

Amin, Samir, 2011: An Arab Springtime?, In Manji; Ekine, African Awakening: The Emerging Revolutions (E. I.2.3. Third Wave of Protests: 2011 - 2021), Cape Town, Dakar, Nairobi and Oxford, Pambazuka Press (imprint of Fahamu), pp. 273-286

(Appeared originally in Monthly Review.)

Anderson, Perry, Explosion in the Arab World, New Left Review, issue 68 (March/April), 2011, pp. 5-14

Editorial reflections on the historical and social context of the revolts.

Brynen, Rex ; Moore, Pete W. ; Salloukh, Bassel F. ; Zahar, Marie-Joelle, Beyond the Arab Spring: Authoritarianism and Democratization in the Arab World, Boulder CO, Lynne Rienner, 2013, pp. 349

Dabashi, Hamid, The Arab Spring: The End of Postcolonialism, London, Zed Books, 2012, pp. 272

An ambitious attempt to explain 2011 in historical context. Starts from the Green Movement in Iran to chart the difference between ‘political modernity’ and the ‘social modernity’ which is supplanting it. Chapter 1 explores the ‘unfolding’ of the Arab Spring and other chapters include discussion of ‘A New Language of Revolt’ and ‘Race, Gender and Class in Transnational Revolutions’.

Gelvin, James E., The Arab Uprisings: What Everyone Needs to Know, New York, Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 208

Book in question and answer format by an historian – topics include the role of youth, labour and religious groups, and why in some cases the military decided not to support the ruler. Discusses also the role of monarchies in Morocco, Jordan and the Gulf.

Isakhan, Benjamin ; Mansouri, Fethi ; Akbarzadeh, Shahram, The Arab Revolutions in Context: Civil Society and Democracy in a Changing Middle East, Carlton, Melbourne University Press, 2012, pp. 184

Laipson, Ellen, Seismic Shift: Understanding Change in the Middle East, Washington DC, Stimson Center, 2011, pp. 138

As civil resistance again took the world of realpolitik by surprise, the Stimson Center invited experts to evaluate how their sectors had viewed the prospects for change in the Middle East.

Lynch, Marc, The Arab Uprising: The Unfinished Revolutions of the New Middle East, New York, Public Affairs, 2012, pp. 288

By US political scientist and Foreign Policy blogger.

Manhire, Toby, The Arab Spring, London, Guardian Books, 2012, pp. 302

Part I is composed of the Guardian live blogs; Part II is made up of essays and analyses covering all the Arab countries, but with especial focus on those where the uprisings were most significant.

Noueihed, Lin ; Warren, Alex, The Battle for the Arab Spring: Revolution, Counter-Revolution and the Making of a New Era, New Haven CT, Yale University Press, 2012, pp. 304

Part I examines ‘The Roots of Rage’, for example the role of ‘Bread, oil and jobs’ and the new media; Part II ‘The Battlegrounds’ discusses Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and Syria; and Part III considers ‘The New Arab Politics’. Noueihed is a Lebanese/British Reuters correspondent for the Middle East and Warren a specialist in the area.

Roberts, Adam, The Fate of the Arab Spring: Ten Propositions, Asian Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Vol. 12, issue 3, 2018, pp. 273-289

Roberts discusses the 2011 uprisings in their broader historical context of the breakdown of empires and problems of creating order, and then summarizes the key events in the Arab Spring, with a particular emphasis on the role of civil resistance.

Roberts, Adam ; Willis, Michael J. ; McCarthy, Rory ; Garton Ash, Timothy, Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring: Triumphs and Disasters, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2016, pp. 360

After a general overviews of politics and resistance in the region, experts on individual countries explore the immediate impact of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Libya, Yemen and Syria, and the subsequent developments, discussing the reasons for reassertion of repression on Bahrain and later Egypt; political breakdown in Libya and civil war intensified by external interference in Yemen and Syria. There are also chapters on the monarchical response to pressure for reform in Jordan and Morocco, and why the Arab Spring did not ignite massive resistance in Palestine. Adam Roberts provides a concluding assessment of the problems of using civil resistance in the Arab Spring, the difficulties of democratization, and the lessons to be learned. 

Sadiki, Larbi, Routledge Handbook of the Arab Spring, London, Routledge, 2015, pp. 688

Includes a wide range of experiences and viewpoints discussing the context and range of the Arab uprisings, and focusing on topics such as women and the Arab Spring, agents of change and the technology of protest and the impact of the Arab Spring on the Middle East. Highlights developments in Egypt.

Schäfer, Isabel, Youth, Revolt, Recognition: The Young Generation during and after the ‘Arab Spring’, Berlin, MIB (Mediterranean Institute Berlin), Humboldt University, 2015, pp. 110

Spierings, Niels, Democratic Disillusionment? Desire for Democracy after the Arab Spring, International Political Science Review, 2019

This article examines the impact of the uprisings on popular attitudes, using 45 public opinion surveys across the region to test his theoretical framework of a consequence-based approach that includes the concept of deprivation. When the data are combined to provide a country by country analysis they suggest that countries like Egypt and Morocco where initial protest had rapid political results but failed in the longer term, disillusionment was highest. Conversely a lack of major protest (Algeria) or of initial reform (Yemen) maintained desire for democracy.  Results for Lebanon and Tunisia showed very different respomnses from different groups in society: Sunnia in Lebanon and the very poor in Tunisia.

Stephan, Rita ; Charrad, Mounira M., Women Rising: In and Beyond the Arab Spring, New York , New York University Press, 2020, pp. 432 (pb)

This comparative study of 16 countries documents women's political resistance during and since 2011, with essays by both activists and scholars.  The book stresses the diversity of the social groups and attitudes of the women involved, and gives a voice to often marginalized groups such as housewives and rural women. After an introductory chapter 'Advancing Women's Rights in the Arab World', the book is divided into five parts: What They Fight For; What They Believe; How They Express Agency; How They Use Space to Mobilize; and How They Organize.

Weddady, Nasser ; Ahmari, Sohrab, Arab Spring Dreams: The Next Generation Speaks Out for Freedom and Justice From North Africa to Iran, Foreword by Gloria Steinem, New York and London, Palgrave Macmillan, 2012, pp. 256

Selection of personal views and stories with a focus on rejecting various forms of social and cultural oppression.

West, Johnny, Karama! Journeys through the Arab Spring, London, Heron Books, 2011, pp. 387

West is a former Reuters correspondent in Egypt and now works for the UN in the Middle East. Lively personal account and analysis – a further subtitle on the cover is ‘Exhilarating encounters with those who sparked a revolution’. Focuses on Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. ‘Karama’ means honour and dignity, and West stresses its role in sparking and maintaining the revolts, quoting a Tunisian revolutionary from Sidi Bou Zid: ‘This is a revolution of honour’.

So far the only struggles that have attracted a significant literature (as opposed to news reports) are Egypt and (to a lesser extent) Tunisia, because of their degree of initial ‘success’. – an independent ezine from the Arab Studies Institute – is a consistently useful source of information and analysis, with regular country updates. The discussion on Libya is mainly on the military campaigns and controversy about NATO involvement: see for example Hilsum, Lindsey , Sandstorm: Libya in the Time of Revolution London, Faber and Faber, , 2012, pp. 287 (by Channel Four foreign editor).

For other countries see the general references above. NB: Algeria (not usually included because the political uprising was abortive) is discussed in two chapters in: Manji; Ekine, African Awakening: The Emerging Revolutions (E. I.2.3. Third Wave of Protests: 2011 - 2021) , pp. 147-150 and pp. 184-89.

Shehabi, Ala's ; Owens, Marc, Bahrain's Uprising: Resistance and Repression in the Gulf, London, Zed Books, 2015, pp. 360

A collection of speeches, interviews, short stories and academic analyses showing the development of protest and the role of the occupation od Pearl Roundabout, and also the subsequent crackdown on all form of dissent by the regime.

Bamyeh, Mohammed, The Egyptian Revolution: First Impressions from the Field, Arab Studies Institute, 2011

El-Mahdi, Rabab ; Marfleet, Philip, Egypt: The Moment of Change, London, Zed Books, 2009, pp. 186

Analysis of the Mubarak regime and its policies, the nature of political Islam, and (most relevant here) a chapter on ‘The democracy movement: Cycles of protest’, pp. 87-102, which provides background to Tahrir Square.

Ghonim, Wael, Revolution 2.0: The Power of the People is Greater than the People in Power, London, Fourth Estate, 2012, pp. 308

Memoir of activist who works for Google and focused particularly on promoting the revolution online. He anonymously ran the Facebook page demanding justice for Khaled Said, a young man beaten to death by police in Alexandria in June 2010, and promoted brief demonstrations, for example a ‘silent stand’ by people wearing black and holding hands to express their anger at the lack of justice for Khaled. The Facebook page attracted over 350,000 members.

Kandil, Hazem, Mubarak’s Overthrow, New Left Review, issue 68 (March/April), 2011, pp. 17-56

Interview in which Kandil analyses the revolt brewing under the surface and the role of six distinct groups, the nature of the Mubarak regime, the events of the first month of revolution and prospects for the future.

Kandil, Hazem, Soldiers, Spies and Statesmen: Egypt’s Road to Revolt, London, Verso, 2012, pp. 256

Analysis by political sociologist depicting the revolt as a power struggle between the military, the security services and the political leadership in the context of the previous six decades. Challenges the widespread assumption that after the popular rebellion the military continued to control the political developments.

Shenker, Jack, The Egyptians: A Radical Story, London, Allen/Penguin, 2016, pp. 528

Account of the revolt against Mubarak by a Guardian journalist, based on first hand contact with activists, but also people in slums and factories and those living outside Cairo, and covering earlier development of the workers' activism and unionism and also village revolts against landowners. It includes wider-ranging historical analysis of Egypt's political and economic relations with the West.

Sowers, Jeannie ; Toensing, Chris, The Journey to Tahrir: Revolution, Protest and Social Change in Egypt, 1999-2011, London, Verso, 2012, pp. 320

Begins with the uprising centred on Tahrir Square and then examines the Mubarak regime, the economic trends, and the growing protests by workers, and by democracy, anti-war, social and environment activists.

See also:

Firoze Manji; Sokari Ekine, African Awakening: The Emerging Revolutions, (E. I.2.3. Third Wave of Protests: 2011 - 2021), two chapters by activist Hassan El Ghayesh, (pp. 80-92), Naib, Fatma , Egypt: Women of the Revolution Pambazuka News, , 2011 (pp. 100-106) and Mamdani, Mahmood , An African reflection on Tahrir Square Pambazuka News, , 2011 (pp. 198-210). These chapters are also available online from:
Mahmood Mamdani, 'Walk to work' and lessons of Soweto and Tahrir Square, Pambazuka News, 2011
Rabab El-Mahdi, Orientalising the Egyptian uprising, Pambazuka News, 2011, suggesting a non-western interpretation of events.

As the uprising in Tunisia came first, it attracted immediate attention, but subsequently has not been as well written up as Egypt. Tunisia appeared initially to be the most successful ‘Arab Spring’ democratic transition, but the assassination of a major opposition figure, Chokri Belaid, in February 2013 and the subsequent protests indicated the problems still facing those seeking a stable democracy.

Alexander, Christopher, Tunisia: Stability and Reform in the Modern Maghreb, New York, Routledge, 2010, pp. 160

Relevant for background to the events of 2011.

Bamyeh, Mohammed, The Tunisian Revolution: Initial Reflections, Arab Studies Institute, 2011

Part 2 of the article, published on 21 January 2011, is available at

Democracy, Journal of, The Upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 22, issue 3 (July), 2011, pp. 3-48

This section includes three articles: Schraeder, Peter J. and Hamadi Redissa, ‘Bem Ali’s Fall’, pp. 3-19; Howard, Philip N. and Muzammil M. Hussein, ‘The role of the digital media’, pp. 35-48, compares Tunisia and Egypt; Masoud, Tarek, ‘The Road to (and from) Liberation Square’, pp. 20-34, is primarily about Egypt.

Masri, Sfawan, Tunisia: An Arab Anomaly, New York, Colombia University Press, 2019, pp. 416 pb

The author traces the history of Tunisia's politics back to the 19th century and early reforms relating to religion, education and women's rights, to explain the relatively liberal context in the 21st century.  Masri therefore argues that Tunisia is not a model for other Arab states, but an exception, given the general role of Islam in shaping education and social and political agendas. The book draws on interviews as well as historical analysis and personal knowledge.

Sebystyen, Amanda, Voices from the Tunisian Revolution, Red Pepper, issue May, 2011, pp. 43-43

Stepan, Alfred, Tunisia’s Transition and the Twin Tolerations, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 23, issue 2 (April), 2012, pp. 89-103

Discusses transition to democracy and possibility of demonstrating how religion, society and the state can be satisfactorily balanced.

See also:

Firoze Manji; Sokari Ekine, African Awakening: The Emerging Revolutions, (E. I.2.3. Third Wave of Protests: 2011 - 2021), pp. 42-68 for three chapters on Tunisia and also Campbell, Horace , Echoes from Tunisia and Egypt: Revolutions without self-proclaimed revolutionaries Pambazuka News, , 2011 , pp. 69-79.
Amanda Sebystyen, Tunisia: Another country, Pambazuka News, 2011, Discusses the involvement of activists in the revolution in preparations for elections.

Spain abandoned this colony after the death of Franco in 1975, opening the door to Moroccan occupation (and armed resistance by the Polisario Front). The UN brokered a ceasefire in 1991. This established MINURSO – the UN Mission for a Referendum in Western Sahara – but basically froze the situation, with Morocco occupying most of the territory and building a 2,700 km fortified wall to prevent incursions from the zone bordering Mauritania and controlled by Polisario (itself based in Algeria). The turn to unarmed resistance has taken the form of waves of protest – either demanding the promised referendum or on social conditions – in 1999, in 2005-6, and again in 2010, and the emergence of a younger generation of leaders, the best known being Aminatou Haidar.

Isodoros, Konstantina, Awakening Protests in Morocco and the Western Sahara, In Manji; Ekine, African Awakening: The Emerging Revolutions (E. I.2.3. Third Wave of Protests: 2011 - 2021), Cape Town, Dakar, Nairobi and Oxford, Pambazuka Press (imprint of Fahamu), pp. 122-129

Shelley, Toby, Endgame in the Western Sahara: What Future for Africa’s Last Colony?, London, Zed Books, 2004, pp. 240

Chapters on building Sahrawi identity, civil society, and countering the ‘wall of fear’.

Stephan, Maria J. ; Mundy, Jacob, A Battlefield Transformed: From Guerrilla Resistance to Mass Nonviolent Struggle in the Western Sahara, Journal of Military and Strategic Studies, Vol. 8, issue 3, 2006, pp. 1-32

Zunes, Stephen ; Mundy, Jacob, Western Sahara: War Nationalism and Conflict Resolution, Syracuse NJ, Syracuse University Press, 2011, pp. 319

Benefits from firsthand research in Western Sahara. For links to other writing by Zunes and Mundy, see

The popular demonstrations that began in Syria in March 2011 were initially consciously peaceful and were also both persistent and brave in the face of the immediately brutal response of the Assad regime. Assad's speech to the Syrian parliament in which he refused to consider any possible reforms in response to the demonstrations, and the decision by some sections of the regular army to defect to support the protesters, meant however that by 2012 civil resistance was overtaken by a civil war. Assad managed to maintain support from key Muslim minorities and Christians, who had prospered under the regime, as well as from urban elites who feared the destabilizing effects of an uprising.  He also enjoyed active military support from Iran and Hezbollah fighters. The armed resistance was over time increasingly dominated by extremist Sunni groups including Al Qaeda (Assad had deliberately released members of these groups from prison in 2011), and later included Islamic State. This gave a degree of credibility to Assad's claim that the opposition was entirely composed of these terrorist Islamist groups, and by 2017, after the fall of Aleppo, it had become largely true. The moderate opposition to Assad sought, help from the US and European governments, and did in the early years get political backing for their goals. But UN sponsored peace talks in Geneva broke down in early 2014.

President Obama decided not to intervene militarily after there was evidence in August 2013 that the regime had used chemical weapons against civilians in rebel areas, although he had earlier cited use of such weapons as a 'red line'.  He was partly influenced by a vote in the British Parliament against military action over this issue. However, western forces did later use air strikes against IS in Syria as well as Iraq. Vladimir Putin, who had supported Assad at the UN, decided in 2015 to commit Russian military forces to help Assad win, and to extend Russian influence in the Middle East. Turkey also became militarily involved in Syrian territory in October 2019, after President Trump decided to withdraw US troops from Kurdish areas - despite the role of Kurdish fighters (including women) in defeating the threat from ISIS. The Turkish government, involved in a long struggle with Kurds inside Turkey, seized the opportunity to undermine the political and military role Kurds had assumed by creating the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria - better known as Rojava. Turkish troops not only attacked and occupied parts of Kurdish territory (Russian troops controlled other parts), but also created a large buffer zone by its border with the aim of expelling Kurds from it.

The scale of armed force used in Syria since 2012 has destroyed numerous homes, schools and hospitals, towns and cities, most notably the ancient city of Aleppo, and after 10 years of war driven an estimated 12 million out of their homes and millions to seek refuge in neighbouring countries (many in Turkey) or in Europe. Those who remained in rebel territory were vulnerable to numerous forms of military attack, hunger and illness, and sometimes subjected to draconian political control - as in areas held by ISIS.  Both the Assad regime and Russian forces appear to have been responsible for bombing of civilians, but journalists have also found evidence of the damage done to non-combatants by western bombing against ISIS. 

The scope for nonviolent forms of resistance has therefore been severely limited.  However, in the early years in the areas held by the resistance there was an upsurge in communal activism, artistic creativity and constructive attempts to promote welfare and education, and assert new freedoms such as women's rights.  Active civil resistance against both the Assad regime and ISIS has partly taken the form of citizen journalism (getting news to the outside world). The other major role for peaceful activists in rebel held areas has been to organize medical and other aid to Syrians suffering the worst effects of the war. Informing the outside world and saving victims of military attacks have been combined by the organization the White Helmets, who film themselves rescuing those injured and have been well reported in the west. They have been fiercely attacked by both the Assad regime and the Russian government for allegedly faking their filmed evidence, or for links with an extremist group fighting in Syria (the Al-Nusra Front), or for acting on behalf of western governments - criticisms which some in western countries have endorsed.  The role of communal initiative and peaceful resistance in Syria since 2012, including the White Helmets, and resistance to ISIS, are covered in some references below. (There are also some references to nonviolent resistance to ISIS under Vol.1.A.1.b.)     

The Big Story: Syria, New Internationalist, issue 485, 2015, pp. 12-29

This supplement on Syria provides a time line and other helpful contextual information about the complex developments in Syria from 2011-15, as well as an analysis of the role of civic activism in rebel held territory.  The issue includes a discussion of artistic creativity since 2011, stories of individual journalists opposing Assad or ISIS, of a doctor treating victims of chemical attack, a teacher under ISIS, and an article on the White Helmets.

See also: Abbas, Omar, 'Dr Jalal Nofal: Connecting Relief Work and Civil Activism in Syria', War Resisters’ International, 11 Nov, 2016

An account of the leftist political background of Dr Nofal, his nonviolent resistance (including arrests and imprisonment), and his medical initiatives as a psychiatrist in Damascus from 2011-14. He was smuggled out of Syria early in 2015, but continued from a border town in Turkey to broadcast, to offer training for social workers and support for refugees, and also to help social workers inside Syria.

Bartkowsky, Maciej ; Kahf, Mohja, Civil Resistance: A Tale of Two Struggles, Part 1 and 2, Open Democracy, 23/09/2013,

The articles discuss the 'tragedy' of nonviolent resistance being overtaken by armed resistance and the tendency of the nonviolent activism to be obscured, and outline the role of nonviolent resistance in  Syria so far.

Hinnenbusch, Raymond ; Imady, Omar, The Syrian Uprising: Domestic Origins and Early Trajectory, London, Routledge, 2018, pp. 358

Scholarly, interdisciplinary analysis of the Assad regime and of the first two years of the uprising. The book explores the nature of the uprising, reasons for the lack of success, and why it turned into an increasingly sectarian civil war.

See also: Hinnenbusch, Raymond, Omar Imady and Tina Zintl, 'Civil Resistance in the Syrian Uprising: From Peaceful Protest to Sectarian Civil War', in Adam Roberts, Michael J. Willis, Rory McCarthy and Timothy Garton Ash, eds. Civil Resistance in the Arab Spring  (E.V.B.a.), pp. 223-47.

An overview with a focus on the role, possibilities and limitations of civil resistance in the specific context of the Assad regime, and the realities of the civil war from 2012 and the rise of ISIS.

Knapp, Michael ; Ayboga, Ercan, Revolution in Rojava: Democratic Autonomy and Women's Liberation in Syrian Kurdistan, London, Pluto Press, 2016, pp. 320

A detailed history and sympathetic analysis of the development of a new kind of politics in the autonomous administration created rebel held territory in northern Kurdistan in Syria.  Rojava’s ideology (a reaction against the previous Marxist-Leninist beliefs of the Kurdish PKK) rejects centralized state control and emphases local communal organizing and promotion of ecological and feminist goals. Their armed groups, which include women's units, played a major role in opposing ISIS.   

See also:  Dirik, Dilar, 'Unbowed" New Internationalist, July/August 2020, pp.22-4.

The author notes the 'remarkable progress' made by the Autonomous Administration in Northern and Eastern Syria since July 2012 in promoting women's rights in all spheres. Turkish troops and their proxies occupied parts of Rojava -Afrin in the north in 2018 and the area bordering Turkey in 2019 - expelling hundreds of thousands of Kurds, shutting down all women's organizations and allowing armed groups to terrorize women. Nevertheless, women were continuing to organize more informally and were committed to resist the permanent extinction of their basic rights, and in northern Syria had held protests and rallies.

Maher, Shiraz, Between Twin Barbarisms, New Statesman, 2017, pp. 25-27

A detailed analysis of how Al Qaeda under various organizational guises have been taking over the opposition to Assad and marginalized the moderates, whilst claiming to pursue a 'middle path'.  The author also warns that ISIS has not been wholly defeated.

Starr, Stephen, Revolt in Syria: Eyewitness to the Uprising, London , Hurst, 2015, pp. 178 pb

In this book, which was well reviewed, Starr - an Irish journalist - provides a detailed account of the complex nature of Syrian society with its many minorities and why some supported Assad. He had worked in Syria since 2007 and was able to send reports from inside the country to a range of respected US and UK newspapers during the nonviolent uprising and the subsequent civil war. His account is based partly on interviews with a wide range of people with diverse allegiances and viewpoints.

Stephan, Maria, Support for Nonviolent Fighters Key to Ending War, Waging Nonviolence, 21/04/2017,

Urges external support for groups trying to help people devastated by war and also to create the organizational basis for a better future. Stephan notes the role of women-led 'peace circles' publicizing atrocities, promoting education and psychiatric help for refugee children, and planning for the future.

See also: Al Shami, Leila, 'Syria: Women Continue Resistance against Fascism, Imperialism and Patriarchy', Open Democracy, 5 January 2017.

Describes a young woman taking risks to communicate with the outside world before the fall of Aleppo, and then discusses the wider role of women in the opposition.

There are also a number of documentary films on aspects of resistance and constructive action inside Syria:

'"Islamic State's" Most Wanted', BBC World Service, July 2016 (

An account of citizen journalists in Raqaa (capital of the IS Syrian caliphate) taking appalling risks (and sometime suffering death and attacks on their families) to send online reports to the outside world.  Hussam Eesa, who managed to escape Raqaa when he knew arrest was imminent in 2014, is interviewed for the programme.

'Syria's Disappeared: The Case against Assad', Channel 4, March 2017 (

Reveals how prisoners in one of Assad's prisons smuggled out lists of names of those detained.  They were written in blood on scraps of material, which any prisoner who was released could take out with him. The story is told by Mansour al-Omari, a human rights activist jailed in February 2012, who eventually managed to attain asylum in Sweden.

'The White Helmets', Netflix documentary, February 2017 (upon subscription)

A film about the White Helmets (Syrian Civil Defence), who had been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, and its 3,000 members across Syria. The documentary received an Oscar nomination and fueled controversy.

A series of major popular unarmed protests across North Africa and the Middle East in 2019 led some journalists and scholars of the area to speculate about a 'second  wave' of  the 2011 Arab  Spring, or the reappearance of a longer term movement for major social change. The countries where the most significant popular uprisings occurred - Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon and Sudan - had not played a prominent role in the 2011 wave of  unrest. As in 2011, more minor political demonstrations occurred in the monarchies of Jordan and Morocco. There were also protests in Tunisia, which despite its relatively successful democratization since 2011 has major economic and continuing political difficulties. Attempts to protest in Egypt were quickly crushed. One other country which experienced significant public unrest in 2019 (but not 2011) was Iran, which has also experienced a very distinct political evolution and emergence of resistance since the overthrow of the Shah in 1979.     

Two particularly impressive examples of people power led in April 2019 to the ousting of autocratic presidents after a prolonged period in office: in Algeria and Sudan. Both movements maintained sustained pressure to consolidate moves towards greater democracy. In Algeria the Hirak (movement) prevented elections in April, in which the aged and ailing President Boutifleka was planning to stand for a fifth term in office. Further weekly demonstrations to challenge the military-backed regime continued up to March 2020. The movement vowed to revert to open resistance once Covid-19mrestrictions were lifted. In Sudan the movement ensured, after the fall of the military dictator Bashir, an agreement on a three year transition to democratic elections. Neither country had joined in the 2011political uprisings. Despite significant protests in Algeria in December 2010 and Januaey 2011, the regime prevented a political insurrection through a mixture of economic concessions and a show of force. The people in both Algeria and the Sudan were probably also deterred by their recent experience of dislocating political violence. In Algeria the rise of Islamic extremism had led to a military coup in 1992, and subsequent civil war against Islamists in the 1990s, which caused an estimated 200,000 deaths.  Boutifleka came to power in 1999 and did play a role in ending the civil war. In Sudan the people had suffered brutal suppression of regions seeking to break away, and a civil war which led to the independence of South Sudan in 2011. Sudan had also experienced its own distinct historical cycle of revolution and repression since it gained independence. 

Similar considerations apply to two other countries where major resistance occurred in October 2019: Iraq and Lebanon. In Iraq the US-led invasion of 2003 toppled the dictator Saddam Hussein and imposed new political institutions, designed to ensure power-sharing between Shia and Sunni representatives. But this political structure intensified, rather than mitigating, divisions. Iraq also suffered from intervention by extreme jihadi forces, especially the alarmingly successful attempt by ISIS in 2014 to take control of key cities and impose its own fanatical version of Islamic rule, before the slow fight back by the government (with external military aid) in 2015-17.  There had, nevertheless, been evolving protest since 2011 about corruption and poor services, but the 2019 protests were different because many demonstrators came from Shia provinces and because of the scale of the spontaneous popular revolt. The government responded with a violent crackdown. 

The people of Lebanon, with its own complex history of internal violence, and its own cycle of popular resistance, did not take part in 2011. The uprising which began in October 2019, however, seemed to promise a real potential for regime change. But in 2020 the impact of Covid-19, followed by the huge explosion in early August of a stockpile of 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that destroyed lives, homes, hospitals, tower blocks and other buildings and businesses, as well as the port of Beirut itself, revealed the prolonged criminal negligence of the governing authorities, led to a sense of popular despair.  (See E.V.A. 2. Lebanon, 2b.)

In Iran resistance to the regime, in which the rigid Shia religious establishment played a dominant role, achieved significant support in the 'Green Movement' of 2009-10, but was crushed. The surge of protest in November 2019, which spread from the provinces to Teheran, had been preceded by large demonstrations in 2017. These demonstrations also starting in provincial cities, and primarily reflected economic distress, but were also linked to political frustration.  But in 2019 some protesters also indicated their support for other popular uprisings in the region. The November 2019 demonstrations were suppressed with extreme force, culminating in hundreds being shot. (For the more politically motivated demonstrations of January 2020, in response to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps shooting down a civilian Ukrainian passenger jet by mistake, and for references on Iranian resistance see E.V.A. 1. Iran, 1.c.)

Parallels and Differences between 2011 and 2019

As in 2011, economic hardship and youth unemployment were major reasons for rebellion, but, as already noted, desire for fundamental political change motivated the 2019 uprisings not only in the dictatorships of Algeria and Sudan, but also in the dysfunctional civilian regimes of Iraq and Lebanon.  The uprisings also drew inspiration from 2011 in some of their slogans and tactics: for example Iraqi protesters set up tents in Tahrir Square in Baghdad.  Initially they also stressed (as their predecessors had in 2011) their commitment to act peacefully, although regime violence (as in Iraq after hundreds were shot) sometimes precipitated an angry and violent response. As in 2011, students and other young people (who predominate in the general population) have been at the forefront demanding radical change.  Women were active in the movements of 2011, but in 2019 their role both in the demonstrations and in the leadership has been much more prominent, especially in Sudan, Algeria and Lebanon. Workers have taken part in many of the major demonstrations (especially where economic causes are a major factor) as have the unemployed. The specific involvement of trade unions in strikes has varied, but unions of health and educational professionals have often been active, as have other professional associations. The role of social media in promoting and publicizing protest, and also in organizing it, was important in 2011 and central in 2019, and has also encouraged informal and horizontal forms of organization.      

The activists of 2019 have, however, also drawn lessons from failures in and after 2011.  Both in Algeria and Sudan the movements knew better (after observing developments in Egypt from 2011-13) than to trust the military to deliver democratic civilian government, and organized for a long period of pressing for real change. The regional context in which they operate has also become more difficult as autocratic regimes, which have suppressed, or so far avoided political uprisings, notably Saudi Arabia, have cooperated to adopt measures to prevent independent reporting and to try to suppress the potential for revolt throughout North Africa and the Middle East. The continuities and the differences between 2011 and 2019 are addressed in the references below, which adopt a comparative perspective on the 2019 protests. The readings include some comparisons between specific countries.

Successes and Shortcomings: How Algeria's Hirak can inform Lebanon's Protest Movement, Vol. 03/06/2020, Middle East Institute, 2020

The author summarizes the beginning  of the two movements, but notesthat despite significant victories, given the political power structure has not been overthrown the goals of regime change 'remain elusive'. She considers the successes in Algeria - the wide range of social groups involved and 'ethos of peacefulness' - and the shortcomings of lack of leadership and of a clear strategy to achieve change. Using the Algerian example she suggests lessons for Lebanon, such as maintaining nonviolence and avoiding political partisanship and sectarianism. 

Achcar, Gilbert, 'From One Arab Spring to Another', Radical Philosophy, 2020

In this article (partially adapted from an interview in Marxist Left Review 19, but rewritten and updated) Achcar begins by situating 2011 within a global crisis of the neoliberal stage of capitalism. He also notes the specific features of the region, and comments on the defeat of the workers' movement and the left in Egypt, and then turns to prospects in Algeria. Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq.

BBC, Is a New Arab Spring Unfolding in the Middle East?, 2019

BBC Middle East editor briefly surveys the demonstrations in Lebanon and Iraq, notes attempted protests in Egypt, and  discusses the frustration and rage of young people over educational failures and unemployment, as well as rampant corruption.  He comments on the security forces firing on Iraqi demonstrators, and on reports that men in black (sometimes masked) who might be pro-Iranian militias were opening fire, Bowen also notes that some Iraqi soldiers have wrapped the national flag around their shoulders, suggesting sympathy for the protesters.

el-Baghdadi, Iyad, Interview with Jan-Peter Westad, New Internationalist, 2020, pp. 52-54

Palestinian activist el-Baghdadi, based in Oslo, speaks about his role in providing news about the Arab Spring to the international media, and publishing his ideas about securing radical change in the longer term. He also explains why he now seeks to counter disinformation online and to campaign in particular against the autocratic model of Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia.

Fahmi, George, Are We Seeing a Second Wave of the Arab Spring?, Vol. March 2019, London, Chatham House, 2019

Dr Fahmi outlines the early months of protest in both Sudan and Algeria, and discusses parallels with 2011 in terms of being 'nationwide, sustained over time, political in nature and interconnected', with the movements encouraging each other.

Grimm, Jannis, It's Spring Again, International Politics and Society Journal, 2019

Grimm compares the rising in Sudan, Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon with 2011, whilst also indicating why these countries were not part of the 2011 wave of movements. He also suggests lessons learned from 2011 and considers what the European response should be.

Jenkins, John, Across the Middle East, they are done with false prophets, New Statesman, 27/11/2019,

Compares protests in Iraq and Lebanon after seven weeks, noting the youth of demonstrators and their demands: for jobs and housing, investigation of corruption and the resignation of their governments. Jenkins also observes that so far the movements have bridged religious divides.  But he is cautious about prospects for success and notes the brutal repression of protesters in both countries.

O'Driscoll, Dylan ; Bourhrous, Amal ; Madda, Meray ; Fazil, Shivan, Protest and State-Society Relations in the Middle East and North Africa, Stockholm, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute , 2020

In this SIPRI policy paper the authors discuss the recurring issues raised by the 2019 wave of protests in the context of  state-society relations in the Middle East and North Africa, general trends and the role of external actors. It also considers the probable impact of  Covid-19.

Ottaway, Marina ; Ottaway, David, The New Arab Uprisings: Lessons from the Past, Middle East Policy Council, Vol. 27, issue 1, 2020

The authors look back to 2011 and the varied outcomes in four different contexts which shaped the possibility of and the reactions to mass protest. These are: the Maghreb (Tunisia and Morocco); Egypt; the Levant (Syria and Iraq) - states created out of  the Ottoman Empire and then dominated by the colonial powers Britain and France; and the Gulf Arab monarchies. They then discuss 'whither the second wave?' in relation to Sudan, Algeria, Labanon and Iraq and draw some provisional conclusions.

Saab, Jade, A Region in Revolt, Daraja Press, 2020, pp. 179

An early book on the second wave of  popular rebellions  in North Africa and the Middle East, with chapters on Algeria, Sudan, Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, bringing out similarities and differences between the movements.

Smith, Ashley, The Long Arab Spring, An interview with Achcar, Gilbert, Jacobin Magazine, 18/05/2019,

Achcar comments on the Algerian and Sudan uprisings, lessons learned from 2011-13, the role of regional and  imperial powers, and the role of  the international left in relation to Sudan.

Young, Michael, Are We Seeing a New Wave of Arab Spring Uprisings in 2019?, Carnegie Middle East Centre, 2019

Features brief but interesting comments by three scholarly experts on the Middle East on parallels and differences with 2011 and the implications of Algeria, Sudan, Iraq and the Lebanon  being at the forefront in 2019.


Algeria's experience of being a French colony, which was seen by the French and French settlers in the colony as being especially close to metropolitan France, resulted in a bitter war of national liberation. The French military, just defeated in the colonial war in Indo-China, tried to repress the uprising ruthlessly, including widespread use of torture. The independence struggle of 1954-62, which mobilized many sectors of Algerian society, including women, became a model for guerrilla warfare and inspired the writings of Frantz Fanon on the role of revolutionary violence. The organization that led this struggle, the FLN (National Liberation Front), became the government after the French withdrew.  After a period of military rule between 1965 and 1976, the FLN was formally restored to its leading role and remained in power until 1988.That year thousands of Algerians took to the streets in protest against their economic conditions (exacerbated by a recession) and against one-party rule. The 1988 uprising led to a new constitution and multi-party elections.  However, after the Islamic Salvation Front won the first round of elections in 1991, this precipitated an army coup in 1992, a state of emergency and a decade of brutal civil war between Islamists and the military, in which about 200,000 people died. 

President Abdelaziz Boutifleka came to power in 1999 representing the FLN, and in 2002 he responded to popular protests by amending the existing constitution. He was re-elected for a second term in 2004. The constitutional limit of two terms in office was suspended in 2008 to allow Boutfleka two further terms. When the Tunisian uprising began in December 2010 it inspired riots across Algeria against economic deprivation; several rioters were killed, hundred wounded and about 1,000 arrested. Over 30 people also tried to immolate themselves in January 2011, and six died. However, when leading civil society representatives and political figures organized a rally in Algiers to demand fundamental political change, only a few thousand attended. People were perhaps deterred by the military show of strength with riot police and helicopters in the capital, and impeded by controls over transport into the city. Algeria was still under a state of emergency which had existed for 19 years. There were further significant protests within various sectors of the economy and society in 2011, including sit-in strikes by students and teachers and a hunger strike by gas production workers, but they did not directly threaten the regime. The government tried with apparent success to buy off major political dissent through subsidies on basic consumer goods, and raised the salaries of civil servants.  To damp d own popular unrest Boutifleka also promised to amend the constitution. Commentators argued that fear of civil war (exacerbated by events in Libya) was also a major factor that deterred people from trying to overthrow the regime.                               

The widespread popular protests and strikes that began in February 2019 and led to a mass movement were unexpected. One cause was the worsening economic and social conditions of most Algerians. Algeria is rich in oil and gas, much of which has been exported, but the regime had notably failed to use this wealth to diversify the economy, reduce reliance on imports or improve the lot of most of the people. Instead, an economic and military elite linked to the political regime have been enriched. But even the wealth accruing from oil and gas has declined, and the government in 2019 could no longer resort to financial handouts to stave off political demands. Secondly, since 2011 the political facade for the controlling elite had become increasingly illegitimate. Boutifleka suffered a serious stroke in 2013, shortly before he was re-elected to a fourth term as president, and had been ailing since with many of his duties performed by the head of the upper house of parliament. Secondly, in 2016 a further constitutional amendment yet again formally suspended the two-term limit on the presidency. 

Therefore, the prospect in 2019 of a fifth term for an incapacitated figurehead president was insulting, and prompted mass rejection of the proposed April presidential election and Boutifleka's candidacy. The movement prevented the April election and could also claim that it forced Boutifleka to stand down. But the military stepped in to take control, and the chief of staff, General Ahmed Gaid Salah, pressurized Boutifleka to go. Salah continued to play a leading role in politics, ensuring arrests of many prominent activists, until his sudden death in December 2019.

The mass movement (the 'Hirak') also prevented a new presidential election in July, maintaining its demand that the existing political elite step down and there should be a fundamental political change.  But the presidential election was finally held in December 2019, in the context of widespread arrests of protesters, and was only contested by a number of representatives of the old regime. Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a former prime minister backed by General Salah, was elected. The Hirak boycotted the election. Tebboune sought legitimacy by promising constitutional change during the election, and after a period allowing for public debate a referendum was held on proposed constitutional amendments in November 2020. The Hirak refused to take part in prior discussions or in the vote, both because of the timing during the Covid-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions, and because they viewed the process with distrust. The amendments in fact increased the president's already considerable powers in relation to the political and judicial processes, although they reinstated the two-term presidency limit. Under 24 per cent of the electorate voted, the lowest poll in independent Algeria's history, but the amendments passed with a 67 per cent yes vote.

The movement continued to maintain its weekly protests demanding fundamental political change up to March 2020.  Then the Covid-19 pandemic provided the regime with the opportunity to prevent all travel, forbid all public gatherings and marches and impose severe penalties on those who defied the ruling.  The regime also arrested journalists supportive of the Hirak and tried to shut down parts of social media. The movement responded to Covid largely by converting itself into civic networks to provide medical assistance, food distribution and other forms of practical aid to the population.  But it still claimed to be ready to resume regular protests for fundamental change.

Commentators agree that the Hirak has proved to be an impressive mass movement, staging a general strike in its early weeks, and maintaining weekly Friday demonstrations, supplemented by weekly student protests on Tuesdays, for over a year until suspended by the Covid pandemic and official restrictions. It has also managed to unite a very wide range of the population. Whilst the young have been at the forefront - young workers and the unemployed as well as students - veterans of the war of liberation have given support. Official trade unions tend to support the regime - although members of the General Union of Algerian Workers managed to force a change of leadership in 2019 they did not achieve a change of policy. But unofficial unions have participated to some extent, and many professional associations including those in health and education, have joined in, as have members of the judiciary. The movement has also united Arabs and Berbers. There is general agreement that women, despite their inferior legal status and social conventions discriminating against them, have often been to the fore in demonstrations and played a significant role. The Hirak has also maintained a strong emphasis on remaining a nonviolent resistance movement, avoiding provocation that could 'justify' the military opening fire on demonstrators. Like many other popular uprisings today, it is also highly decentralized, accommodating diverse ideological strands (Islamists and liberals), and organized horizontally with the help of social media. The absence of any central political leadership is seen by many commentators as a problem for developing a strategy to achieve the movement's goals, as some of the references below indicate.

Addi, Lahouari, Algeria's Joyful Revolution, The Nation, 28/03/2019,

This article by a professor of sociology, written a month after the outbreak of the revolution on 22 February, stresses that the 'gigantic rallies are peaceful and socially mixed'. The article  traces the background of the uprising since 1988, claimed by many Algerians as their 'Arab Spring', since it ended one party rule. Addi explains why this democratic experiment failed and led to a decade of civil war - the context in which Boutifleka came to power in 1999 promising to bring peace

Akrouf, Sanhaja, Yetnahaw Gaa - They All have to Go!, Red Pepper, 2020, pp. 20-21

This article by an Algerian feminist activist explains how the 2019 movement, triggered by rejection of Boutifleka being nominated (despite his physical incapacity) to run for the presidency for a fifth term, began in the city of Kherrata on 16 February. It then spread to other cities, and became a rejection of the whole regime. She sets the movement in its historical context, noting how the success of the movement in forcing Boutifleka's resignation from the presidency was used by the army to take over. She concludes by stressing the resilience of the movement, despite the impact of Covid-19 in 2020 which enabled a 'political lockdown'.  But she also argues that the lack of a political leadership able to draw the ideological strands of the movement together is its chief weakness.

Anser, Rayane, How Algeria's New Regime Won a Referendum but Lost Legitimacy, Open Democracy, 13/11/2020,

Discusses how Tebboune, the president elected in December 2019, had campaigned during the referendum on an amendment the constitution drafted to increase its democratic content, hoping to shore up his legitimacy. But Anser notes that under 24 per cent of the electorate turned out to vote in 2020, though the amendment passed by 66.8 per cent of those voting. The article also looks at the earlier history of constitutional amendments in Algeria.

Entelis, John, Algeria: Democracy Denied, and Revived?, Journal of North African Studies, Vol. 16, issue 4, 2011, pp. 653-676

This article (written in 2011) starts from the 1988 achievement of a new democratic constitution, soon subverted by a military take-over leading to a decade of civil war.  Entelis stresses the growing frustration among many sections of Algerian society - the young, workers, women, the middle class, Berbers and Islamists - who were all demanding economic opportunity, political freedom and social justice. He examines how the FLN regime established after 1999 has so far managed to control this growing dissent at a time of revolutionary upsurge in the Arab world.

Grewal, Sharon ; Kilavuz, Tahir ; Kubinec, Robert, Algeria's Uprising: A Survey of Protesters and the Military, Brookings Foreign Policy Institution, 2019, pp. 41

Report on an online survey of over 9,000 Algerians, including 4,200 who identified as protesters, and 1,700 who stated they were military personnel.  The survey therefore drew out how the military attitudes compare with those of the protesters. The authors found 'very high support' for Boutfileka's resignation and the protest movement, including among those not involved in the protests and among  soldiers and junior officers in the military. Senior officers were much more critical of both democracy and popular revolution.  But even junior officers and soldiers believed there was a role for the military to 'referee the political arena' and were opposed to investigation of military excesses during  the 1990s.

Haleh, Muriam ; Kasmi, Salma, Voices from the Middle East: The Future of the Hirak Movement in Algeria, Middle East Report Online, MERIP (Middle East Research and Information Project), 2020

Discusses the dilemma posed by Covid, which arrived in Algeria in February 2020, for the year-long movement of regular protests against the regime, and the shift by movement networks towards promoting local assistance during the pandemic.  But the authors note that activists are still offering legal help to those arrested and put on trial, and  maintain an online presence for the movement.

See also: Parks, Robert, 'From Protest to Hirak to Algeria's New Revolutionary Moment',  Middle East Report, vol. 292, no.3 (Fall/Winter2019).

Hamouchene, Hamza, The People Want Independence!, New Internationalist, 2020

The author notes that Covid brought a halt in March 2020 to the weekly Friday demonstrations since February 2019, and the parallel student protests every Tuesday. She notes the Hirak's achievements: forcing the Military High Command to distance itself from Boutifleka's political power centre and preventing presidential elections in both April and July 2019, because they were seen as a means to provide legitimacy for military control. The article also comments on the very broad social base of the movement, primarily led by the young, but including 'the working poor', independent trade unions, professional bodies and a prominent role for women.  It then assesses the 'counter-revolution' involving repression of the media and arrests of activists.

Hussein, Eblisam, The 2019 Algerian Protests: A Belated Spring?, Middle East Policy, Vol. 25, issue 4, 2019

Hussein argues that although many aspects of Algerian politics combined to prevent a major uprising in 2011, subsequent developments such as Boutifleka's 2013 stroke and the constitutional amendment of 2016 (lifting again the two term limit on holding the presidency) heightened opposition to the regime by 2019.  The article starts by contrasting 'oil rich Algeria' with 'poor Algerians'.

Serres, Thomas, Understanding Algeria's 2019 Revolutionary Movement, Middle East Brief, Brandeis University, issue 129, 2019

The article argues that the Hirak is a revolutionary movement that connects with the 1954-62 independence struggle, uniting diverse social groups in a movement seen as 'the People' versus 'the System'. It also combines nationalist themes with the strategy of nonviolent resistance. The analysis draws parallels with 2011 in Tunisia, and notes the attempts to launch a similar nonviolent resistance movement in Algeria in January 2011 were successfully deflected by the regime. It then examines the record of the Boutifleka government over 20 years, which led to the Hirak.

Thieux, Laurence, Algerian Youth and the Political Struggle for Dignity: Evolution, Trends and New Forms of Mobilisation, Journal of North African Studies, Vol. 26, issue 2, 2021, pp. 294-310

The article explores why young people generally are turning away from political parties, civil society bodies and trade unions as channels for their frustrations and a means of defending human rights. It then examines the new methods and forms of mobilization specifically within the Algerian context.

Volpi, Frederic, Algeria: When Elections Hurt Democracy, Journal of Democracy, Vol. 31, issue 2, 2020, pp. 152-165

Volpi explores the advantages and disadvantages of leaderless mass movements such as the Hirak. Their ability to challenge the 'pseudodemocratic' mechanisms used by authoritarian elites is a strong point, but a key weakness is inability to create alternative institutional approaches.  He also argues that the December 2019 election ensured the ruling elite remained in power, but undermined their legitimacy.

Wolf, Anne, The Myth of Stability in Algeria, The Journal of North African Studies, Vol. 24, issue 5, 2019, pp. 702-712

Notes that the official Algerian claims to be a model of political stability in the region - partly corroborated by the regime's ability to prevent unrest in 2011 turning into a revolution - have been proved illusory by the mass movement that erupted in Algeria in February 2019,and by the breath of its support.

Iraq is a country composed of many diverse religious and ethnic groups, which has often led to deep political divisions. The three most important groups in terms of their size and their political impact are Shia Arabs, Sunni Arabs and the (mainly Sunni) Kurds. There are also about 3 million Turkmens (divided between Sunni and Shia religious allegiance) and a number of other much smaller religious and ethnic groups, such as Christians and the polytheistic Yazidis. These minorities became the especial targets of the fanatical (Sunni) Islamic State movement, that became a much-feared military and political force in Iraq between 2013-17. The Kurds have played an important role in Iraqi politics and internal wars, seeking independence, but also making political alliances and supporting recent coalitions. But the most central division has been between the Shia majority and the Sunnis. The latter for a long period dominated politically in Iraq. It is only since the US-led invasion of 2003 that Shia representatives have had the opportunity to play a major role. 

Historical Background

Iraq emerged from the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War and became a British Protectorate. British influence lasted after the Second World War under the monarchy of King Feisal, who was a British ally, until he was overthrown in 1958. Ten years later the Baathist Party took power through a coup, and under Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr pursued an anti-western policy. Saddam Hussein became President at the head of the Baathist Party in 1979, and became known for his ruthlessness against opponents, using chemical weapons against Kurds in Halabja in 1988 and against Kurds and Southern Shia rebels who rose up against him in March-April 1991. Hussein's  decision to invade and annex Kuwait in 1990 led to a US-led and UN-approved military assault on Iraqi forces, which resulted in Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait.

The victory of the US-led forces in the 'First Gulf War' resulted in international control over Iraq's weapons programmes through inspections and through overseeing destruction of chemical weapons. It also resulted in major curbs on movement of Iraqi forces through no-fly zones, and a ban on Iraqi oil sales (partially lifted by the UN in 1995 to allow the buying of much needed food and medicines). After the Iraqi government refused further cooperation with the UN in dismantling weapons of mass destruction in 1998, the US and Britain undertook a bombing campaign to destroy Iraq's ability to produce any of these weapons. Western distrust of Saddam Hussein, especially fear that he had secreted weapons of mass destruction, and the ambition of US President George W. Bush to 'finish the job' of toppling Hussein begun in the First Gulf War, led to the Second Gulf War of 2003. US victory ensured the toppling in March of Saddam Hussein, who was later captured in December that year, and executed in December 2006 for 'crimes against humanity'.

The US Administration aspired to create a liberal parliamentary democracy in Iraq.  Power was formally transferred to an interim government in June 2004, and in late 2005 the Iraqi people were offered a new constitution, which was approved in October 2005, and a new parliament was elected in December 2005. However, because the US had tried to eliminate the basis of Saddam Hussein's regime by disbanding the Iraqi armed forces and dismissing top administrators, the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority had effectively to run the country, promote new political parties and train new military forces.  The US military and political control increasingly looked to many Iraqis like an occupation rather than a liberation force: photographs of US troops mistreating and humiliating Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghreib prison, released in April-May 2004, outraged Iraqi opinion.

From the outset US forces met with guerrilla warfare, and a suicide bomber destroyed the UN headquarters in Baghdad in August 2003. The radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr mobilized a militia, which fought US forces in Najaf in August 2004.  Because of the scale of violent unrest and deaths the US military (already deploying 130,000 troops) brought in thousands more troops after January 2007.  Sectarian violence, such as suicide bomb attacks on Shia festival celebrations in March 2004 and on the Shia al-Askari shrine in February 2006, also greatly intensified levels of social conflict and violence.  This volatile situation was exploited by the Sunni Al-Qaida, led by a Jordanian jihadi, who intensified religious divisions through bombings, kidnapping and beheadings, until killed in a US air-strike in 2006.  His Al Qaida group later renamed itself  Islamic State in Iraq, and after extending  to Syria became Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).  In response to IS extremism, Sunni tribes in Iraq began to cooperate in 2007 with US-led forces to resist IS and continued to do so until 2011.

The US handed over control of security in Iraqi cities and towns to the newly created Iraqi defence forces in 2009, and agreed to withdraw its troops by 2011. (Britain had withdrawn from a major role in southern Iraq in  December 2007.)  US troop withdrawal was linked to agreement with the Iraqi government that Sunni tribes would be incorporated into the security forces. Parliamentary elections in March 2010 led to a coalition government of  the major groups. But this coalition broke down at the end of 2011, leading to a Sunni boycott of both parliament and the government. Moreover, the Shia dominated government failed to honour the promise to employ and pay Sunnis who had fought against IS. Many Sunnis were also detained. There were therefore widespread demonstrations in Sunni areas in early 2013 against the sectarian policies of the government headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

As a result of the rise from 2012 in sectarian tensions ISIS began to reconstitute itself in Iraq, and by January 2014 had captured Falluja. Between June and September 2014 Iraqi defence forces proved unable to prevent ISIS from seizing Mosul, Iraq's second city, and other major towns.  ISIS now controlled about a third of the country and declared an Islamic Caliphate. Kurdish Peshmerga forces provided much of the resistance to further expansion by ISIS and helped the gradual recapture of territory between 2015-17, whilst Kurdish politicians temporarily put aside their demands for independence in order to fight a common threat. The Iraqi security forces (aided by US advisors and trainers) also regrouped, and backed by air power provided by a US-led coalition, which included NATO and the Arab League, began to push ISIS back.  By December 2017 the Iraqi government was able to claim that it had control over the whole of its territory.         

Therefore, despite renewed conflict in late 2017 over the issue of Kurdish independence (which Kurds voted for in  a referendum in September 2017), and continuing Shia-Sunni tensions, a new political era seemed possible in 2018. Parliamentary elections in May 2018 resulted in the new parliament electing a Kurdish president, and a Sunni lawyer was designated Speaker. The bloc headed by Shia cleric and militia leader Moqtada al-Sadr, now turned politician, won most votes in the election.  (The bloc included some secular Sunnis and Communists.)  The second largest bloc was the pro-Iranian Shia Fatah Coalition. The prime minister, selected after political wrangling, was 76 year old (Shia) economist Adil Abdul al-Mahdi.  His government's failure to meet public expectations of reform led to the October - December 2019 mass protests.

The October 2019 Uprising

The protesters who took to the streets in October 2019 were predominantly young and primarily from Shia dominated areas of the country - though some Sunnis then joined in or organized support via social media. The demonstrators were independent of organized political parties like the Communists and the Sadrists.  They had multiple grievances over lack of jobs, inadequate basic public services such as water and electricity, the extensive political corruption, and the violence used to quell smaller scale protests in September 2019 demanding jobs for university graduates. There were also political grievances, in particular the influence wielded by Iran on Iraqi politics, and the demands expanded to call for a totally new and democratic politics. Demonstrators also rejected a politics based on sectarian religious divisions, and they acted independently of the Shia religious establishment. The movement was leaderless and loosely coordinated, but inventive and resilient, reflecting a new kind of youthful protest that earlier emerged in Iraq 2015. It also looked back to the slogans, tactics and spirit of the first Arab Spring, focusing  on peaceful protest, pitching tents in Baghdad 's Tahrir Square, promoting poetry readings and theatre on the site, and mobilizing to clean up the square. The regime responded with deadly violence, killing hundreds and wounding thousands (exact numbers were hard to compile), but failed to deter the protests, which continued into December 2019. Reporters noted that Iranian-backed militias, operating independently of Iraqi security forces, were responsible for much of the shooting. Regime brutality sparked angry and sometimes violent responses by demonstrators, but it remained primarily a movement of civil resistance.   

The uprising did have immediate political effects, prompting the parliament to pass several anti-corruption measures, though these were stalled.  Although initially the government responded with excessive force, later Prime Minister al-Mahdi admitted the need to tackle corruption and economic problems. He resigned at the end of  November 2019, though he stayed on pending selection of his successor. During 2020, however, the numbers at protests decreased, partly due to lockdown measures against Covid-19  but also due to dwindling belief in the possibility of major change and concern the movement had been infiltrated.  Although thousands demonstrated in Baghdad and elsewhere in October 2020 to commemorate the birth of the movement, they then went home, even though survey evidence commissioned in 2020 suggested the protests had very widespread public support.

The references below include some background on 2011 in Iraq as well as the 2019 demonstrations and their aftermath.

Al-Rawi, Ahmed, The Arab Spring and Online Protests in Iraq, International Journal of Communications, Vol. 8, 2014, pp. 916-942

This article elaborates on earlier protests before 2019, focusing on 2011 and noting 'dozens of protests' (which crossed sectarian lines) against political corruption and calling for revolution at Tahrir Square, Baghdad, between February 12 and the 'day of rage' on  February 25 2011. On this day the government of Nouri Maliki shut down media coverage, accusing the protesters of being followers of the banned Baath Party of Saddam Hussein or supporters of Al Qaeda. On February 25 2011, 30 demonstrators were killed by security services and many injured. But the main focus of the article is on the use of Facebook and You Tube to publicize, comment on and justify the protests. The blogs and comments studied were predominantly by young men, including some in the US and Canada.

Ali, Zahra, Iraqis Demand a Country, MERIP: Middle East Research and Information Project, Vol. 292, issue 3, 2019, pp. 1-10

A detailed account and analysis of the 'spontaneous and leaderless protest movement' that was strongest in Shia-dominated provinces, but spread across Iraq.  Ali notes how protests in Baghdad in early October 2019 against the removal of a popular general, who had led the fight-back against ISIS, were also fuelled by anger at failures of basic services, such as water and electricity, and the pervasive political corruption. These demonstrations developed into a demand for a new political system to replace the US- imposed regime based on ethnicity and religious divides. The article then sets the 2019 movement in the context of earlier waves of protest, starting with the 2009 protests in Iraqi Kurdistan and the Sunni-majority protests in 2012-13 against their exclusion from political power.  It also emphasizes the role of a new generation of protesters since 2015. 

Bobseina, Haley, Iraqi Youth Protesters: Who They Are, What They Want, and What's Next, Middle East Institute, 2019

This analysis, written at an early stage of the 2019 protests, comments on the combination of longstanding grievances and the recent sources of anger, such as repression of protests calling for jobs for university graduates in September, which led to the mass eruption onto the streets of 'unemployed and underemployed youth' in Shia majority areas. It notes that there was little immediate response in Sunni-majority areas, because of the recent violence of the war against ISIS and fear of being targeted as pro-ISIS, or as supportive of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. The author also examines why Shia protesters reject the existing political parties and often criticize Iran's role in Iraqi politics.

Cooke, Georgia ; Mansour, Renad, Iraqi Views on Protesters One Year After the Uprising, London, Chatham House: Expert Comment, 2020

One year after the outbreak of mass protests in October 2019, the authors note that thousands turned out to mark the anniversary, but that this time the protests were brief.  The Covid-19 lockdown, 'protest fatigue' and suspicion of infiltration of the movement have combined to reduce active support.  The main focus of this analysis is a survey commissioned by Chatham House of over 1,200 Iraqis to gauge public opinion about the October 2019 protests.  It finds that 83 per cent of those surveyed believed most or all the demonstrations were justified, and only 10 per cent strongly disapproved, and suggests that most Iraqis support the main complaints of the activists.

Costantini, Irene, The Iraqi Protest Movement: Social Mobilization amidst Violence and Instability, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 2020

The author argues that social mobilization in Iraq, especially since 2011, has been politically significant, but not seriously analyzed. Her focus is to investigate 'nonviolent means to promote social and political change in violent contexts', which Iraq amply illustrates.  She compares waves of protest since 2011 and concludes that cyclical violence and political dysfunction are a major limitation on the effectiveness of protest, but that social mobilization also holds out the possibility of more positive political change.

Dawood, Hussein, Iraq after the "October Protests": A Different Country, European Council on Foreign Relations, 2019

This brief but interesting commentary was written after the first week of protests in October 2019, in which 100 people were killed and over 6,000 injured. Dawood discusses the immediate causes of the protests and the longer term failings of the government under Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, elected as a compromise candidate between two Shiite coalitions a year earlier. The author notes that opposition groups like the Communist Party and the Sadrist movement (followers of the radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr) were not involved, but that the lack of leadership among the protesters (even within cities) was a weakness in making credible demands for change.  Nevertheless, the government (despite its immediate authoritarian reaction) was making concessions by offering economic reforms and pressing for passage of anti-corruption bills before parliament.

Najaf, Ghaith ; Harrison, Emma Graham, Bloody Defiance, The Big Story: Iraq Protests, Guardian Weekly, 13/12/2019, pp. 10-12

This on the spot report provides an overview of the popular uprising up to mid-December 2019, and to the resignation of Prime Minister Mahdi. (Though he was to stay on in a caretaker government until parliament could agree a replacement.)  The authors note the scale of violence against the protesters and the role of Iran-backed militias in shooting at them, as well as increasing international concern.


The popular uprising in Sudan against the brutal dictatorship of Omar-al-Bashir, that began in December 2018 and resulted in his being removed from office in April 2019, has sometimes been portrayed as part of a second phase of  the 'Arab Spring'. This is a comparison rejected by the Sudanese, who had ousted two earlier military leaders through civil resistance in 1964 and 1985.  But informed commentators agree that 2019 differed in a number of significant ways from the two earlier movements, including the fact that in 2011 South Sudan had broken away and become an independent country.  After ousting Bashir the movement suffered a brutal counterattack in June 2019, which it overcame. Since then there have been some important political and legal changes, but how far the protesters can achieve their goals is still uncertain in 2020.

Historical Background: Independence, Military Rule and the 1964 Revolution

Some historical background is helpful to understanding present politics.  Sudan can be seen as a bridge between the Arab world and the rest of Africa.  Sunni Muslim Arabs have been dominant in the north of the country, but there have been varied ethnic groups, cultures, languages and religious beliefs among the people living in the south and west of the country as a result of the national boundaries drawn by the British Empire. Christian missionaries became active in the south under colonial rule. Egypt also played a role in Sudanese politics with a view to a possible union of the two countries. When Sudan became independent in 1956 Muslim political dominance was underpinned through the armed forces and the civil service - with northerners promoted to previous British posts, including in the south. Muslims were also dominant in the professions such as law and medicine and in higher education.  Significant political influence was also wielded by Muslim religious and political bodies: the Khatmiyya sect was represented politically by the Umma party, and the Ansar sect by the pro-Egypt People's Democratic Party, which later split and transmuted into the Democratic Unionist Party. The divisions between Muslim groups added to the instabilities of Sudanese politics, and by the 1970s the Islamist Muslim Brothers played a greater role.

The south was economically disadvantaged in comparison with the north and levels of education and literacy were far lower. There were also considerable divisions between the diverse ethnic and religious groups in the south. In the 1950s southern politicians generally pressed for greater autonomy for different regions during the debates about the constitution.  But a mutiny by southern troops in Equatorial Province in 1955, combined with attacks on northerners, presaged the armed resistance that was to become 'the first Sudanese civil war'.

Newly independent Sudan also faced a variety of problems inherent in limited experience in parliamentary politics. The British had only introduced a Legislative Assembly in 1948, and the country had a temporary transitional Constitution at independence, with a final Constitution being a major item on the political agenda. There were also economic problems arising from government policies. Disillusion with politics led to the military coup of November 1958. 

The new military regime, in which General Abboud soon consolidated his dominance, pursued a policy of suppressing expression of cultural and religious difference in favour of 'Arabization' in the south, including  the imposition of Arabic as the language used for teaching in schools and, in 1964, the expulsion of Christian missionaries. Many southern politicians and intellectuals fled to other parts of Africa and the opposition in exile was represented from 1962 by the Sudan African National Union (SANU) based in Uganda, which had links to the guerrilla insurgency that arose in the south of Sudan in 1963.

The decisive resistance to the military regime came, however, from Muslim professional groups and dissident army officers (there had been three attempts earlier by sections of the military to overthrow Abboud in favour of a more democratic government). The October 1964 revolution started at the University of Khartoum, after armed police attacked a seminar on southern Sudan and killed two students and a campus worker. The University Teachers' Union. together with the Doctors' Union and Bar Association, launched a general strike. The 1964 revolution was supported by a broad coalition which included the Communist Party, which had established a reputation for effective resistance, as well as Muslim political groups. Army leaders were willing to step in to promote transition to a renewed parliamentary democracy. Abboud was induced to resign five days after the outbreak of mass protests. 

The revolution ushered in four years of civilian parliamentary government. Some southern politicians in SANU opted to return to Sudan and take part in the new political process with the aim of making gains for the south. But others, who were committed to full southern independence, backed the continuation of armed struggle, which then escalated. The civilian regime responded to the guerrillas with violent repression.

Military Rule under Nimeiri and the Revolution of 1985

The second military dictatorship inaugurated in 1969 was headed by Colonel (later General) Jaffar Nimeiri, who initially made surprising allies (bringing the Communist Party into his government), and pursued a remarkably conciliatory policy towards the south with the aim of ending the war. The Southern Sudanese Liberation Movement was sufficiently well armed and trained that it could not easily be quelled by Sudan's military. Nimeiri entered into negotiations which resulted in the Addis Ababa Agreement of February 1972. Under the Agreement three southern provinces were united into a region with a degree of political autonomy and its own political assembly. This provision was reinforced by the opening up of the civil service (both in Khartoum and in the south) to southerners, incorporation of 6000 rebel fighters into the Sudanese armed forces, and promises that the Christian religion and use of the English language would be respected in the south. These changes were underpinned in a new Constitution for Sudan in 1973, and southern leaders were included in the government. As a result Nimeiri gained considerable southern support, including from the southern soldiers who were now part of the Sudanese army.

The concessions to the south were not, however, welcomed by major Muslim groups in the north of Sudan, especially the Muslim Brothers, who saw them as a betrayal of Islam. In order to maintain his position in power, in 1977 Nimeiri brought into his government a former Umma Prime Minister and, more importantly, the leader of the Muslim Brothers; the latter exerted significant influence on policy. (The Communist Party, which might have exercised a countervailing secular influence had broken with Nimeiri earlier and its leaders had been executed.) In 1978 the regime introduced Shari'a law. This tilt towards the demands of  more extreme northern Muslims, together with various administrative and boundary changes in the early 1980s, which weakened the south politically and excluded it from newly discovered oil fields, led to a renewal of guerrilla warfare, which many southerners in the armed forces then joined. Nimeiri acquired weapons from the Reagan Administration in the US, and also armed Arab and other militias who could be used to quell local revolts. But he was far from being able to suppress the new war in the south.

The widespread popular protests which toppled Nimeiri in April 1985 after 11 days were again spearheaded by the professional associations in the north. The military were also again willing to step in to promote a parliamentary system, but the renewed war in the south and the variety of political divisions made progress towards stable civilian government difficult.  Talks between northern politicians and southern leaders led in 1986  to a declaration of principles (including the repeal of Shari'a law) and proposals for a new Constitution.  But in the ensuing election the victory of the Muslim Umma and DUP parties led to a government that repudiated the 1986 agreement, and drove non-Arab minorities in the north to support the southern rebels. The Muslim Brothers, now re-named the National Islamic Front, who had been gaining in economic strength and control over the media, backed another coup in 1989 that installed Omar al-Bashir, who formally became president in 1993.  

The Dictatorship of Bashir

Bashir proved to be a much more ruthless dictator than his two predecessors. He jailed opposition activists, including members of the professions who had previously enjoyed privileged immunity, and ordered troops to fire on protesters. He also waged war on non-Arab rebel groups (who were however generally Muslims) in the western region of Darfur with such ferocity that he was indicted for war crimes. The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for him in 2009 on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity, and a second warrant in 2010 on the charge of genocide. Bashir encouraged local militias to suppress resistance by non-Arab minorities, a tactic that became notorious in Darfur, where the Arab Janjaweed attacked 'African' ethnic groups engaged in rebellion. Bashir also employed air power to massacre local peoples. The UN estimated in 2008 that about 300,000 people had died.  Ten years after the war in Darfur began in 2003, well over a million displaced people were in camps and many had fled to neighbouring Chad. There were numerous armed rebel groups and one of them signed a peace deal with Khartoum in 2006, but then reverted to rebellion.

The regime was, however, forced to seek an end to the renewed civil war in the south. Talks began in 2002 which resulted in a Protocol that allowed the south to seek self determination after six years, and Khartoum signed a peace agreement in January 2005, which gave the south considerable autonomy. A referendum in January 2011 voted for independence and South Sudan gained formal independence in July 2011.

Bashir pursued a policy of extreme Islamization, though the National Islamic Front lost influence within the regime by 1999, when its leader, Hassan al-Turabi was expelled from his post as Speaker of the National Assembly and the Assembly dissolved. In 2004 he was imprisoned with other political and military figures for allegedly plotting a coup, although released a year later.  The Islamic Front split between those who still supported the regime, who became the National Front, and those in opposition, renamed the Popular Congress Party. The harshness of the Islamic law imposed under Bashir is illustrated by the fact that the crime of 'apostasy', used against religious minorities, was punishable by death. Under the Public Order Act women who wore trousers in public could be punished with forty lashes. 

Islamization prompted significant opposition. Another key factor in rising public anger, however, was the dire economic situation inside the country.  This was due partly to the loss of oil fields to South Sudan in the context of an economic policy that relied heavily on oil and on mining gold and other minerals. The regime's inability to get international financial support, because of its appalling human rights record, also intensified economic problems, as did its policy of spending a huge proportion of its budget on the armed forces and armed militias. In 2018 inflation reached 70 per cent, whilst the economy shrank.

The Revolution Against Bashir

The uprising against Bashir had been preceded not only by armed rebellions by non-Arab groups, but by years of peaceful protest and organizing by young people, women and professional groups. These social forces came together, and then joined with long established political parties reflecting a wide range of ideological positions, in the revolution that began in December 2018. The uprising also encompassed both Arabs and other varied ethnic groups.

The trigger for popular rebellion was anger over the tripling of the price of bread in the town of Atbara, where protesters burned down the office of Bashir's official party. Protests spread rapidly across the country. A key role in organizing the movement was played by the Sudan Professionals Association (SPA) formed in 2016 out of earlier struggles for their professional rights by lawyers, journalists, university and school teachers, doctors, vets and engineers. The SPA developed a programme for the revolution, communicated via social media, and in January 2019 brought together all sympathetic political parties and organizations to create the Forces for the Declaration of Freedom and Change (FDFC).

Bashir responded to the initial protests with repression and replaced the government with direct military rule. On April 6, the anniversary of the fall of Nimeiry, thousands took to the streets of Khartoum and surrounded the military headquarters, and on April 7 there was a general strike. When the regime used teargas and fired on the crowd some soldiers and sailors switched sides and fired back, and a few days later some junior officers joined the protesters. Senior generals acting, they claimed, to forestall bloodshed, deposed Bashir on April 11 and formed a military council to lead an interim government. The protesters remained encamped around the military headquarters and were able to force the resignation of the first head of this council, the former defence minister. He was replaced by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who had earlier talked with the protesters. The head of the National Intelligence and Security Service, which had targeted protesters, also resigned. The SPA called for a transitional civilian government and negotiations began between the FDFC and the new military leaders, but dragged on through May. Activists, distrustful of the military leaders, maintained their camp round the military headquarters into June, when they called a general strike to exert greater pressure.

Suddenly, on June 3, a section of the armed forces attacked the protesters ferociously, shooting to kill, tossing bodies into the Nile, raping, whipping and robbing those on the streets, and assaulting medical staff treating the wounded. The extreme violence precipitated new protests in the suburbs of Khartoum. Some policemen and regular soldiers also reacted with anger: several garrisons mutinied and indicated sympathy for the protesters. The repression was orchestrated by Mohammed, Hamdan Dagalo, who in April had appeared to sympathize with the demonstrators. Dagalo was head of the paramilitary Rapid Defence Forces (RDF), which had evolved out of the Janjaweed in Darfur, where Dagalo himself came to prominence. This move by the military junta was actively supported by the governments of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and the military regime in Egypt. The junta closed down the internet in an attempt to impose an almost total blackout. The RDF patrolled the streets of Khartoum and the regular army did the same in Omdurman.   

The leaders of the uprising responded to the crackdown in Khartoum and other cities by calling a general strike, which was supported by millions. Shops closed and people stayed at home in response to a call by the SPA. The regime attempted to break the strike by widespread arrests of key personnel involved, such as air traffic controllers and other airport workers. The movement seized the initiative again in early July to demand immediate civilian rule. Many thousands took to the streets in Khartoum and many more did so across the country on Sunday July 5 (in what became known as 'the Millions March'), and defied security forces trying to disperse them.

By July the international context had changed due to the response to the deaths and numerous injuries inflicted by the RDF. (Exact numbers of those killed were hard to verify and were still being revised upward in 2020.) Even Saudi Arabia and the UAR felt obliged to moderate their support for the junta in response to US pressure. The African Union unanimously suspended Sudan’s membership at an emergency meeting in early June, and then provided mediation to end the bloodshed. Talks between the military and the FDFC had collapsed as a result of the assault launched by Dagalo, but were resumed with the help of African Union and Ethiopian  mediators.

After an earlier verbal agreement, a written agreement between the FDFC and the military junta, which still included Burhan and Dagalo, was signed on 17 July. It created a government in which the military shared power with civilian political leaders for a transition period of 39 months before elections. This deal was rejected by many exiles from Darfur, armed rebel groups, the Communist Party and others, who claimed that too many concessions had been made to the military. However, a new civilian Prime Minister was appointed: the veteran diplomat and economist Abdalla Hamdok was flown back from exile, and a new constitution was agreed.

A sign of progress in August was that Bashir appeared in court, though only on corruption charges. He was finally convicted on December 14 of corruption and money laundering, but sentenced to just two years in a ‘reform facility’, partly on grounds of his age – he was 75. The SPA welcomed the verdict, but indicated it was only a beginning.

Assessing the Revolution

The revolution that broke out in December 2018 differed from the two earlier movements that toppled military leaders in 1964 and 1985 in many ways, reflecting the length and repressiveness of the Bashir regime but also the changes in Sudanese society. Whereas the earlier uprisings succeeded within days, it took from December to April to unseat Bashir. and until July to achieve a role for civilians in a transition government, requiring an immense degree of perseverance and courage from the activists and continued determination from the people as a whole. The length of the transition to a new constitution and government is also much longer than after the previous uprisings. Moreover, a much broader swathe of Sudanese society has been mobilized in the movement to bring civilian and democratic rule to the country. The key role of the professional groups in the SPA is due to their years of struggle for autonomous unions, and the SPA has become the main advocate of independent trade unions for all workers to replace the previous government-controlled bodies. It is therefore very different from the privileged professional elite that took the initiative in the earlier uprisings.

The important role of women in the uprising was very visible in pictures of the demonstrations, where they were often in a majority. They were also militant: organizing sit-ins and climbing trees; and the image of Alaa Salah  standing on top of  a car on April 8 in Khartoum to address the protesters became symbolic of the revolution. Women suffered most under the Bashir regime. Some had also been encouraged by the global rise of feminism; and they had campaigned for years against the regime's laws which penalized them. The No to Oppression Against Women Initiative was set up in 2009 and was represented within the FDFC. Women attached to various political parties had also become much more prominent than in the 1980s – they were now influential in the moderate Muslim Umma Party for example. These party-political women were represented by the Civilian and Political Feminist Groups organization created as a result of the revolution. In view of their major role in the revolution, and their party-political representation, women were angry that they were largely excluded from the FDFC negotiations with the military, and that only two women were chosen for the eleven members Transitional Sovereign Council. However, women have been promised 40 per cent of the seats in the new legislative council when it is created.

Young people have also played a key role, not just on the streets but in organizational and policy terms in maintaining the radicalism of the movement. Gilbert Achcar (se the reference to his Le Monde article listed below) stresses the importance of local resistance committees set up by young men and women communicating through social media, who are committed both to help local communities and to ensure the goals of the revolution are met. The resistance committees have been formed both in cities and rural areas since June 2019 and have begun to take over local government from the committees of the Bashir regime. They form a radical counterweight to the more old fashioned and cautious mainstream political parties in the FDFC and in the transitional government.

A year after July 2019 there are grounds for both despair and cautious optimism about the future prospects for Sudan, illustrated by two contrasting reports in July 2020. On July 9 a story by a Sudanese-British journalist, Yousra Elbagir, in the Financial Times reported on hundreds camped out for 12 days outside the municipal offices in a town in Darfur, demanding an end to local police corruption, and government protection from continued attacks by armed militias. The author also comments on the dire state of the national economy with fuel shortages and 100 per cent inflation.  Two weeks later Kaamil Ahmed in the Guardian Weekly (24 July, p.24) reported on 'Joy in Sudan at liberal reforms', noting an end to the law on apostasy which threatened religious minorities with death, and also a ban on female genital mutilation and an end to women needing travel permits. The article notes that the repressive Public Order Act, which included a penalty of 40 lashes for women wearing trousers in public, had been abolished towards the end of 2019.

Military Coup in October 2021 Disrupts Transition to 2022 Elections

The uprising that deposed the dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019 secured a process of combined military and civilian rule as part of a transition to elections in 2022, intended to usher in civilian government. This process was disrupted by a military coup in October 2021. The interim civilian Prime Minister, Abdalla Hamdok and other civilian members of his cabinet were imprisoned on 25 October and the military declared a state of emergency. Demonstrators immediately took to the streets.

The coup had been engineered from within the transitional Sovereign Council, which presided over the transition and was dominated by the military, whilst the primarily civilian cabinet focused on administering the country. The Chair of the Sovereign Council, the de facto president of the country, General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan, justified the military takeover, citing 'infighting' earlier between the civilian and military wings, which could destabilize the country. But there was evidence before the coup that the military were strengthening their grip on power. During 2020 power sharing was extended to previous rebels in Darfur and the south of the country, and Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, who headed a force that had emerged out of the notorious Arab Janjaweed militia accused of genocide in Darfur, became the Vice Chair of the Sovereign Council. In September 2021 the army claimed to have foiled a coup by Islamists loyal to Bashir, a claim widely interpreted as an excuse to increase military control. The army then organized demonstrations in Khartoum that called for the military to take control. A major counter-demonstration by opponents of military rule was the largest since the mass protests of 2019.

Opposition to the October Coup Prompts Apparent Military Concession

Popular opposition to the coup intensified in November 2021, promoted by the Resistance Committees, which had been set up by the Sudanese Professionals Association in 2019.  Strikes and civil disobedience took place across the country, and mass rallies were held with the slogan: 'No Negotiation, No Partnership, No Compromise'. The October military coup also met with a strong international condemnation. The US Administration called for a return to civilian rule and threatened to cut off US economic aid the World Bank froze a loan of 2 billion dollars, which had been agreed in March that year.

As a result of both internal resistance and external pressure the military leaders of the Sovereign Council offered some apparent concessions, whilst maintaining their effective control. The former Prime Minister Hamdok was released from prison and made a TV broadcast a month after his arrest. He annunced that he had reached an agreement with the leaders of the coup to avoid bloodshed. and put the country back on track towards a transition.

Other cabinet ministers would be released and he would return as Prime Minister heading a civilian government, so reinstating the principle of civil-military partnership. The main concessions Hamdok made in accepting the 14 point deal was that elections would be postponed to 2021. This arrangement was accepted provisionally by the US and western governments as a return to legitimate government, and also by the African Union Council - under pressure from the Arab Emirates and Egypt, allies of the military. Power in Sudan has in practice shifted further toward the military, who had achieved, with their militia allies, almost total representation on the Sovereign Council, and  more control over the bureaucracy.

After the deal was agreed 12 cabinet ministers who belonged to the Forces for Freedom bloc (a coalition of political parties and unions opposed to military rule) resigned, and the Communist Party, the Arab Baathist Party, the moderate Islamist National Unionist Party also condemned the compromise with the military. It is not surprising, therefore, that the Resistance Committees have denounced the deal agreed by Hamdok and called for intensified resistance. This call was met by demonstrations in Khartoum and other towns and  by the raising of barricades.

Sudan: The Generals Strike Back, The Economist, 30/10/2021, pp. 59-60

Provides a well informed summary of the context and nature of the October military coup.

See also: 'Sudan: Coup de Grace', The Economist, 27 November 2021, p. 55.

This analysis of the coup leaders' decision to reinstate Prime Minister Hamdok interprets this move as' the army tightening its grip on Sudan's political transition. 

Achcar, Gilbert, Sudan's Revolution at the Crossroads: A Year since Omar-al-Bashir's Fall from Power, Translated into English by Charles Goulden. Spanish and Arabic translations available., Le Monde Diplomatique, 2020

Achcar, a professor at the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, assesses the prospects for a successful outcome in Sudan, and notes the parallels with the earlier uprising in Eygpt and the 2019 movement in Algeria. He also comments on the deteriorating economic situation and the added problems created by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. But the outcome of the revolution depends largely on the very varied social and ideological groupings that fostered the revolution, and their present relationship with long established political forces. Achar provides an illuminating analysis. He also examines the different tendencies within the armed forces, whose role is crucial.

Al-Karib, Hala, The revolution in Sudan: let it fall, OpenDemocracy, 05/02/2019,

A brief overview of the factors that led to the revolution in April 2019 and the toppling of Omar al-Bashir.

Alneel, Muzan, The People of Sudan Don't Want to Share Power with their Military Oppressors, Jacobin, 24/11/2021,

This article starts by suggesting the popular resistance in Sudan led the military to make a deal with the civilian politicians they had jailed, but on terms ensuring military control.  It also notes the refusal by the resistance committees that led the 2019 revolution to accept power sharing. Muzan traces the evolution from the 2019 revolution to the coup, stressing that political parties had been dominant in the transition civilian government. He also comments on the economic problems, including very high inflation, which had led to popular unrest, which might have encouraged the coup plotters.

Arman, Yasir, The Sudanese Revolution: A Different Political Landscape and a New Generation Baptized in the Struggle for Change, The Zambakari Advisory Blog, Phoenix, AZ, The Zambakari Advisory, 2019

Arman surveys the social composition of the revolutionary nonviolent mass movement, seen as more inclusive than the previous uprisings since independence in 1956. In 2019 both rural and urban areas, students and professionals, political parties and civil society groups, as well as social activists engaged in resisting dams or land grabs or and other causes, joined in. The participation of some Islamists from both older and younger generations is significant. Arman also stresses the greater role played by women, and  suggests that the movement's discourse - embracing diversity, equal citizenship and anti-racism - could provide a new discourse for nation-building.

See also: Akashra, Yosra ‘Killing a student is killing a nation’, OpenDemocracy, 22 April 2016.

Explores how Sudanese universities have become the only space left to exercise freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

See also: Hale, Sondra, ‘Sudanese feminists, civil society, and the Islamist military’, OpenDemocracy, 12 February 2015.

Investigates the impact of NGOs and civil society participation of progressive women in Sudan in representing women and youth.

Awad, Nazik, After the revolution: Sudan’s women face backlash from Islamic fundamentalists, OpenDemocracy, 31/07/2019,

Detailed account of the Sudanese women activists who supported the revolution and contributed to ousting Omar al-Bashir in April 2019.

See also: Awad, Nazik, ‘Women’s stories from the frontline of Sudan’s revolution must be told’, OpenDemocracy, 20 March 2019.

Provides background on socio-economic conditions in Sudan and highlights women's leading  role in the revolution. Includes a direct link to  #SudanUprising which is relevant to understanding how the discourse about the revolution developed on social media.

Berridge, Willow, The Sudan Uprising and its possibilities: regional revolution, generational revolution, and an end to Islamist politics?, London School of Economics, 2019

Blog based on contribution to panel on 'Prospects for Democracy in Sudan' at LSE, 11 October 2019. Berridge compares the 2019 revolution with the 1964 and 1985 uprisings in Sudan, and assesses their failures to establish a long term democracy in the country.

See also: Berridge, W.J., '50 years on: Remembering Sudan's October Revolution', African Arguments, 20 0ctober 2014, pp. 16.

Berridge notes Sudan's status as 'a gateway between the Arab and African worlds', which means it is often overlooked in discussion of Arab civilian uprisings overthrowing military autocracies.  But long before the 'Arab Spring' of 2011, the October 1964 revolution overthrew a military dictator and brought in four years of parliamentary democracy.   The article suggests that Sudan did not join in the 2011 uprisings partly because the regime had learned lessons from 1964 and 1985.  It also explores the changes in opposition politics since the 1960s such as the new role of regional rebel movements, the mixed legacy of 1964, and the problems of creating a democracy after a revolution.

See also: Berridge, W.J, Civil Uprising in Modern Sudan: The 'Khartoum Springs' of 1964 and 1985, London, Bloomsbury Academic, 2016, pp. 304 (pb).

See also: Hasan, Yusuf Fadl, 'The Sudanese Revolution of October 1964', The Journal of Modern African Studies, vol. 5, no. 4, December 1967, pp. 491-509. Published online by Cambridge University Press: 11 November 2008. DOI:

Study by Sudanese historian of the first revolution after Sudan became an independent state.

Burke, Jason ; Salih, Zeinab Mohammed, First the despot fell, then the spy chief...and Sudan dares to dream, Observer, 14/4/2019, pp. 32-33

Covers the early days of the April 2019 revolution and the role of the Sudanese Professionals Association. Organizer of many of the protests, in negotiations with the military. Reprinted in Guardian Weekly, 19 April 2019, pp.10-12

Collins, Tom, Hamdok's Deal with Military Puts Sudan's Future in the Balance, African Business, issue November 2021, 2021

This is an informative article about the reasons for the Prime Minister's decision to accept the deal offered by the military a month after their October 2021 coup, and the terms of the agreement. Collins also notes the responses of political parties and the organized resistance on the streets. He notes that Russia was building a military base in ort Sudan and did not condemn the coup, and considers how far the Egyptian government might have prompted the coup.

Copnall, James, Sudan's Third Revolution, History Today, Vol. 69, issue 7, 07/07/2019,

Copnall notes that the revolt against President Omar-al-Bash ir is not the first in Sudan's history, but it is the first since Africa's former largest country split in two, when South Sudan became independent in 2011. He summarizes the events leading to the fall of Bashir. He also discusses the long term tensions between the Arab Islamist northern elite, who dominated politics, and the great variety of African peoples and cultures, a conflict revealed by the bloody suppression of unrest in Darfur from 2003. 

Elmahadi, Taariq, "We Are All Darfur” in Khartoum: A Conversation on the Sudan Uprising with Sara Elhassan, National Review of Black Politics, Vol. 1, issue 1, 2020, pp. 154-161

Elhassan regularly uses her social media platform to raise awareness of social and political conditions in Sudan. She became well known after the December 2018 protests led to the demand for Bashir to be deposed.

See Elhassan, Sara, ‘Revolution in Sudan: on the verge of civilian rule?’, Afropunk, 12 July 2019, available at

Elnaiem, Mohammed, Armed, unarmed and non-violent: the Sudanese resistance in Sudan’s 2018-2019 revolutionary uprising, Fletcher Forum of World Affairs 43, Vol. 43, issue 2, 2019, pp. 5-26

This article argues that the movement that led to the imprisonment of Bashir can only be properly understood in terms of the grassroots struggle that defined it. Elnaiem also argues that it was a multi-layered struggle and discusses the composition of the broader resistance and the historical legacy it built upon, as well as the obstacles to further progress.

See also: Elnaiem, Mohammed, (2019) ‘Sudan’s uprising a ‘people revolution’, Green Left Weekly, Issue 1209, pp. 14-15.

See also: de Waal, Alex, ‘What’s Next for Sudan’s Revolution’, Foreign Affairs, 23 April 2019.

Analyses the Sudanese revolution with an emphasis on its non-violent forms of resistance.

Malik, Nesrine, In Sudan, President Bashir is gone – but the shadow of his government remains, New Statesman, 18/04/2019,

Malik examines the 30 years of Bashir's dictatorial rule and comments on the lack of civil society leaders able to install a democratically elected government.

Mohammed, Sara, Sudan’s Third Uprising: Is It a Revolution?, The Nation, 25/01/2019,

Outlines the events that led to the overthrow of Bashir in 2019 and links them to the legacy of civil unrest, which overthrew two previous military dictatorships in 1964 and 1985. 

See also: Abbas, Reem, ‘Sudan’s Unfinished Revolution: The Dictator Is Gone, but the Fight Continues’, The Nation, 26 April 2019.

Nugdalla, Sarah, The Revolution Continues: Sudanese Women’s Activism, In Okech A. (eds) Gender, Protests and Political Change in Africa. Gender, Development and Social Change, Cham, Switzerland, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 107-130

This chapter examines how aspects of the Bashir regime's policy of Islamisation, control over women's bodies and concepts of  morality and respectability, prompted Sudanese women's activism after 1989.  It also explores how the political context has influenced space for activism, and the changing discourse about women's activism arising from the #FallThatIsAll movement.

See also: Gorani, Amel, ‘Sudanese women demand justice’, OpenDemocracy, 20 May 2011.

Amel Gorani reports the systematic use of sexual violence, torture, cruel and degrading treatment as one of the major security threats and tools of repression targeting women and communities all over Sudan.

See also: Bakhit, Rawa Gafar, ‘Women in #SudanRevolts: heritage of civil resistance’, OpenDemocracy, 19 July 2012

Explores how women have been active in the Sudanese civil resistance and non-violent protests

Porvan, Lucy ; Rowsome, Alice, Mothers of the Revolution, New Internationalist, 2020, pp. 65-71

Provides an overview of the Sudanese revolution and developments in 2020, but also illustrates the great variety of women involved in the protests and their different styles of politics (political parties, unionism, resistance committees, climate activism) through brief biographical sketches. The authors also interviewed a Nubian woman who had sent evidence of war crimes to Amnesty International and the International Criminal Court and a mechanic who finds protection in wearing men’s clothing.

Taha, Manal ; Tucker, Joseph, Dissecting Sudan's Coup, Washington, D.C., United State Institute for Peace - USIP, 2021

This interview with Joseph Tucker provides an immediate analysis of the October military coup, noting that steps had had been taken towards it over several months. The analysis also considers the regional and international context of the October 2021 coup and how the protests against military rule might develop. 

Tønnessen, Liv ; Al-Nagar, Samia, Patriarchy, politics and women’s activism in post-revolutionary Sudan, 2020, pp. 4

The authors argue that whilst Sudanese women were at the forefront of the uprising under the banner 'freedom, peace and justice', they were only marginally represented in the negotiations after Bashir's fall. They have also been sidelined in the process of creating a transitional government, though continuing to claim their right to be represented.  This report focuses on the 'patriarchal mentality behind and composition of the negotiations' and Sudanese women's demands.

Woldermariam, Michael ; Young, Alden, What Happens in Sudan Doesn’t Stay in Sudan, Foreign Affairs, 19/07/2019,

This is a political analysis of the possible ramifications of the Sudanese revolution across the Horn of Africa.

Zunes, Stephen, Sudan's 2019 Revolution: The Power of Civil Resistance, Washington D.C., International Center on Nonviolent Conflict , 2021, pp. 44

Zunes, a well known theorist of civil resistance and Middle East expert, interviewed activists and civil society groups involved in the movement to overthrow Omar as-Bashir to produce this study. He also interviewed journalists and academics who covered the movement.