13 January 2022
To Rebel or not to Rebel? Sectarian belonging and Political Change

PAVE webinar | Thursday, January 13, 2022

New session of the "Political participation in its “extreme” Middle Eastern context" webinar, organised by the FMSH and Ifpo for the PAVE project. Intervention of Adham Saouli, senior Lecturer, University of St Andrews.





Thursday, January 13 2022
5pm - 6.30pm


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Like all revolts, the Arab uprisings of the last decade have stirred passions, disrupted orders, and generated imaginations of better political futures. In the heterogeneous societies of Iraq and Lebanon, the 2019 uprisings promised new political orders. It was a rare and largely spontaneous episode/rebellion where both societies reclaimed their agency against a rotten political class and system, momentarily overcoming their sectarian and political divides. But then (and not unlike other Arab uprisings, even in homogeneous societies), the protest eroded. The question on whether people should continue to rebel or not resurfaced and coincided with the reproduction of politico-sectarian divides. Why have the uprisings failed to produce their desired goals? What role does sectarianism play in this failure?

To attribute the failure of the uprisings solely to sectarianism would be an exaggeration. But to dismiss its impact would be misleading. Treating sectarianism as a form of allegiance and devotion to a sectarian community, an identity group, this talk will explore four reasons that explain the failure of the uprisings in the two cases:

  1. Sectarian identities and national imaginations;
  2. Politico-sectarian clientelist networks;
  3. Nexus of domestic-International dynamics;
  4. and Normative contestations.        



Adham Saouli is Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the University of St Andrews. His disciplinary interests are in Comparative Politics and International Relations, with a focus on the Middle East region. Adopting a historical sociology approach, Saouli’s interests include state formation, politics and foreign policy of divided societies, and social movements. He is the author of the Arab State: Dilemmas of Late Formation (Routledge, 2012); Hezbollah: Socialisation and its Tragic Ironies (Edinburgh University Press, 2019); editor of Unfulfilled Aspirations: Middle Power Politics in the Middle East (Oxford University Press, 2020); and co-editor of The War for Syria: Regional and International Dimensions of the Syrian Uprisings (Routledge, 2019). He is the Editor of Disruptions, a book series on social movements and revolutions by Edinburgh University Press.





Political participation in its “extreme” Middle Eastern context

Despite the preponderance of research on violent extremism and prevention and control policies in general, the key concepts generated by this discipline are problematic because they are often normatively loaded and empirically imprecise. To provide a better understanding of the subject of violent extremism, both scientific and in public policies, we have chosen to engage in dialogue within this webinar, researchers, stakeholders and practitioners whom we call “from the inside”, who question the construction of radicalization and violent extremism within political relations in the MENA region.

Our objective is to constitute a new and original approach, from the bottom, to understand the different realities of violence, radicalization, violent extremism and terrorism, by comparing, confronting and criticizing the different public policies and the different approaches implemented to tackle the phenomenon of violent extremism in the studied states. Beyond radicalization and violent extremism, the question of civil, armed, military and political engagement and participation since the Arab revolts will be posed in an articulation between the local, the national and the global.

We seek to understand how the relations between political actors within states located in the MENA region are articulated with regional issues; how past and present political conflicts are played out between national actors and permanently redraw the map of political and community affiliations, both in discourse and in practice. Local, national and regional contexts will thus be studied as catalysts for political relations between (state and non-state) actors in the region.

Webinar format and research axes

On the basis of a meeting every three weeks, we will meet starting from April 2021 around a communication based on a country research work, complemented by the intervention of an activist, practitioner or stakeholder shedding light on the issues raised, and leaving plenty of room for collective discussion.

Several themes and areas of research will be addressed during the sessions:

Area 1. Commitment, governance and policies

  • Militant careers, how does one become a political actor in this region of the world? What is political activism built on or what is the trajectory of political actors in the countries of the region?
  • The relations between dominant political actors, the opposition and marginalization?
  • Relationship between political institution, partisan institution and religious institution (duplication, alliances, conflicts…)?
  • Modes of government, political discourse and practices…

Area 2. Law, fight against terrorism and penitentiary institution

  • The impact of anti-terrorism laws on the treatment of violent extremism and on the organization of prisons: emergence, strengthening and extension of a specific legal framework reconfiguring the relations between justice, police, army and intelligence.

Area 3. media treatment of political and power relations

Area 4. Citizenship vs. sectarianism: public action, self-awareness, new ways of participation and political organization

The webinar will be held in the three languages, Arabic, English and French.

Session 1

April, 22th from 5:00 to 6:30 PM CET

Virtual Citizenship: Saudis in Clubhouse by Professor Madawi Al-Rasheed

Session 2

May, 6th from 5:00 to 6:30 PM CET

Interventions by Iyad Kallas and Wassim Naboulsi


Steering Committee


In partnership with Ifpo.


The PAVE project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870769.
The content provided in this webinar reflects the author’s views only. Neither the Research Executive Agency (REA) nor the European Commission are responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.
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PAVE Project | Webinar

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PAVE | Preventing and Addressing Violent Extremism through Community Resilience in the Balkans and MENA
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