In This Review
The Arab Spring Abroad: Diaspora Activism Against Authoritarian Regimes

The Arab Spring Abroad: Diaspora Activism Against Authoritarian Regimes

By Dana M. Moss

Cambridge University Press, 2021, 272 pp.

This edifying study focuses on the Libyan, Syrian, and Yemeni communities in the United Kingdom and the United States before and during the 2011 uprisings in their countries of origin. Moss argues that the reach of transnational repression—exemplified by the late Libyan dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi’s blood-thirsty hunt for “stray dogs” around the world—and by divisions in the diaspora that parallel social fissures in the home country, such as those between Syrian Kurds and Syrian Arabs, shape the politics of exile and émigré communities. The consequences become clear when the autocrat back home loses control. As Moss shows, Libyans abroad were able to raise and send money to support the rebellion and found a largely sympathetic hearing in their host countries as they lobbied for support; Syrians abroad were typically less affluent and host governments less predisposed to support opposition to the teetering regime; Yemenis were even less able to provide resources or draw attention to their compatriots’ cause. In no case, however, were these diaspora activists successful in abetting sustained political transitions in any of their three home countries. Moss might have drawn more on the long and largely inglorious history of exile politics elsewhere. Nonetheless, this book memorably portrays many of those who strive for influence in faraway homes they hardly know.