GLD Yale Working Papers

Legal Pluralism In North Sinai: Mapping The rise Of Non-State Islamic Courts

Mara Revkin


The concept of legal pluralism, defined as the coexistence of multiple legal orders within a common geographical area, is underutilized in analysis of revolutionary and transitional change in the Middle East, but nonetheless offers a powerful framework for explaining how and why states lose their monopoly on the production and enforcement of law. Nowhere is the significance of legal pluralism more apparent than in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, where non-state shari‘a courts emerged in the post-revolutionary security vacuum in 2011 and quickly established themselves as the most credible providers of law and order in areas of North Sinai that had been largely abandoned by the Egyptian government. In addition to challenging the sovereignty of the Egyptian state, shari‘a courts also destabilized the Bedouin system of pre-Islamic customary law (‘urf) that has historically regulated tribal affairs in the absence of a strong central government in the Sinai Peninsula.

This paper, based on field research conducted in the governorate of North Sinai in August 2013, attempts to map the triadic interactions between the three distinct legal systems — shari‘a, ‘urf, and state — that coexisted and competed within the same territorial area during the period of time from the January 2011 revolution until September 2013. Using an interdisciplinary approach that combines theories of legal pluralism and historical institutionalism, this paper first identifies two primary historical explanations for the emergence of shari‘a courts: (1) the Islamizing effects of state-sponsored development and labor migration policies on Bedouin society in North Sinai starting in the 1980s; and (2) growing disillusionment with state and tribal judiciaries viewed as complicit in the authoritarianism of former president Hosni Mubarak’s government. Second, this paper addresses the resurgence of militant Salafism in North Sinai following the Egyptian military’s return to power in July 2013 and argues that the subsequent exclusion of moderate Islamists from the formal political process has had the effect of channeling opposition activity into non-state institutions, including shari‘a courts, which are increasingly functioning as platforms for resistance against government authorities.


The 2009 Communal Charter and Local Service Delivery in Morocco

Janine Clark


In 2008, Morocco issued a new Communal Charter (implemented in 2009) and, with it, decentralization formally became the cornerstone of Morocco’s economic and political reform.  The Charter represents the culmination not only of the regime’s regionalization plan – the primary intention of which is to allow the peoples and institutions of the disputed Western Sahara to manage their own affairs while remaining under Moroccan sovereignty – but also of reforms that have been made since the late 1990s to promote the local level as a central component of their implementation. The Charter devolves political power to municipalities, thereby reducing the supervisory powers of the Ministry of Interior over municipal affairs. The Charter thus married democratization with development and was issued with much fanfare.  Yet service delivery continues to be highly uneven in Morocco, both between and within regions. The results of this report are based on in-depth research conducted in seven municipalities, representing 50% of the regions in Morocco.

War-Making, State-Making, and Non-State Power in Iraq

Ariel Ahram


This paper examines the role of coercion in the history of Iraqi state formation. It contends that the twin processes of war- making, competition in a highly militarized regional system, and state-making, suppression of significant internal challengers, shaped the way the Iraqi state dealt with society and led to a state that constantly sought to gain a monopoly over the use of violence and eliminate armed non-state actors. This trajectory is rare in much of the developing world, where many states have accommodated or even encouraged armed non-state actors to provide local security. The interaction between insecure regimes, powerful societal actors, and imperialist interventions, spurred Iraq’s leaders to augment and centralize their coercive power. The added element of regional and international rivalries meant that the Iraqi state could not permit non-state actors to have access to the means of violence; when they did, the results were disastrous. This process culminated in the emergence of the hyper-militarized Ba’th society, where nearly one in twenty Iraqis were associated with the state security forces. At the same time, since the fall of the Ba’th in 2003, the Iraqi state has struggled to assert coercive power over society, reverting to an older form of bargaining between state and armed non-state actors.










The 2015 GLD Yale Working Paper Series is supported by Yale University and the Moulay Hicham Foundation.