Thickening Autocracy in a Non-Democratic State: Changing Demographics in Syria to Maintain Authority

In: Arab Law Quarterly
Author: Ghuna Bdiwi1
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  • 1 University of Ottawa, 75 Laurier Avenue East, Ottawa, ON, Canada K1N 6N5
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This article analyses several authoritarian practices in Syria since 1971 and demonstrates that, since the 2011 uprising, its authoritarian regime has successfully remained resilient instead of collapsing. The post-2011 Syrian Government under Al-Assad is no longer the Ba`thist government of old, albeit still autocratic but adept at adapting to hostile changing political environments. Al-Assad’s regime no longer relies on Ba’ath Party loyalty and appearances of legitimacy but both during and post-war has depended more on social re-engineering to sustain its political, economic power. The Syria example demonstrates that, when threatened, authoritarian regimes may thicken the layers of their autocratic rule to sustain their grip on power, even changing the composition of its citizenry to create a new population to rule. We demonstrate how the Syrian Government has used urban planning, housing, and property laws to re-engineer its demographics so that friendly foreign nationals will receive permanent citizenship and displace indigenous citizens.

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