The Arab world shows a puzzling variation of political violence. The region’s monarchies often remain quiet, while other autocracies witness major upheaval. Institutional explanations of this variation suggest that monarchical rule solves the ruler’s credible commitment problems and prevents elite splits. This article argues that institutional explanations neglect the role of repression: increasing the scope of repression raises the costs of rebellion and deters rebels. However, the deterrence effect disappears if repression is used indiscriminately. If remaining peaceful offers no benefits, repression creates new rebels instead of deterring them. A time-series-cross-section analysis of repression and political violence in the Middle East and North Africa corroborates our argument and shows the u-curve relation between repression and violence. Once we control for repression, monarchies have no special effect anymore. Thus, our article addresses the discussion about monarchical exceptionalism, and offers an explanation why repression deters as well as incites political violence.