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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 3: Diasporas, Political Diasporas and Expatriate Groups


3.1   The Growing Political Role of Diaspora and Expatriate Opposition Groups

The term “diaspora” is based on the Greek term “speiro,” meaning “to sow” and the preposition “dia,” meaning “over.” The Greeks understood the term to mean migration and colonization. The Septuagint (the earliest extant Greek translation of the Old Testament from the original Hebrew which was produced near the middle of the 3rd century BCE) translated Deuteronomy 28:25 as follows: “Thou shalt be a diaspora in all kingdoms of the earth.”1

Today, the term “diaspora” refers not only to such classic groups as Jews, Greeks, Armenians or Italians but also to a much wider category of people. This reflects global phenomena such as politically motivated uprooting, the voluntary migration of populations, global communications and transport. The term has acquired a broad semantic domain and now encompasses a number of groups such as political refugees, alien residents, guest workers, immigrants, expellees, overseas communities and ethnic and racial minorities.2 Chander defined “diaspora” as “that part of a people, dispersed in one or more countries other than its homeland, that maintains a feeling of transnational community among a people and its homeland.”3 Robin Cohen proposed a typology of diasporas each of which has been caused by a different set of circumstances. These are, victim diasporas, labor and imperial diasporas, trade diasporas, cultural diasporas and global-deterritorialized diasporas. Cohen noted that these types of diasporas may overlap and may change character over time.4

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