Authoritarianism, Digital Dissidence and Grassroots Media in the Middle East and North Africa region

Author(s) Josepha Wessels
Contact Josepha Wessels, Malmö University, 205 06 Malmö, Sweden. E-mail:
Issue CyberOrient, Vol. 13, Iss. 1, 2019, pp. 4-27
Published December 20, 2019
Type Editorial
Abstract As an introduction to this special issue of CyberOrient, this text provides an insight into ongoing research in studies of digital layers of revolutions, digital communication, and dissidence in the Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) region. Providing a short overview of the latest developments of uprisings and street demonstrations in the region, the text reflects on similarities and differences between the various revolts currently taking place. Digital dissidence is part and parcel of these revolts. Zooming in on the Syrian case, this article assesses how the Syrian revolution and its digital components developed into the humanitarian crisis it has become after nine years of violence. The article then shortly reflects on the Sudanese revolution of 2019, which is seemingly the most successful uprising in the Arab world thanks to a strong digital component, as noted in the words of its own revolutionaries. This text then introduces two contributions to this special issue focused on, respectively, Egypt and the occupied Palestinian territories. The contest between what Layla Shereen Sakr calls “techies on the ground” and repressive regimes is compared to that of a race between a hare and a turtle, in which the techies continuously circumvent the attempts by the repressive regimes to curtail their means of digital communication and capacity for organizing collective action.
Keywords Syria, Egypt, Palestine, Digital Dissidence, MENA region, Arab Revolts, Sudan