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Expat-ing Democracy

Dissidents, Technology, and Democratic Discourse in the Middle East


Nir T. Boms

Taking Syria and Iran as case studies, this book explores how expatriate groups have used tools such as technology and new media to influence political discourse and to irrevocably alter the political dynamics both in their home countries and in the Middle East at large. Based on over 60 in-depth interviews with dissidents, expat leaders, journalists and researchers from Syria and Iran that were conducted both before and after the Arab Spring, the author examines the tripartite relationship between technology, dissent and democratization. This approach offers a unique perspective on contemporary geopolitics in the Middle East and considers possible scenarios for the future of the region.
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Chapter 2: The Challenge of Democratization and the Middle East


2.1   Universal Rights and Democracy Promotion: Is Democracy a Philosophy for All?

Raising the question of democratization is to accept the conceptual underpinnings and legitimacy of democracy. When it comes to democratization in the Middle East, this acceptance is associated with a certain political understanding or, at least, a philosophical believe that justifies an attempt to change an existing political structure, which has dominated the region for decades. Although this is not the primary focus of my work, it is important to understand the philosophical bases and the motivations shared by those who advance the set of ideas and values associated with the word “democracy.” Investigating the factors that drive “democratization” will shed some light not only on the important role of those who work for this cause on behalf of governments or international organizations, but also on the expatriate groups who often spread these ideas.

Democracy, I will argue, has gradually grown to be a “world value,” and has grown from an old idea inspired by a few, to a way of life sought after by many.1

From the inception of democratic thinking, its founders saw it as a new paradigm of governance, which focused on individual rights, mainly those of civil equality, justice, and equal opportunity. Such an approach challenged the way states functioned, mainly as authoritarian and highly centralized organs that were not open to decision sharing or to limited executive power.

Although democracy as a system...

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