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Repression and Activism among the Arab Spring’s First Movers: Evidence from Morocco’s February 20th Movement

  • Adria K. Lawrence


Why are some people willing to initiate protest against authoritarian regimes? How does repression affect their willingness to act? Drawing on data from the Arab Spring protests in Morocco, this article argues first that activism is passed down from one generation to the next: first movers often came from families that had been punished for opposing the regime in the past. Secondly, repression during the Arab Spring was also counterproductive: those connected to first movers via Facebook supported renewed pro-democracy protests when informed of the regime’s use of repression in 2011. A regime that jails and beats political dissidents creates incentives for its citizens to oppose it; these abuses can come back to haunt the regime long after repression occurs.

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Department of Political Science, Yale University (email: The author wishes to thank Leonardo Arriola, Lisa Blaydes, Nathan Brown, John Bullock, Daniel Butler, Julia Choucair, Thad Dunning, Amaney Jamal, Matthew Kocher, Timur Kuran, David Laitin, Audrey Latura, Luis Schiumerini, Susan Stokes, and participants at workshops at the University of California, Berkeley, Notre Dame University, Stanford University, Yale University and Tufts University. Data replication sets are available at and online appendices are available at



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Repression and Activism among the Arab Spring’s First Movers: Evidence from Morocco’s February 20th Movement

  • Adria K. Lawrence


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