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MENA Migrations: State-Diaspora Relations

Session X-17, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, December 3 at 5:30 pm

Panel Description
This panel intends to explore the dynamics between sending states and their migrants. Some founding scholars in the field of diaspora studies believe diasporas are an extension of the homeland, creating symbiotic relations among the two entities (Mercer 1994; Brah 1996). Others, however, argue that there are inherent tensions among the two, effectively excluding the migrant from the homeland’s national imaginary (Tölölyan 1991, 1996). On this panel, we discuss the ways sending MENA states interact with existing diasporas and take measures in the process of diaspora formation. The central questions of this panel are: How do migration policies implemented by non-democratic MENA states affect diasporans and diaspora formation? What are the ways sending states maintain their relationship with diasporas? The papers on this panel will attempt to answer these questions by analyzing sending states’ diaspora-facing discourse, strategies of repression contributing to diaspora formation, and transnational coercive measures targeting diasporas in the interest of the homeland state. We seek to offer a transnational, comparative, and historical account on this topic by focusing on countries like Turkey, Morocco, and Iran.
International Relations/Affairs
Political Science
Religious Studies/Theology
  • In the 2010s, Iranians, Egyptians, and Turks rose up in revolutionary social movements as a protest to their nation’s corrupt privatization, authoritarian rule, and crony capitalist policies. In response to the dissidents, the governments intensified the persecution of the intelligentsia in the shape of mass incarceration and control over university syllabi, books, and newspaper publications. This securitization then developed into control over personal freedoms in public and cyber spaces, which inevitably led to forced mass migration and exile of the intelligentsia. In this paper, I will be presenting my analysis of newspaper articles, social media posts, and talks given by members of the government, such as presidents, prime ministers, and prominent leaders like Iran’s Supreme Leader that were published in the 2010s in the wake of their countries’ mass-protests. Through this analysis, I shed light on the ways the ruling elite labeled dissidents as marauders, terrorists, and foreign agents to ostrasize them and justify the brutal crackdown against them. I will be arguing that governments and ruling forces used divisive language to control the public sphere, marginalize, target, and alienate dissident bodies to remove them from their countries’ national imaginary, contest their belonging to their homeland, and exclude them from being a national. I will be analyzing these sources using critical discourse analysis, tracing the impacts of the dominant discourse on the social reality of protesters. These processes, I then argue, facilitated the mass-migration of dissident intellectuals–as they were dismissed, banned, or jailed in great numbers–and created a new wave of mass-migration.
  • Over the last decades, state repression has been studied widely across different contexts, granting insights into the strategies that states use to coerce target populations within their borders. A burgeoning literature now focuses on transnational repression, exploring authoritarian regimes' ability to extend the long arm of the state into transnational immigrant communities, or diasporas. I contribute to this literature by shedding light on the phenomenon of transnational repression through a historical case study of Turkish state repression abroad. Existing accounts fail to consider historical trajectories of transnational repression and thus overlook dynamics that shape coercive actions in the diaspora over time. By comparing transnational repression over two authoritarian periods – namely transnational repression during the military regime of the 1980s and the current authoritarian regime under the AKP – I trace the evolution of the state's repressive policies and practices towards its citizens abroad. Through the use of archival data, ethnography, and semi-structured interviews with members of Turkey's diasporas in Germany, I show that the state's coercive capacity is shaped by historical legacies, impacting its ability to repress dissent in the diaspora. Taking changing strategies and varying targets of repression over time into consideration, the within-case study demonstrates repression dynamics over time and provides an in-depth explanation as to why and how the AKP has accumulated extensive transnational coercive capabilities since coming to power. Thus, the paper contributes to our understanding of transnational repression by highlighting the role that time plays in how the states’ coercive power is perceived across borders.
  • This paper looks at the inter and intra-racialization dynamics embedded in hyper-exploitative capital accumulation regime in West Istanbul, a global metropolis hosting almost one million Syrian refugees and millions of internally displaced Kurds. By looking at the neighbourhoods adjacent to manufacturing or organized industrial sites, where subsequent waves of migrants/refugees have chosen to migrate into, the paper attempts to add nuance to analytic framing of host-refugee binary. This work will share findings from a preliminary phase of fieldwork that investigated the processes of racialization among Syrians, Kurdish population and Turks in the urban context where encounters in the production spaces (workplaces) and reproduction sites (neighbourhoods, locations of leisure and apartment buildings) flow out of simple host-newcomer tension and create more hybrid racialization dynamics. It also attempts to add depth to the study of racialization by bringing together the ideational mechanisms and the logic of capital accumulation in urban context, in contemporary Turkey.