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CMENAS Colloquium Series. The Unintended Consequences of International Support for Civil Resistance Campaigns: Evidence from Syria

Date(s) - 11/02/2020
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm

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Free USD
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Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Michigan

Matthew Cebul Wieser Center Emerging Democracies Postdoctoral Fellow, University of Michigan

The 2020 CMENAS Colloquium Series theme is “The Arab Spring: 10 Years Later.”
(Please register at; a Zoom link will be emailed to you the day of the event.)

About the Presentation:
How does international engagement influence the course of nonviolent campaigns against repressive dictatorships? In this week’s CMENAS colloquium, Matthew Cebul considers this question in the aftermath of the 2011 Syrian Revolution. Matthew contends that international encouragement for peaceful protest may shape protesters’ behavior in ways that counterintuitively increase the likelihood of violent conflict onset, with implications for ongoing U.S. efforts to support pro-democracy movements.

About the Speaker:
Matthew Cebul is a WCED Postdoctoral Fellow for 2019-21. His research agenda lies at the intersection of international security and comparative politics, with a regional focus on the Middle East. Matthew’s dissertation and book project, “Repression and Rebellion in the Shadow of Foreign Intervention,” investigates two puzzling aspects of mass resistance to autocratic regimes: (1) why opposition mobilization sometimes persists despite extreme repression; and (2) why some resistance movements remain nonviolent, while others embrace armed rebellion. Whereas existing scholarship attributes this variation to a number of domestic factors, Matthew analyzes how the possibility of international support conditions the opposition’s response to regime violence. Drawing on original interview and survey data from the 2011 Syrian Revolution, the project reveals a troubling relationship: while the expectation of foreign support can encourage nonviolent mobilization, emboldened movements are also more likely to experience excessive exposure to repression, and are consequently at greater risk of violent radicalization. As a postdoctoral fellow, Matthew will continue to develop his book manuscript, incorporating data from both contemporary and historical cases of resistance to autocracy. He will also advance a series of related projects, including research exploring how dissidents assess the likelihood of repression, the effects of sectarian geographies on the efficacy of repression, and U.S. support for democratization as a function of opposition structure.

If there is anything we can do to make this event accessible to you, please contact us. Please be aware that advance notice is necessary as some accommodations may require more time for the university to arrange. Contact: Kristin Waterbury at

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