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Marginalization . . . is a condition resulting from prolonged functional superfluousness. [Marginals] are deprived of virtually all the roles of which functioning society is composed. . . . Considered by the rest of the population as pariahs, morally and even perhaps biologically distinctive, they . . . remain more or less permanently on the perimeters of society. . . .(1)

"Globalization" is here taken to mean the process through which economics, politics and technology unleash forces that increasingly make the societies of our world not only more interconnected but also more susceptible to similar experiences. Among such experiences is violent conflict in the context of rapid socio-economic-political change. Neoliberal economic strategies, which figure so prominently in globalizing trends, are frequently blamed for much of today's violence in developing areas. Indeed, some would agree with Pierre Bourdieu's characterization of neoliberalism as an "infernal machine" whose tentacles must produce structural violence wherever they reach.(2)

This sweeping stand is unsatisfactory, begging the questions of how and why neo-liberal globalization may generate conflicts and ignoring the patently obvious fact that neo-liberal policies have not invariably led to social violence. Nonetheless, substantial evidence indicates that globalization's neoliberal dimension has been associated with the eruption of major domestic violence in developing areas. The real problem is to identify the circumstances and dynamics that may lead to this outcome.

Unfortunately, no generally accepted comprehensive typology of political violence exists. Still, it seems clear that such conflicts fall into broad categories that are essentially different. For example, a compelling distinction exists between international and internal conflicts involving developing states. In ram, the latter category is equally not all of one piece. Conflicts between the state and separatist movements as well as inter-ethnic conflicts in relation to which governments stand as involved - but nonetheless third - parties are also forms of sustained confrontations in developing countries

There also occur violent conflicts between governments and rebellious protagonists who neither seek separation from the state, nor challenge the state's essential validity, nor find their basic objectives in particularistic ethnic, tribal or regional demands. Insurrection is mounted in the name of the state itself and of its entire population. The polity's "true" values are claimed to be those of the insurrectionists. The existing government, or the existing political system in its entirety, is charged with betrayal of those values. Ethnicity, while possibly a practical factor in insurrectionary mobilization, is overshadowed by insurrectionary invocations of broader values within the state. Yet, in contrast to civil wars, conflicts of this sort do not produce relatively balanced warring parties who share the perception that a critical and decisive military straggle has been joined. Instead, the armed challenge to state authority emanates almost exclusively from mobilized elements of the most marginalized sectors of national society. The imbalance of power so overwhelmingly favors state authorities that the rebels' armed crusade fails to present a credible military threat. Authorities can therefore characterize the marginals' struggle as an irritating and misguided aberration of little consequence to the normal functioning of the state. Thus, the conflict is doubly linked to "marginality," pitting elements of the "functionally superfluous" against national governments in a struggle that is itself officially marginalized. There is, however, an important caveat to this: although the insurrectionary marginals have opted to reject the existing political process, their objectives are largely shared and supported - at least morally - by important dissenting actors within the political system.

I label this form of strife Marginalized Violent Internal Conflict (MVIC) and suggest that it may be particularly related to globalizing world conditions. While no claim is made that globalization may not also be a factor in other types of conflict, this article seeks to uncover the conditions and dynamics which shape the outbreak and development of MVICs by comparing the still unresolved insurrections launched by Zapatistas in Mexico and the Gama'a al-Islamiyya in Egypt.

At first glance, these cases appear to have little in common. The Zapatistas' struggle against the Mexican Government metamorphisized into sporadic violent confrontations and political maneuvers which have given its champions a romantic image in much of the world's mass media. The Gama'a al-Islamiyya has waged a bloody terrorist campaign that has not led to negotiations of any kind and is widely portrayed as a consequence of religious fanaticism. Yet, the contention here is that these conflicts are demonstrably generically similar in their origins and, moreover, that their glaringly distinct paths result from identifiable differences in a commonly shared dynamic.

The analysis supporting this conclusion focuses on the natures of, and interrelationships among, four groups of variables. These are: first, the "locus"(3) of each conflict; second, the impact upon the conflict of the "political institutional environment,"(4); third, the conflict's relationship to civil society; and, finally, its relationship to the international environment. At each level the analysis seeks to be both structural and cognitive, looking at established patterns of interaction among key participants as well as the outlooks that underlie them. Thus, of particular concern are the ideologies and decisions of principle actors.

In undertaking this task, Mittleman's observation that "globalization interrelates multiple levels of analysis: economics, politics, culture and ideology" is kept in mind.(5) So too is Grenier's admonition that a realistic understanding of conflict must avoid undue reliance on structural abstractions by recalling that "the eruption of internal war is contingent upon choices made by key actors."(6)

As it is clearly impossible to offer in this limited space the full analysis this framework implies, the following comparison primarily concentrates on the origins of the conflicts initiated by the Zapatistas and the Gama'a al-Islamiyya, although it also identifies and briefly explains major differences in their evolution.


On 1 January 1994 - the date of Mexico's entry into the North American Free Trade Association - some two to four thousand fighters of the Ejercito Zapatista de Liberacion Nacional (EZLN) seized several municipalities in the Highlands of Chiapas. This was accomplished with very little bloodshed and the rebels were quick to pledge that no harm would befall civilians, including tourists.

The rank and file of the Zapatista Movement were Mayan Indians, but the organization did not consider itself an "ethnic" actor. The Zapatistas proclaimed their cause to be that of the entire Mexican nation. The group's primary demand was for a fundamental change in the political system, the establishment of free and full democracy, to be preceded by the existing regime's resignation and the establishment of a transitional government. The plight of the country's Indian communities was stressed, but the EZLN plainly called for this to be remedied as part of overall revolutionary change that would respect Indian traditions.

Once the Mexican military began to move against the insurgents, fighting escalated. EZLN units withdrew to a series of valleys that link the Highlands to the Lacandon Jungle. By the time a cease-fire went into effect on January 13, perhaps as many as 1000-1500 persons had died.(7) In the aftermath of the fighting, the EZLN held its positions in what became known as the "Conflict Zone," in which many Zapatista-controlled villages have since engaged in de facto local self government.

Shortly after the cease-fire began, steps were taken to resolve the conflict through negotiation. The Bishop of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Samuel Ruiz Garcia, was accepted as mediator by both sides. He became president of the legally mandated National Intermediation Commission (Conai), a small group whose members he picked as advisors. Its role was later seconded by the Commission of Concord and Pacification (Cocopa), a multiparty group of Mexican legislators.

Conai became the principle agent in a year-long mediation and negotiation process, during which the Zapatistas cultivated a strong presence in civil society and made extensive use of communications media to seek worldwide support. However, negotiations between Zapatistas and the government broke down in 1996 amid mutual accusations of bad faith - although mediation efforts continued. The ensuing years witnessed a deterioration of the mediation process as well as rising violence in Chiapas. Much of the latter was perpetrated by local anti-Zapatista paramilitary forces who appear to have acted with the knowledge and encouragement of state and national authorities, if not at their direction.

Against this dark background, Bishop Ruiz dissolved Conai and abandoned his mediating role in the early summer of 1998. Cocopa pledged to continue working for a peaceful settlement but reliable sources portrayed that body as dispirited and suffering from internal dissention and a lack of coordination.(8) By the spring of 1999, no improvement was visible and the danger of renewed hostilities remained uncomfortably high.

In contrast to the Zapatistas' struggle, that of Egypt's Gama'a al-Islamiyya has not been tempered by negotiations of any sort. The bloodletting initiated by the Gama'a has been more prolonged and has exacted a higher cost on the nation than has its counterpart in Mexico. Formed in the early 1970s, the Gama'a was inspired by the early militancy of the Muslim Brotherhood - an organization founded in the 1920s which has since renounced violence (although it is currently banned in Egypt) in favor of working politically for an Islamic state under Shari'a. Proclaiming these same goals, the Gama'a holds that Egypt's current political system and its leaders are religiously, morally and politically corrupt and have violated true Islamic and Egyptian values.

In the early 1990s, the Gama'a embarked on a sustained campaign of violence that made it the most prominent of Egypt's militant Islamic groups. Working through networks established over the years in poor neighborhoods of Cairo and other cities, the Gama'a was able to project its straggle, largely by terrorism, throughout much of the country. However, its focal point was Upper Egypt.

The Egyptian government adopted and maintained a hard-line approach to the Gama 'a al-Islamiyya, rejecting any possibility of negotiations. Instead, it relied on heavy security measures, including massive arrests, the death penalty, and - after October, 1992 - the use of military courts to try suspected militants. A sustained corollary to the government's forceful response has been the use of the state-sanctioned "official" religious establishment as well as the mass media to undermine the Gama'a's claim to Islamic purity.(9)

By 1996, Egypt's government had clearly gained the upper hand. Militant attacks were in decline, though not ended, and this was paralleled by a resurgence of international tourism. Despite sporadic clashes in Upper Egypt, some Gama'a leaders suggested a cease-fire in the spring 1996, a call that was repeated a year later when six major Gama 'a figures (and the group's spiritual advisor) proclaimed a "halt [to] military operations. . . ."(10) These initiatives, which were rejected by the government, seemed to reveal a growing division in Gama'a ranks. This was confirmed in November 1997 when members of the organization slaughtered fifty-eight foreign tourists in Luxor.

The ferocity of the Luxor massacre brought the Gama 'a to its lowest ebb. All indications showed that the overwhelming majority of Egyptians were outraged both by the carnage and its perpetration in the name of Islam. The split in the Gama'a became patent, with its main leadership apparently united in condemning the attack as a "violation" that proved "more damaging to the Gama'a than for the Egyptian government."(11) Although the government continued to arrest, try and sometimes execute Gama'a members in 1998, only a few relatively minor armed clashes occurred. By early 1999, Egypt's tourism, although not fully recovered from the blow of the Luxor attack, was solidly on the upswing.(12) For the time being, at least, it appeared that the Gama'a was cowed. It remained an open question whether this heralded the organization's final abandonment of its violent campaign or was simply a temporary lull.


The descendants of the first Spanish colonists in Chiapas have presided over an extremely stratified social configuration, at the top of which figure Ladinos, those claiming (not always accurately) a purely European heritage and, at the bottom, the region's Indians. Over the centuries, Ladino landowners and peasants pushed the original Indian inhabitants to less productive areas. The prevailing Ladino view of the Indian was - and remains - overtly and strongly rascist, based on the conviction that the Indian is by nature not only inferior but also characterized by a potentially dangerous childishness.(13)

The Revolution that produced Mexico's 1917 Constitution did not substantially alter Chiapas' socio-economic structure. The Chiapas elite found its place in the clientelist chains forged by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) as Mexico's post-revolutionary political system was consolidated. In turn, this elite extended its own control of the local state government through similar arrangements that at the lowest level co-opted or created village chiefs (caciques) who won tangible benefits by supporting the status quo. Chiapas' Indian communities, are divided into several groups, all but one being Mayan. By the Twentieth Century, the harsh realities of poverty and powerlessness had produced massive social deterioration. Alcoholism, violence, sexual abuse and similar ills plagued Indian communities.(14) The post-revolutionary establishment of communal landholdings (ejidos) generally did not provide peasants with more fertile or extensive fields than in the past, and the few attempts that were made to develop new lands were usually soon frustrated by the local elite who wished to extend their own holdings.(15)

Religion, that is, Roman Catholicism, played a major role in ensuring that indigenous identities and social structures were not completely lost.(16) Among Indian communities, however, Catholicism was mixed with pre-Columbian religious beliefs and practices. A major feature of this phenomenon is that many of the most important elements of the syncretistic outcome are related to the miraculous - to the supernatural manipulation of earthly reality in otherwise impossible ways.

Although Chiapas is rich in resources this has not benefited most of its people. Chiapas is among the poorest - and in many ways the poorest, of the states in the Mexican Republic.(17) The largely rural population, mainly composed of Indian and Mestizo peasants, has steadily suffered from a high population growth rate and ensuing pressures on already scarce resources of available land. These pressures have been exacerbated by the local judicial system's traditional unresponsiveness to peasants seeking legal redress for lands taken by large landowners. These unhappy characteristics are found in exaggerated form in the Highlands area, the region where the Zapatista rebellion unfolded.(18)

Few of Chiapas' rural population have not experienced nontraditional ways of life or false hopes of modernizing change. During the 1970s, the Highlands became the primary focus of the central government's attempts to include Mexico's Indian communities in national development efforts.(19) Although corruption and inefficiency severely limited their long-term impact, federal funds poured into the region at a rate that surpassed that of resources allocated to other areas of the country for similar purposes. International agencies, also became heavily involved in attempts to further socio-economic development in the Highlands. At the same time, urbanization accelerated, as unstable conditions and lack of opportunities in the countryside drove peasants to the cities. Indeed, the extent of the urbanizing movement was such that Chiapaneco scholar David Davila notes that the eventual outbreak of the Zapatista uprising must be understood as a "rejoining of urban peasants with rural peasants."(20)

The economic crises that gripped Mexico in the 1980s and the country's ensuing turn to neoliberal policies severely affected the already precarious conditions of the small farmer in Chiapas and, particularly, in the Highlands. Declining federal investment in rural development led to the reduction or elimination of governmental organizations and programs designed to help peasant and Indian farmers. However limited or ineffective such aid had been in the past, its reduction further increased the level of misery in Chiapas. So too did decreases of subsidies to the agricultural sector and - particularly - the elimination of subsidies to coffee producers.(21) The peasants' plight was augmented as the liberalization of Mexico's trade policies led to an influx of cheaper foreign agricultural products into the domestic market. At the same time, the termination of large-scale government projects and the privatization of major agricultural concerns reduced employment opportunities for peasants.(22)

A bitter twist was added to the problems that engulfed Chiapas' in the 1980s by the fact that the overall picture of the state's agriculture during the same period showed significant gains made by large landowners who benefited from the De la Madrid administration's "Chiapas Plan."(23) However, the most striking step in the liberalizing drive to rationalize agriculture and facilitate movement toward agro-industry came in 1992, when the modification of Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution effectively halted land reform and permitted the sale of ejido land distributed under the old order.

It was in this context that the EZLN originated, recruited its membership, and mobilized for the offensive that greeted 1994. The movement's development can partly be traced to efforts launched some twenty years earlier by Bishop Samuel Ruiz, of the Diocese of San Cristobal de las Casas. Ruiz was thirty-six years old in 1960, when he arrived in San Cristobal. The city's Ladino elites were initially charmed by the newcomer but felt betrayed after a few years when he became actively concerned with the economic and social plight of his Indian flock.(24)

Ruiz and his subordinates fostered peasant organizations that sought to improve the lot of the rural population while remaining independent of government control. By the early 1970s, Ruiz's efforts were seconded by radical young Mexicans who arrived in Chiapas after fleeing the country's security forces. These individuals, augmented by a second generation of young radicals who joined them in the early 1980s, mobilized peasants in pursuit of objectives that were very similar to those pursued by the local Catholic hierarchy. The former's more militant approach led to the EZLN's foundation in 1983. Nonetheless, the Theology of Liberation adhered to by Bishop Ruiz and the Marxist orientation of the newcomers remained largely compatible. The result was that the two collaborated for several years in setting up a series of interlocking peasant organizations.(25)

During the 1980s, Chiapas' elites vigorously used state and national institutions to intimidate (and all too frequently liquidate) peasant activists. This intensified strains between Church-linked and Marxist-oriented activists in the budding peasant movement, with the latter steadily gaining adherents to the view that armed struggle was necessary. In the early 1990s, the two trends split. However, the sympathy of the non-violent followers of Samuel Ruiz for the EZLN remained strong and members of the EZLN visibly continued to hold the Bishop virtually in awe.(26)

From its inception, the Zapatista revolt attracted massive sympathy and vocal support throughout Mexico. But the support that Mexicans extended to the Zapatistas stemmed more from sympathy with the rebels' anger than approval of insurgency. The repeated economic and political crises suffered by the country since the early 1980s caused prolonged hardship to the lower and middle classes. By 1994, their increasing disaffection, and particularly that of the latter, was forcing the ruling establishment to yield reluctantly to demands for a more open and representative political system. Civil society - which had developed at an unprecedented rate over the preceding decade - as well as long established opposition political parties ceaselessly pressed for effective political reform.(27)

In the five years since the cease-fire went into effect, the Zapatistas have taken great care to maintain their cause in the public eye and to enlist support from as wide a sector of society as possible. The issue of indigenous rights has gained prominence in the Zapatista discourse but remains cast in terms of broader national concerns. Active involvement in Zapatista decisions is sought through "national consultations" through which questions of Zapatista policy are placed before the bar of public opinion. Volunteer observers, both Mexican and foreign, are encouraged to visit Zapatista-controlled territory. Particularly extensive and effective use has been made of the internet, where a seemingly endless array of sites in various languages presents the Zapatistas' case to a domestic and international audience.


Upper Egypt comprises the country's eight southernmost governorates. As is true of Chiapas, the region's history is one of isolated removal from the center of national life. The local relationships resulting from this centuries-old condition gave Upper Egypt an identity of its own within the modern Egyptian state. Alongside the even more ancient presence of Copts, tribal groupings dating from the Arab conquest combined to form a hierarchical order that placed two groups, the ashraf and the arab, in dominating positions. These were followed by lesser tribes, with the fellah at the bottom of the social scale.(28) Southerners came to be stereotyped negatively in the rest of the country, widely held to be crude, prone to violence and lacking intelligence.

The authority of central governments in Upper Egypt was cemented through clientelist ties with leading families of the ashraf and arab groups. Even the Nasserist regime did not substantially undermine this political-administrative arrangement. Although land reform benefited peasant farmers to a degree, members of the landed classes used a variety of means to retain much of their holdings. Cairo continued to staff the higher ranks of the local police and security apparatus with personnel from the ashraf and arabs.(29)

Religion was central to the development of Upper Egyptian society. The ashraf claimed direct descent from the Prophet, while the arabs traced their lineage to a group of tribes from Arabia. On the other hand, the status of the fellahin rested on the belief that they descended from Egypt's pre-Islamic community and had converted to Islam, a history that placed them inescapably beneath both the ashraf and arabs.(30) Copts have occupied an ambivalent position in the social scale; as Christians they are considered inferior to Muslims but their individual status effectively depends on more material criteria.

In Muslim as well as Christian communities, and particularly at the lower socio-economic levels, religious practices are strongly imbued with non-orthodox folk elements, some of pharaonic origin. Although orthodox Islam is well grounded in urban areas, the countryside is the domain of a rich folk-religion, replete with beliefs in the magical, miraculous and occult.(31) The influx of villagers into Egyptian cities and towns, which by the 1970s led increasingly to the "ruralization" of these centers, provided fertile fields for anti-modernist, fundamentalist movements. Urban mosques often became centers for the recruitment of rural migrants into militant organizations.(32)

Despite rich agricultural resources, Upper Egypt has long been the country's poorest region, whether compared in terms of rural or urban areas. By the mid-1990s nearly seventy-two percent of Egypt's poor remained concentrated in the south.(33) Indicators related to health, population growth, social services and quality of life reveal similar disparities.(34)

The region has witnessed significant changes in the past four decades. The populist Nasserist years not only raised hopes for general improvement and a more equitable distribution of wealth but also produced concrete achievements. Land reform, though not as sweeping as promised, brought some benefit to the fellahin. The opening of free universities in the 1960s seemed to promise an escape from poverty and the limitations of a rigidly traditional social hierarchy. With the government committed to employ all university graduates, the national bureaucracy provided a livelihood as well as a degree of prestige for sons of peasants who had no prospect of acquiring land of their own. However, it was not long before the ranks of university graduates outstripped possible placements. Moreover, when positions were available, fellahin graduates discovered that university credentials were frequently unable to overcome Upper Egyptian class bias or the general prejudice against southerners in other parts of the country.(35)

Other developments in the 1970s placed Upper Egypt's fellahin under increasing pressures. Anwar Sadat's reorientation of Egypt's economy through the liberalizing measures of infitah led him to seek the support of traditional rural elites. The renewed ascendancy of the landed notables - which sometimes resulted in officially sanctioned expulsions of peasant farmers from contested lands - not only menaced the fellahin's gains but also their aspirations. In the same decade, large numbers of fellahin who benefited from the oil boom by finding temporary employment in Arab Gulf states returned home with relatively significant capital, only to find the path to upward mobility still blocked by the traditional local power structure.(36)

Some, imbued by their experiences in Saudi Arabia with a more uncompromising and egalitarian vision of Islam, reacted to their mounting frustrations with greater religiosity - a phenomenon that helped produce a remarkable proliferation of private mosques in the 1970s. In Upper Egypt and among communities of southerners in urban centers throughout the country, returned fellah workers funded mosques in which an activist, socially conscious interpretation of Islam challenged the status quo religious vision of the ashraf and arabs.(37)

The Gama'a al-Islarniyya developed as a movement, largely among students at Asiut University, in the early 1970s. Inspired by the early militancy of the Muslim Brotherhood, the group had links to, and shared a degree of overlapping membership with, similarly inclined groups in other parts of Egypt. One of these, the Jihad, would assassinate Sadat in 1981. Studies that focused on Egypt's Islamic movements in the 1980s concluded that Islamic militants came mainly from non-rural environments and lower-middle class backgrounds.(38)

However, Mamoun Fandy, "one of the first generation of peasant farmers' sons to benefit from Nasser's educational reforms" and an Asiut University classmate of many of the Gama'a's founders, argues that the Gama'a al-Islamiyya was marked from its inception by a distinctly Upper Egyptian fellah character which distinguished it from other militant Islamic groups. Most of its membership, he notes, "originally came from the fellahin."(39) While the Gama'a held the Cairo regime responsible for betraying Egypt's Islamic values and saw the solution as an Islamic state under Shari'a, it was also determined to alter power relationships in the south. In short, it aimed its fight "against southern tribal dominance, the Cairo government's role in this conflict, and the impact of this conflict, as well as [local culture], on the group's interpretation and use of Islam."(40) Fandy's recollections of the Gama'a's origins appear to be borne out by studies conducted after the organization gained prominence in the 1990s as Egypt's main militant Islamic group. Commenting on "the changing face of Islamic militants," Saad Eddin Ibrahim indicates that in comparison to militants studied in the early 1980s, those of the 1990s proved to be "younger and less educated . . . [many coming] from rural, small town and shantytown backgrounds."(41)

Anwar Sadat's assassination in 1981 was an immediate and serious setback for all militant Islamic groups. Government security forces carried out sweeping arrests and major clashes with militants took place, particularly in Upper Egypt. The Gama'a, however, survived and continued to mobilize support throughout the decade.

During the same period, as Hosni Mubarak gingerly pursued Sadat's liberalizing direction through steps that included reducing consumer and agricultural subsidies and decontrolling prices, the burden of poverty increased throughout Egypt's rural and urban areas.(42) Upper Egypt remained the poorest region. While "ultra poverty" was particularly high in Asiut, rural Upper Egypt continued to be the country's poorest agricultural area.(43) Additional regional misery hit after the 1986 downturn of Middle East oil economies reduced possibilities for migrant labor.(44) The 1990-91 Gulf Crisis, of course, produced a massive return of Egyptian workers from that region as well as deep uncertainties regarding that labor market's future. However, the worst fears of peasants seemed confirmed in 1992, when after a debate that had raged since 1985 the government enacted a measure that would effectively repeal statutes governing tenancy after a five-year grace period. Known by opponents as "the law for throwing out tenants from their land," this step profoundly disturbed what the rural poor considered "an important basis of a moral and political order."(45)

The Gama'a's major anti-government campaign developed in early 1990s. No single event marked its beginning, but by mid-1992 there was no doubt that Egypt's government was facing a sustained offensive. Press accounts of the developing straggle revealed the extent to which the group was rooted in the rural countryside. The following, relating events in "a tiny village in Upper Egypt," is typical of such reports:

Since March, clashes between villagers and security forces have claimed two dozen lives. Farming is the only occupation...the district boasts few jobs and fewer public services. . . . It is fertile soil in which to recruit ardent young men for the Islamic Leagues [Gama'at al-Islamiyya], with their aura of romance and their programmes of spiritual betterment and practical activism.

In recent years the membership of such leagues has swollen into the thousands. In a dozen villages league enthusiasts have made themselves into enforcers of order and the providers of service.(46)

Significant portions of Egypt's public agreed with the Gama'a's stated goals and values, though not with the means it chose to pursue them. This could hardly have been otherwise in a country where it is widely believed that were free elections held the non-violent, but banned, Muslim Brotherhood would emerge as the government's most serious challenger. The Gama'a's portrayal of the government as undermining Egyptian national and social values also found an echo in the hardships and frustrations of a population harried by growing economic disparities, cultural penetration and sharp changes in regional politics and Egypt's international standing.(47)

Nonetheless, the vast majority of Egyptians rejected the Gama'a's violent strategy. There is some evidence that even the small proportion of those who initially sympathized with the Gama'a's approach steadily dwindled as the violence progressed.(48) The cease-fire declared by part of the Gama'a leadership four months before the Luxor massacre seems likely to have been motivated by a growing conviction that violence had become politically counterproductive. The split that Luxor produced in the Gama'a appears to have led to the ascendancy, at least for the moment, of leaders who feel the organization must follow more moderate tactics if it is to achieve its aims. Among the newest tools employed to give both substance and recognition to this turn is a sophisticated Arabic language website, which went into operation in 1997.


The conflicts that respectively pit the EZLN and the Gama'a al Islamiyya against the Egyptian and Mexican governments are products of a complex, but identifiable, interaction of factors. Among these are historical backgrounds that in each case created enduring local conditions which helped produce the violent outbursts of the 1990s; years of efforts by mobilizers who injected traditional local folk-religion with a new element that linked social justice and religious conviction to the "true" values of the nation as a whole; and, finally, the catalytic effects of neoliberal economic and other globalizing forces.

The regions that gave rise to the EZLN and the Gama'a al-Islamiyya share histories of geographical isolation from the centers of national political, economic and cultural life. Over the centuries Chiapas and Upper Egypt developed highly stratified societies that were largely left on their own by the national state, to which they were each linked through clientelist ties between local and national elites. In each region an identifiable sub-group - the peasant/Indians of Chiapas and the fellahin of Upper Egypt - traditionally occupied the base of the socioeconomic pyramid and was perceived as inherently inferior by the higher social orders. This perception was generally shared by the wider national populations.

Neither the Mexican Revolution nor the Nasserist experience radically altered the overall social, political and economic marginalization of Chiapas' rural peasantry or the Upper Egypt's fellahin. Locally and nationally, the relative social, political and economic status of each remained much as it had been in the past. By the final quarter of the twentieth century, economic deprivation and its typically associated social ills continued to afflict these groups. Official Mexican and Egyptian statistics establish that in terms of income, poverty-levels, modem amenities, education and health, rural regions of Chiapas and Upper Egypt were not only mired in misery but also among the poorest in their respective national contexts. Nor did internal migration guarantee relief. Whether in the shanty towns that urbanization brought to the outskirts of San Cristobal or in the poorer neighborhoods of Cairo, peasant Chiapanecos and Upper Egyptian fellahin were likely to find that deprivation still accompanied them.

However, neither group remained unaffected or unchanged by twentieth century events. Decades of land reform failed to fulfill their promise but nonetheless led to some degree of relative improvement in Upper Egypt and Mexico. Upper Egyptian fellahin also benefited from Nasser's educational policies and, after the early 1970s, from opportunities to work abroad. During the same decade, the marginalized of Chiapas' Highlands not only found new, though temporary, employment in massive state-sponsored projects but also became the focus of international efforts to upgrade their lives. Such factors involved changes that altered traditional life-styles and helped weaken traditional outlooks, including those elements of traditionalism that valued continuity above all. For many of the two groups considered here, change initially became seen as a welcome avenue that would lead to the satisfaction of raised hopes.

It was not long before such hopes yielded to fears that change might not only fail to produce improvement but actually lead to a deterioration of an already dismal situation. In Chiapas as well as Upper Egypt, rapid population growth steadily diminished available land for the marginalized and strained the capacities of existing social services. Budgetary crises in Mexico led to the curtailment of employment-generating government projects in the Highlands. In Egypt, the bloated bureaucracy proved unable to absorb university graduates and potential employees faced years-long waits before receiving positions. Graduates of newly established provincial universities in Upper Egypt at times felt the added weight of being discriminated against in their search for jobs because of their regional and social backgrounds. In both Egypt and Mexico the increasing tums to national liberal economic strategies in the 1980s led to growing burdens on lower economic classes. During the same period, Upper Egypt's fellahin faced reduced possibilities of engaging in migratory labor as the oil economies of the Gulf contracted. In Chiapas, peasants learned that increased government expenditures designed to rationalize agriculture benefited large producers of export crops rather than small farmers.

Change, much of it emanating from sources far beyond the control or, in most cases, the understanding of the marginalized in Chiapas and Upper Egypt, appeared to have become not only threatening but almost overwhelming in its intensity, variety and malignity.

The unfolding of this perspective provided fertile ground for activist mobilizers who held state authorities responsible for the plight of the marginalized. Both in Upper Egypt and Chiapas these mobilizers injected a new emphasis on social justice into prevailing religious belief systems, and linked the new interpretation to "true" national values. In Mexico, this role - initially filled by the socially conscious, non-violent, religiously-inspired mobilizers under Bishop Ruiz - came to be shared with the equally socially-conscious, militant, Marxistinspired mobilizers of the EZLN. In Egypt, social consciousness, religious inspiration and militancy were united in the mobilizers of the Gama'a al-Islamiyya. In both instances, the essential contribution, and attraction, of the mobilizer's message was that it offered, to those who accepted it, a credible promise of both change and resistance to change. This explains the emphasis given by Zapatistas and the Gama'a to demands for socio-economic change for the better and the preservation of cultural integrity.

In each case, the resulting militant movement has been closely linked to religious authority and belief. This is self-evident, of course, in relation to the Gama'a. Only an over-concentration on the secular discourse of Zapatista public pronouncements can obscure the fact that that movement's life - its values, origins, policies and membership - have all been influenced by the religiously-inspired activism of Bishop Ruiz and his cohorts, something that has been very well understood by the Roman Catholic establishment in Mexico as well as by the Mexican government. This is why dominant church authorities (including the Papal Nuncio) and government spokesmen have been so ready to accuse Ruiz of violating his true religious responsibilities. It is much the same discourse one hears when Al-Azhar and Egyptian authorities accuse the Gama'a of being un-Islamic.

What made the mobilizers' message credible to those who followed their lead? Put another way, what caused these relatively small numbers of mainly impoverished Indian peasants in Mexico and lower stratum Upper Egyptians to believe they could force desired change despite the full military resources available to governing authorities? Undoubtedly, the answer is complex and probably includes an intensity, of frustration, anger and desperation that galvanized some to conclude the effort must be made regardless of cost. But this alone cannot explain the conviction of those who took up arms that their cause would ultimately win.49 Perhaps the answer also partly lies in the deep impact of a cultural context permeated by a syncretistic religious orientation in which the miraculous or magical is accepted as a normal part of life. The suggestion is that the folk-religions of the Chiapas Highland peasant Indians and Upper Egyptian fellahin fostered cognitive frameworks that were receptive to the notion that a just cause will eventually triumph, regardless of objective power relationships.

Globalizing economic, political and cultural forces merged with the impact of historically derived conditions and the activism of mobilizers, tying local realities in Chiapas and Upper Egypt to wider world currents. The catalytic effects of neo-liberal policies undertaken by the Mexican and Egyptian governments in the 1980s were particularly direct. As indicated above, economically marginalized populations of both areas were hurt by policies that reduced or eliminated social services, possibilities of government employment, agricultural and consumer subsidies and protected domestic markets. Policies designed to rationalize agriculture, especially steps to reverse the effects of earlier land reform programs, were perceived as major long-term threats to established ways of life and aspirations.

The impact of globalizing forces was not limited to sparking the violent campaigns of the EZLN and the Gama 'a al-Islamiyya. It also appears to have been a significant factor shaping the terms in which their revolts were conceived. For although the marginalized in Mexico and Egypt may have suffered most acutely from the changes that affected their countries, they were hardly alone. In both Egypt and Mexico more integrated social sectors also saw their economic standing erode and their cultural values challenged throughout the 1980s. This was certainly true of the Mexican and Egyptian middle classes, who made their growing dissatisfaction known in a variety of ways. Thus, for example, the debates in Egypt and Mexico over specific domestic economic policies and the political and cultural implications of developments in those countries' international ties reflected national atmospheres of widespread dissatisfaction.(50) This, in turn, no doubt reinforced the conviction of the EZLN and the Gama'a that their revolts did not imply a separation from the nation, but rather a reaffirmation of their commitment to the polity's "true" values.


This article has tried to show that the generic similarity of the violent conflicts initiated by the EZLN and the Gama'a al-Islamiyya is evident in the dynamics that led to their outbreaks. It is, however, also evident that these conflicts have taken very different paths. The Gama'a's struggle has involved more sustained violence, and the group itself has perpetrated more grizzly attacks against noncombatants. Finally, Egypt - unlike Mexico - has seen no effort to move toward a negotiated settlement. Do these differences mean that the two are not typologically linked; that they are, in fact, essentially different forms of conflict?

The answer suggested here is that such is not the case, that the distinct trajectories of the conflicts waged by the EZLN and the Gama'a al-Islamiyya reflect differences in interactions among three variables that together do much to shape the directions taken by Marginalized Violent Internal Conflicts. These are: the political institutional environment, the civil society environment, and the international environment. In the final analysis, of course, conflicts do not "take directions" - they are given direction by leaders, who, in turn, opt for certain decisions rather than others through a process involving a constant interaction between ideology and action. Analysis must therefore focus not only on the interaction among the three variables indicated above but also between them and the decisions that leaders (both insurrectionary and government) make on the basis of ideological interpretation. In other words, the question is how the combination of factors emanating from the political institutional environment, civil society, and the international environment affects the outlooks and consequent calculations and decisions of leaders. Such an analysis is well beyond the scope of this article, although it is possible to lay out briefly the main points to which it leads.

By 1994, Mexico's political institutional environment had bordered on the critical for over a decade. Governing institutions, dominated by the PRI, were largely discredited and the PRI itself was beset by fractious infighting. Opposition parties had emerged as real challengers to the ruling party's domination and the PRI's retention of its leading role was widely attributed to corruption. At the same time, however, the incumbent government of Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) was widely - and as things turned out incorrectly - perceived to be energetically putting Mexico on the path to renewed stability and prosperity. Continued positive economic indicators, as well as the president's personal ambitions for the future, depended upon the preservation of this image. The government, therefore, was prone to reject hard-line advice - emanating particularly from the military and the established power structure in Chiapas - and instead accept the views of those who argued that neither the PRI's domestic position nor Mexico's economic policies would be served by pursuing a military solution in Chiapas.

Ernesto Zedillo assumed the presidency at the end of 1994, along with essentially the same conditions that had confronted his predecessor. Revelations of the extent of mismanagement and corruption that occurred under Salinas immediately plunged the new administration into a series of economic and political crises. Zedillo had emerged from relative obscurity only after the assassination of the PRI's initial candidate, Luis Donaldo Colosio. His political position as president was therefore uniquely weak in Mexico's recent history. Although Zedillo has on the whole adhered to the nonbelligerent approach adopted by the Salinas government, his political debility appears to have been reflected over the years in recurrent vacillation as he occasionally yielded temporarily to more militant outlooks.(51)

That Zedillo's government has not decisively abandoned Mexico's nonbelligerent approach to the Zapatista rebellion can largely be attributed to the impact on decision-making of civil society and the international environment. Both have served to constrain the military option. Civil society has not been unanimous in its reaction to the Zapatistas, but it has provided a constant forum for expressions of strong and widespread opposition to recourse to force. On the other hand, the international environment has also clearly urged the same message. Foreign governments, including that of the United States, as well as private investors have feared the political and economic consequences of a major renewal of conflict in Chiapas.

The same factors that influenced the Mexican government's vacillating but essentially non-belligerent approach also help explain why the Zapatistas' have preferred the current stalemate over a renewal of armed hostilities. Both the weaknesses and strengths of Mexico's political institutional environment play a role in this. On the one hand, the political weakness that plagues Mexico's political system gives hope that Zapatistas may yet see their objectives realized through political means. On the other hand, the military strength that the government commands, and deploys in a threatening encirclement of the Conflict Zone, clearly helps make a revival of active hostilities unpalatable. Considerations related to civil society and the international environment act upon Zapatista calculations in much the same way. The networks of non-violent support that the Zapatistas have formed in Mexican civil society and abroad help fuel hope that Zapatista goals can eventually be realized through political means. These networks would be jeopardized, or at least seriously reduced, were the EZLN to assume responsibility for a resumption of major conflict in Chiapas.

The impacts of Egypt's political institutional environment, civil society, and international environment contrast sharply with the Mexican case and explain the different course taken by the conflict between the Gama'a al-Islamiyya and the Egyptian government. Egypt's bureaucratic-authoritarian regime remains highly centralized and impervious to serious challenge within the existing institutional system. Although national elections are held and the legislative branch contains members from a wide variety of political parties, the government, as Noha Mikawy notes, has on the whole been reluctant to accept pluralist values even within that body.(52) In itself this ethos would have inclined the government to react forcefully to an extra-systemic challenge such as that posed by the Gama'a. Probably a more direct stimulus has been the Gama'a's historical links to the Muslim Brotherhood and espousal of the latter's objectives. Employment of the alternative to force - negotiation, mediation, or some kindred conflict management technique - would at the very least redound to the credit of the Muslim Brotherhood's ideology and therefore to the credit of the very group that stands as the greatest potential political threat to the current regime.

Egypt's civil society has grown and developed over the past two decades but it remains highly controlled. Associational life is subject to a variety of legal constraints, all of which help shield the government from unwelcome actions or criticisms. Although relatively free in the context of the Arab World, Egypt's press has long functioned under stringent rules, and these have been strengthened in recent years. Under such circumstances, civil society's questioning of the government's hard-line approach to the Gama'a could at best be only tentative while outright opposition could expect to be suppressed. As in Mexico, Egyptian civil society is not of one mind but, unlike Mexico, it has been so muted that it is impossible to speak with much confidence about currents of public opinion. Nonetheless, available evidence - particularly the Gama'a's apparent soul-searching after the Luxor massacre - indicates that the group's methods, if not its objectives, became progressively more repugnant to the Egyptian public. Each of these characteristics of civil society enhanced the government's inclination to meet the Gama'a with force while eschewing opportunities to explore alternative approaches.

The international environment has exerted a similar influence. On the one hand, Egypt's principle Western allies are themselves committed to forceful stands against terrorism and all who practice it. On the other hand, Cairo had valid reason to believe that the Gama'a received some degree of support and encouragement from international actors whose primary motive was Egypt's destablization.(53)

The nature of Egypt's political institutional environment, civil society, and international environment also explains the key decisions that have shaped the Gama'a al-Islamiyya's violent campaign. Faced by the government's firm control of the institutional political system and overwhelming military superiority, the Gama'a saw no alternative but violence, which it chose to project through terrorism in order to inflict the maximum amount of damage on the Mubarak regime by undermining public order and Egypt's valuable tourist industry. The government's ability to resist this strategy implied that its implementation must be drawn out and escalated. A growing suspicion that such a course would ultimately prove counterproductive seems to have moved some Gama'a leaders to call for a negotiated settlement as early as 1994. By mid-1997, key members of the group's upper ranks accepted this logic when they called on their followers to accept a unilateral cease-fire. In the post-Luxor period, the currently dominant, but not universally accepted, view among the Gama'a leadership appears to be that a change of strategy is in order. What this implies is still unclear.

Civil society and the international environment have also been key factors in the progression outlined above. If parts of the Gama'a came to perceive its strategy as counterproductive, it did so primarily by using as a yardstick the reaction of Egypt's public to the mounting ferocity of violence. If the Gama'a's violent campaign could not break the government's resistance, it was partly because the Mubarak regime's international support. And if another part of the Gama'a now feels that the original strategy must be retained, it is partly because they too are counting on international support and remain determined to sway the posture of civil society.

Political decisions are acts of ideological interpretation. The leaderships of the combatants examined here base themselves on declared ideologies (which for convenience's sake are identifiable as Zapatismo, Patriotism, Nationalism, and Islamism) but have given them content through interpretative decisions. Those interpretations are largely - though not completely - understandable in light of the interaction of the four variables on which this analysis has focussed. Thus, much - but not all - can be understood of the various contending discourses: the Zapatistas' revolutionary discourse that emphasizes humanism and dialogue more than revolutionary violence; the Mexican Government's patriotic discourse that stresses the national duty to search for accommodation rather than the treachery of insurrection; the Egyptian government's nationalist discourse that emphasizes loyalty to the state and brands insurrection as treachery; and the discourse of the Gama'a al-Islamiyya, which stressed uncompromising Holy War against a treacherous regime (and which now appears to be changing)

The limits of the explanation offered here arise because neither leadership nor ideology can be considered totally dependent variables. Idiosyncratic factors have a role, and it must be kept in mind that Zapatista and Gama'a leaders have not simply responded to events. On the other hand, ideologies are not merely interpreted but also set limits to plausible interpretations. It may be that purely religious-rooted ideologies such as the Gama'a's have an elasticity that differs from the Zapatistas' secular-religious rooted ideology. What is called for is further study of leadership and ideology in the context of comparative conflict analysis.

With this caveat, the preceding comparison yields two further points. The first is that Marginalized Violent Internal Conflict appears to be a useful category, one that not only calls our attention to linkages between global forces and conflicts started by the least powerful members of society but also to levels of interaction that heavily shape the course of such conflicts. This has a direct bearing on the two cases studied here. The MVICs in Mexico and Egypt have yet to be resolved. Changes at any of the analytical levels examined here will determine whether their eventual resolutions will be through violence or through techniques of conflict management.

The second point is perhaps more basic, and more alarming. It is simply that as globalization touches the "Wretched of the Earth" in the world's most remote backwaters, it may help trigger violent reactions from people who will not be dissuaded by even the most overwhelming objective evidence of the hopelessness of armed struggle.


* I would like to express my appreciation to Jeffrey A. Nedoroscik and Dina Younis, who, as graduate students in a workshop I offered on Marginalized Violent Internal Conflict at the American University in Cairo and as leaders of a subsequent effort to apply a preliminary version of the analytical framework utilized here (cited below), provided many useful insights.

1. David E. Apter, Rethinking Development: Modernization, Dependency and Postmodern Politics, (Sage Publications: Beverly Hills, CA, 1987), pp. 316-17.

2. Pierre Bourdieu, "Utopia of Endless Exploitation: The Essence of Neoliberalism," Le Monde Diplomatique, December 1998, Translated by Jeremy L. Shapiro, p. 3.

3. Briefly put, this refers to the confluence of the most immediate social dynamics impacting upon the insurrectionary groups.

4. Also briefly put, this refers to the organized national system of decision-making and implementation

5. J. H. Mittleman, "The Dynamics of Globalization," in Mittleman, J. H. (ed.), Globalization: Critical Reflections, (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1996), p. 2.

6. Yvonne Grenier, "From Causes to Causers: The Etiology of Salvadoran Internal War Revisited," Journal of Conflict Studies, (Fall, 1996), pp. 1-16. Http://

7. Keesing's Record of World Events, News Digest for January, 1994, p. 39810. See also Arturo de Jesus Urbina Nandayapa, Las Razones de Chiapas, (Mexico: Editorial Pac, 1994), p. 74.

8. Interview with confidential source. Chiapas, August, 1998.

9. Jeongmin Seo, "Government Response to Radical Islamic Movements in Egypt During the Mubarak Regime," unpublished thesis, The American University in Cairo, 1996, pp. 39-56.

10. "Disgruntled Militant Lawyer Stands Down," Middle East Times, 25 January 1998, p. 1 and "Foreign mirs Shocked at Egyptian Militants' Cease-Fire Call," Middle East Times, 14 July 1997, p. 1. An earlier similar call was made by local Gama 'a leaders in Minya and Sohag in 1994.

11. Richard Engle, "Militants Condemn Luxor Bloodbath," Middle East Times, 7 December 1997, p. 1.

12. See, for example, "Tourist Numbers Recover," Business Monthly: The Journal of the American Chamber of Commerce in Egypt, Vol. 15, No. 3 (March, 1999), pp. 44-46.

13. Interviews, Chiapas, 1995, 1996, 1998.

14. See, for example, Susan Tax Freeman, "Notes From the Chiapas Project: Zinacantan, Summer, 1959," in V. R. Bricker and G. H. Gossen, Ethnographic Encounters in Mesoamerica: Essays in Honor of Evon Zartman Vogt, Jr., (Albany: Institute for Mesoamerican Studies, The University at Albany, State University of New York: 1989), pp. 89-100, and Gary H. Gossen, "Life, Death and Apotheosis of a Chamula Protestant Leader: Biography as Social History," Ibid, pp. 217-29.

15. Monica Serrano, "Civil Violence in Chiapas: The Origins and the Causes of the Revolt", in Monica Serrano (ed)., Mexico: Assessing Neo-Liberal Reform, (London, Institute of Latin American Studies, 1997), pp.75-93; Carlos Tello Diaz, La Rebelion de las Canadas, (Mexico: Cal y Arena, 1995), pp. 59-61.

16. See Andreas Fabregas Puig, "Los Pueblos de Chiapas," in Maria Luisa Armendariz (ed.), Chiapas, Una Radiografia, (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultural Economica, 1994), pp. 172-97.

17. See, for example, Mexico Social, 1994-1995: Estadisticas Seleccionadas, Division de Estudios Economicos y Sociales, Banco Nacional de Mexico, 1996), pp. 202-08.

18. Daniel Villafuerte Solis and Maria del Carmen Garcia Aguilar, "Los Altos de Chiapas en el Contexto del Neoliberalismo: Causas y Razones del Conflicto Indigena," in Silvia Soriano Hernandez (ed.), A Proposito del la Insurgencia en Chiapas, (Mexico: Asociacion Para el Desarrollo del la Investigacion Cientifica y Humanistica en Chiapas, 1994), pp. 83-117.

19. Ibid, pp. 83-84.

20. David R. Davila Villers, "Chiapas: Democratization and the Military in Mexico." Unpublished paper presented at the Latin American Studies Association XIX International Congress, Washington, D.C.: September, 1995, p. 6.

21. Serrano, op. cit. To make matters worse, the international price of coffee fell sharply in the latter half of the 1980s.

22. Ibid.

23. Villafuerte and Garcia pp. 85-86.

24. A leading member of the San Cristobal Ladino community, an individual who also considers himself an Autentico Coleto - the label taken by the most rascist of Ladinos - recalls Ruiz's social trajectory in the city as follows: ". . . it fell to me to welcome Samuel Ruiz. He was a very tranquil man [and] dined in the most honorable homes of San Cristobal. Yes, in those days he passed his time with Autentico Coletos. But then he slowly began to change. I think it's always been important for him to seek fame. . . ." Interview, San Cristobal de las Casas, 1995.

25. Tello, op. cit., pp. 80-130.

26. Interviews, Chiapas, 1995, 1998.

27. Julio Labastida, "Mexico: Democratic Transition and Economic Reform," in Dan Tschirgi (ed.), Development in the Age of Liberalization: Egypt and Mexico, (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1996), pp. 151-53.

28. Mamoun Fandy, "Egypt's Islamic Groups: Regional Revenge?" Middle East Journal, Vol. 48, No. 4 (Autumn, 1994), pp. 607-25.

29. Ibid, p. 615

30. Ibid, p. 613.

31. See Winifred S. Blackman, The Fellahin of Upper Egypt, London: Frank Cass & Co., 1968), pp. 183-200. See also Mamoun Fandy, "The Tensions Behind the Violence in Egypt," Middle East Policy, Vol. 2, No. 1 (1993), pp. 25-27.

32. Uri M. Kupferschmidt, "Reformist and Militant Islam in Urban and Rural Egypt," Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 23, (October, 1987), p.409.

33. Human Development Report Egypt, 1996, (Cairo: Institute of National Planning, 1997), Table 2.2.

34. Jeffrey A. Nedoroscik, Dina Younis, El Sayed Gad Mohamed, Monica Serrano, "Lessons in Violent Internal Conflict: Egypt and Mexico," SYLFF Working Papers," (The Ryochi Sasakawa Young Leaders Fellowship Fund), No. 8, March, 1998, pp. 17-19.

35. Mamoun Fandy, "The Tensions Behind the Violence in Egypt," pp. 27-28.

36. Fandy, "Egypt's Islamic Group," pp. 616-18.

37. Hamied N. Ansari, "The Islamic Militants in Egyptian Politics," International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol 16 (1984), p. 129; Fandy, "Egypt's Islamic Groups," p. 618.

38. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, "Anatomy of Egypt's Militant Islamic Groups: Methodological Notes and Preliminary Findings," International Journal of Middle East Studies, No. 12 (1980).

39. Fandy, "Egypt's Islamic Groups," p. 613.

40. Ibid, p. 611.

41. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, "The Changing Face of Egypt's Islamic Activism," in Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Egypt, Islam and Democracy, (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1996) pp. 73.

42. Karima Korayim, "Structural Adjustment, Stabilization Policies, and the Poor in Egypt," Cairo Papers in Social Science, Vol. 18, No. 4 (Winter, 1995-96), pp. 20-23.

43. Ibid, pp.17,18.

44. Dan Tschirgi, "Egyptian Labor Migration: Social, Political and Economic Effects," in Mohammad Shtayyeh, (ed.), Labor Migration: Palestine, Jordan, Egypt and Israel, (Jerusalem: Palestinian Center for Regional Studies, 1997), p. 53.

45. Reem Saad, "State, Landlord, Parliament and Peasant: The Story of the 1992 Tenancy Law in Egypt," in Alan Bowman and Eugene Rogan (eds.), Agriculture in Egypt From Pharaonic to Modern Times, Proceedings of the British Academy, Vol. 96, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 387, 89.

46. "Upper Egypt: The Battle Against the Leagues," The Economist, 4 July 1992, p. 38. Similar accounts of conditions in rural Egypt Upper Egypt continued to be published throughout the early years of the Gamin 'a's campaign. See, for example, "Egypt Loses Ground to Muslim Militants and Fear," New York Times, 11 February 1994, p. A-3.

47. Ibrahim, "The Changing Face of Egypt's Islamic Activism," op cit., pp. 76-79.

48. Seo,.,pp. 39-58.

49. This conviction was consistently expressed by militants in the jungles of the Conflict Zone, though in terms that recognized victory as a distant prospect that might not benefit the present generation of fighters. An EZLN leader,"Chus," for example, dismissed the possibility of his own death with calm eloquence and certainty: "They can kill 'Chus,' they can kill other leaders. But they cannot kill poverty and misery, and these will keep producing people like us." Interview. Chiapas, 1995.

50. In Mexico, for example, the debate over the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) was cast in these as well as economic, terms. In Egypt, multiple debates over American economic aid, peace with Israel, and Egypt's strategic alignment with the United States had similar dimensions.

51. Thus, in early 1995 Zedillo allowed the army to undertake an offensive in Chiapas, ostensibly to "arrest" the EZLN leadership, but soon reversed his position. For an account of relations between the army and Presidents Salinas and Zedillo during the early stages of the Zapatista revolt see Stephen J. Wager and Donald E. Shultz, "Civil-Military Relations in Mexico: The Zaptista Revolt and Its Implications," Journal of American Studies and World Affairs, Vol. 37, No. 1 (Spring, 1995). Other temporary initiatives by the Mexican military occasionally occurred in subsequent years. A more important manifestation of the Zedillo administration's flirtations with hard-line tactics appears to have taken shape since 1997 with the federal government's apparently increasing tolerance of paramilitary activity directed by elements in the Chiapas government and Chiapaneco Ladino elite. Interviews and personal observations, Chiapas, 1998.

52. Noha Mikawy, The Building of Consensus in Egypt's Transition Process, (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 1999), p. 124.

53 Egypt claims that the Gama'a has received support from the Sudan, Iran and Afghan Islamic groups. The 1995 attempt to assassinate President Mubarak in Addis Ababa and the sanctuary apparently currently enjoyed by hardline Gama'a leaders in Afghanistan lends at least partial plausibility to this position.

Dan Tschirgi is Professor of Political Science at the American University in Cairo.
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Date:Jun 22, 1999

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