Author Biography

Ioana Emy Matesan is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Political Science at Syracuse University. She received her BA in Political Science and Economics from Monmouth College and her MA in Political Science from Arizona State University. Her research interests focus on international security, political violence, Islamist movements, and Middle East politics. At Syracuse University she has been involved in a variety of research initiatives focused on conflict and international security, including the Spoilers of Peace Project (in the Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration), the Global Black Spots Research Project (in the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs), and the Project on Post-Conflict Justice and Islam (in the Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism). Her research has appeared in Nations and Nationalism and The National Strategy Forum Review. She is a recipient of the Hassan Yabroudi Award for best graduate paper in Middle Eastern Studies at Syracuse University and the Hardt Graduate Fellowship in Religion, Conflict, and Peace Studies from the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict at Arizona State University.



Subject Area Keywords

Democracy and democatization, Middle East, Palestine, Political violence


The revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt created a contagion effect that inspired a series of uprisings by sending two signals: first, that even entrenched authoritarian regimes are vulnerable; and second, that nonviolent tactics can be effective in bringing about dramatic political changes. Subsequent developments, especially in Libya and Syria, convoluted these messages. Nonetheless, the political openings and the electoral victory of Islamists in Egypt and Tunisia continue to send the signal to many Islamist opposition groups that nonviolent means and participation in politics can be effective ways to produce political change. The chance of gaining power through electoral means can give Islamists strong incentives to join in the demands for democratic institutions and change their stance towards political participation. The appeal of nonviolent tactics, however, is undermined when external threats surpass domestic considerations. When the primary concern of the public is about outside threats and the main enemy is external rather than a domestic despot, the impact of the Arab Spring on views regarding the efficacy of nonviolent tactics is diminished. Similarly, when an Islamic group is primarily concerned with the "far enemy," the incentives for moderation offered by political participation are undermined.