Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Peter Schulman

Committee Member

Cathy Wu

Committee Member

Fran Hassencahl


During the “Arab Spring” the Arab world witnessed a wave of uprisings. As a result of these anti-government movements, four governments of Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen were overthrown, three governments of Bahrain, Jordan, and to some points Saudi Arabia were faced with critical difficulties, and one government ,Syria, experienced domestic war. All these happened while some other Middle Eastern countries remained stable. Yet, the remaining questions are: how did these protests emerge? How was the collective identity which is essential for the social movements created? Why were some of these movements successful in overthrowing the regime while the others failed? What factors were involved in the success or failure of these social movements? In order to answer these questions this study reviews the mainstream theories of social movements to examine whether any of these theories are applicable to the case of MENA and whether they can explain the reason behind the formation of movements. This research argues that the traditional theories of social movements fall short in explaining the chaos in the MENA region as well as the reasons behind the formation of uprisings. Accordingly, by in depth analysis of three case studies of Tunisia, Egypt, and Bahrain and through comparing different involved countries in the Arab Spring, this study introduces four existing challenges in the MENA region. Later by defining relevant sub-categories for each challenge, institutional factors, facilitators, and determiners are recognized. Finally, by defining a model, this study claims that the first three challenges, secularism/Islamism, economic, and ethnic/tribal division are the reason behind the formation of social movements of MENA and the last challenge, administrative, sheds light on the variation of outcome of the movements in this region.


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