This presentation addresses how and why significant popular mobilization in Syria took off in ‘peripheral’ Dar’a. Informed by social movement theory, the paper focuses on the province’s dense social networks involving clans, (circular) labour migration, cross-border movements, and crime. It is argued that Dar’a’s social networks served as a site where nonconforming views on Ba’ath subordination could develop and be shared; they contributed to the transfer, circulation and interpretation of information whereby the shifting opportunities emanating from events in the region were recognized, and the regime’s threats were framed in ways that compelled people to act; they provided an important sense of solidarity and presented the background against which recruitment for mobilization took place; and they provided key skills and resources for mobilization to be effective. Thanks to their miscibility, Dar’a’s dense social networks largely substituted for the role attributed to “brokers”, and this way managed to effectively connect individuals of different origins and strata in an otherwise prohibitive authoritarian context.
Reinoud Leenders is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Amsterdam. He formerly worked as Middle East analyst for the International Crisis Group based in Beirut (2002-2005). His research interests include Middle East politics generally and Syria, Lebanon and Iraq in particular, and focuses on authoritarian governance, corruption, armed conflict and refugee issues. His most recent publications include: Spoils of Truce: Corruption and Institution-Building in Post-War Lebanon (Cornell University Press October 2012) and (with Steven Heydemann -eds) Middle East Authoritarianisms: Governance, Contestation, and Regime Resilience in Syria and Iran (Stanford University Press October 2012).
Kjetil Selvik is researcher at Fafo, where he works on the Middle East, Comparative politics, Political economy and Contemporary Islam.