Working Paper
Rebel governance during COVID-19

Describing and explaining armed groups’ response to the pandemic in the Middle East

As COVID-19 spread worldwide, armed groups in control of territory were called to address the health emergency. However, our knowledge in this regard is limited. Specifically, it remains poorly understood why different armed groups responded to the crisis differently.

Recognizing this lacuna, this paper aims to illuminate the responses that different armed groups throughout the Middle East implemented in order to address COVID-19 and to explain why armed groups responded to the pandemic as they did.

After studying three examples, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, and Hamas, the paper argues that the intensity of the conflict does not account satisfactorily for variations observed in COVID-19 responses among the groups. Conversely, ultimate goals, financial resources, and governance experience contribute to explaining the observed patterns of COVID-19 response.