Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
How and when do individuals resist oppressive regimes? This illuminating book examines the intricacies of civil resistance within jihadist proto-states. The study bridges the scholarships on jihadist terrorism, rebel governance, and non-violent civil resistance. It presents a comparative study of Mali, Iraq, and Yemen, supplemented by a case study of civil resistance against jihadist rebel groups in Syria. The latter draws on a variety of sources, including surveys, interviews, and a new dataset. The authors’ argument, backed by empirical evidence, highlights a crucial factor shaping resistance: whether or not the jihadist proto-state respects local customs and norms. When it does not, as in Mali and Iraq, citizens are more likely to oppose its rule. Instead, in Yemen, where governance was more indirect through local actors, resistance was rare or absent. Beyond this, grievances can manifest themselves as non-violent or violent, depending on the social structure. In Mali, resource mobilization capacities favored non-violent resistance, whereas in Iraq they were channeled through tribal structures, whose customs for conflict resolution and access to arms were more conducive to violent resistance. Further support for this argument comes from Syria, where individuals with negative perceptions of foreign fighters were more likely to engage in resistance activities. A key contribution of this book is to showcase diverse forms of resistance under repressive regimes, such as non-cooperation (working at a slower pace, refusing to pay taxes or to send children to school) or breaking rules (e.g., continuing to smoke and listen to music). Through their fine-grained research design, Svensson et al. unearth dynamics often obscured in cross-country analyses and lost when focusing only on maximalist claims.