Working Paper Series

Al-Malalha neighborhood in Arish, Northern Sinai (Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy, taken on 30 September 2006).

Al-Malalha neighborhood in Arish, Northern Sinai (Photo by Hossam el-Hamalawy, taken on 30 September 2006).

“Legal Pluralism in North Sinai: Mapping the Rise of Non-State Islamic Courts”
Mara Revkin
May 11, 2015

In the aftermath of Egypt’s 2011 revolution, unofficial sharia courts took advantage of the resulting security vacuum in the Sinai Peninsula to establish themselves as the most credible providers of law and order in areas that had been effectively abandoned by the Egyptian government.  In addition to challenging the sovereignty of the Egyptian state, shari‘a courts also destabilized the Bedouin system of pre-Islamic customary law (‘urf) that has historically regulated tribal affairs in the absence of effective government institutions.  This paper, based on field research and interviews conducted in the governorate of North Sinai in August 2013, attempts to map the triadic interactions between the three distinct legal systems—shari‘a, ‘urf, and state—that coexisted and competed within the same territorial jurisdiction during the period of time from the January 2011 revolution until September 2013.  First, I suggest two primary historical explanations for the emergence of shari‘a courts: (1) the Islamizing effects of state-sponsored development and labor migration policies on Bedouin society in North Sinai starting in the 1980s; and (2) growing disillusionment with state and tribal judiciaries viewed as complicit in the authoritarianism of former president Hosni Mubarak’s government. Second, I address the resurgence of militant Salafism in North Sinai following the Egyptian military’s return to power in July 2013 and argue that the subsequent exclusion of moderate Islamists from the political process has had the effect of redirecting Islamist opposition activity away from electoral politics and toward non-state actors, including not only peaceful Salafi groups but also militant jihadists affiliated with the Islamic State (IS). 

Janine Clark paper series photo

“The 2009 Communal Charter and Local Service Delivery in Morocco”
Janine A. Clark
March 27, 2015

In 2008, Morocco issued a new Communal Charter (implemented in 2009) and, with it, decentralization formally became the cornerstone of Morocco’s economic and political reform.  The Charter represents the culmination not only of the regime’s regionalization plan – the primary intention of which is to allow the peoples and institutions of the disputed Western Sahara to manage their own affairs while remaining under Moroccan sovereignty – but also of reforms that have been made since the late 1990s to promote the local level as a central component of their implementation. The Charter devolves political power to municipalities, thereby reducing the supervisory powers of the Ministry of Interior over municipal affairs. The Charter thus married democratization with development and was issued with much fanfare.  Yet service delivery continues to be highly uneven in Morocco, both between and within regions. The results of this report are based on in-depth research conducted in seven municipalities, representing 50% of the regions in Morocco.

Ariel Ahram working paper photo

“War-Making, State-Making, and Non-State Power in Iraq”
Ariel Ahram
March 18, 2015

This paper examines the role of coercion in the history of Iraqi state formation. It contends that the twin processes of war- making, competition in a highly militarized regional system, and state-making, suppression of significant internal challengers, shaped the way the Iraqi state dealt with society and led to a state that constantly sought to gain a monopoly over the use of violence and eliminate armed non-state actors. This trajectory is rare in much of the developing world, where many states have accommodated or even encouraged armed non-state actors to provide local security. The interaction between insecure regimes, powerful societal actors, and imperialist interventions, spurred Iraq’s leaders to augment and centralize their coercive power. The added element of regional and international rivalries meant that the Iraqi state could not permit non-state actors to have access to the means of violence; when they did, the results were disastrous. This process culminated in the emergence of the hyper-militarized Ba’th society, where nearly one in twenty Iraqis were associated with the state security forces. At the same time, since the fall of the Ba’th in 2003, the Iraqi state has struggled to assert coercive power over society, reverting to an older form of bargaining between state and armed non-state actors.