Panel 6e The Everyday Construction of Authoritarianism in the Middle East

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Chair: Dr Jordi Tejel, Research Professor, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Paper 1: Dangerous Liaisons under Qassem’s Rule: The Alliance Between the State and the Leftist Student Body in Iraq, 1958-1963
Dr Jordi Tejel, Research Professor, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

During the interwar era students in Iraq consolidated their centrality in the political scene despite their low numbers. Yet tensions around the identity of the Iraqi state (Iraqi nationalism/Pan-Arab nationalism) were salient. Ultimately, under the control of the Communist party, the “progressive forces” became hegemonic first within colleges and then within the university. Despite its authoritarian tendencies, the leftist students and intellectuals backed Qassem’s regime until its downfall. Aware of the students’ capacity of mobilization, Qassem sought in turn to co-opt the intellectuals and students opening the door of the Baghdad University to larger sections of the Iraqi society. Drawing from a wide range of materials (diplomatic archives, Unions’ records, etc.) and disciplines (history, political science and sociology), the paper will reflect on the interactions between the state and the university milieu which allowed for the “everyday constructions” of the authoritarian rule under and beyond Qassem’s regime. >> download the paper

Paper 2: ‘Army-Youth Together’: Marxism, Nationalism and Authoritarianism in Turkey, 1960-1971
Murat Yilmaz, Research Assistant and PhD candidate, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

In 1950 the Democratic Party (PD) of Adnan Menderes won the elections ahead of the Republican People’s Party, founded by Mustafa Kemal. However, the policies of the PD in the 1950s, specifically the gradual islamization of Turkish society and the suppression of leftist forces, had angered leftist intellectuals and some student communities. The government of Adnan Menderes was subsequently overthrown by a military coup in 1960. This coup was called for and supported by the students and the leftist intellectuals in order to put Turkey back on the right track of kemalist reforms. In spite of the alliance between the students and the army, the tensions within the latter led to a second military coup in 1971, this time directed against the leftist forces. The purpose of this paper – based on archival sources and the activist press – is to reassess the 1960s in order to analyze how effectively and paradoxically the “progressive forces” contributed to the consolidation of military power and authoritarianism in Turkey in the second half of the twentieth century. >> download the paper

Paper 3The Egyptian Left, the Question of Authoritarianism, and the Nasser to Sadat Transition
Hassan Thuillard, PhD candidate and Research Assistant, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva

Egyptian university protest flared up in the aftermath of the Naksah (1967), as the military regime failed to live up to the confidence invested in it. Spearheaded by the left, the student movement started asking for democratic reforms and for an end to the police-state. But when “progressive” student opposition gained momentum as Nasser was succeeded by Sadat and his abhorred “Infitāḥ” policies, the same Nasser whose authoritarian regime the left had criticised after the Naksah became an almost hagiographic literary topos in the writings of the leftist opposition. The latter thus found itself alternately calling for true democracy and praising the principal architect of Egyptian authoritarianism. This paper analyses the left’s ambiguous stances towards “authoritarianism” and “democracy” under Sadat. It also explores how these ambiguities might have contributed to the rise of the Islamist wave. >> download the paper

Paper 4Resisting the British Authorities: Ordinary Britons in Revolutionary Egypt, 1919-22
Dr Lanver Mak, Visiting Fellow, Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London

Recent momentous events bring to mind Egypt’s revolutions of 1919-22 and 1952. Similar to contemporary developments, the revolution of 1919-22 was marked by Egyptians from many walks of life seeking to overthrow a decades-old regime through mass demonstrations. One aspect of the revolution’s historical narrative that has received little attention is the resentment of Egypt’s ‘ordinary’ Britons towards the governing British authorities as they asserted their own identity apart from the political and military elite. This paper discusses the grievances of Egypt’s ‘ordinary’ Britons that developed from the delay in demobilising the large number of British troops following the First World War, their growing anxiety owing to the imminent abolition of the capitulations, and their arduous pursuit of compensation for the deaths or injuries of loved ones due to the violent outbreaks.

These are abridged versions of the abstracts submitted by  the presenters.
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