Autocracy, Iran and Religious Transformation in Syria

Main Article Content

Line Khatib


The institutionalization, oversight, and regulation of religion and religious leaders in Syria is not new, rather it has been an ongoing part of the autocratic regimes’ attempts to control the powerful religious realm. But mere regulation, in the form of a mix of co-optation, accommodation and restriction, is no longer enough to achieve this aim in light of the legitimacy crisis of the Bashar al-Asad regime since 2011 and the ensuing Iranian intervention in the country since 2013. These shifts in the political context have prompted the regime and its allies to provoke an historic and symbolic rupture in the country’s religious realm, in an attempt to create and embed new forces and centers of authority and power, to reformulate problems, and to dilute the legacy and feelings of historical entitlement of Syria’s majority, with the ultimate aim of shoring up the regime.

Keywords: Autocracy, Iran, Bashar al-Asad, Ulama, Sunni Islam

Article Details

Author Biography

Line Khatib

Line Khatib is an academic with a background in Comparative Politics, Islamic Studies, and Middle Eastern studies. Her research sheds light on the challenges facing democratic activism in authoritarian contexts. Her latest work, Quest for Democracy, removes the veil about liberal democratic groups and actors in the Middle East region through a detailed analysis that presents democratic activism across generations. The purpose of her work is to re-situate and to shed light on an overlooked and often dismissed movement, in an attempt to provoke a re-evaluation of the existing narrative about the ubiquity and durability of authoritarianism in the MENA region.