Tag Archives: non-violence

The secret to effective nonviolent resistance

17 Jun

We’re not going to end violence by telling people that it’s morally wrong, says Jamila Raqib, executive director of the Albert Einstein Institution. Instead, we must find alternative ways to conduct conflict that are equally powerful and effective. Raqib promotes nonviolent resistance to people living under tyranny — and there’s a lot more to it than street protests. She shares encouraging examples of creative strategies that have led to change around the world and a message of hope for a future without armed conflict. “The greatest hope for humanity lies not in condemning violence but in making violence obsolete,” Raqib says.


Kenyan protesters release pigs over parliament pay

The secret to effective nonviolent resistance


Amnesty International UK Blogs: A Map of Non-Violent Activism in Syria

2 Jul
The interactive map shows the non-violence activities within the Syrian uprising © Omar al Assil

Non violent resistance in Syria? Don’t make me laugh. Those trying to topple Assad are all cannibals and head choppers….or so the likes of the academic “Angry Arab”, Asad Abu Khalil would, it would seem at times, try to convince you.

The reality is Syrians in their tens of thousands continue to resist the Assad regimes brutality (and sometimes resist certain armed opposition groups) through non-violent methods of staggering diversity and creativity. The extremely grim and brutal reality which regime apologists and quite often the mainstream media present is but one, extremely narrow perspective of what is going on in Syria. It is far from the whole truth.

A Syrian activist friend of mine, Omar al Assil, has recently produced a beautiful, interactive map of non-violent resistance in Syria. It was created with his colleagues in the Syrian Non Violence Movement including their members inside Syria.

I mention Abu Khalil as he was the first to respond to the map when the social commentator, Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi posted it on his Facebook wall on June 21. Abu Khalil responded smugly: “Very convincing. Is there a special color for beheadings?”.

Pulse Media’s Muhammad Idrees Ahmad responded eloquently in the same thread to Abu Khalil’s customary inelegance: “He wants you to make blanket generalisations; to make no distinction between the Syrian majority who oppose the regime peacefully, the minority who defend themselves with arms, or the few who commit unpardonable crimes. They must all be judged by the standard of the lowest among them. Find the most criminal action, and extrapolate it onto the whole opposition.”

That extrapolation is a common reaction by many who only want to amplifythe negatives of those opposed to the Assad regime. Indeed it is the regimes strategy to not just amplify the negatives but exterminate the positives – quite literally when it comes to Syrian human rights defenders. The map and what it shows is a shining example of how many Syrians are peacefully resisting the regimes wide scale human rights violations and trying to build a brighter future. It’s a work in progress for sure and many more activities and initiatives will be added in the coming days and weeks.

I recently wrote about Omar and his colleagues in the SNVM and the campaigns training they have taken at Amnesty International. These activists, some inside Syria and some outside are despised by the regime and their apologists. Why? Because they are not committing human rights abuses – instead, they are campaigning against human rights violations and abuses. They are using methods which the regime and its apologists know are effective in the long term. They are genuinely fighting for a Syria for all – one which seeks to respect and protect the human rights of all Syrians. This confounds the regime narrative of blood thirsty jihadists rampaging and pillaging across Syria.

Omar got the idea to create this wonderful map when he was preparing a presentation for a peace group in Somerset, England. He wanted to list all the alternative newspapers and radio stations that started during the revolution and wanted to visualise it properly.

He told me he found an algorithm to visualise networks which was perfect to visualise the non-violence activities of the uprising. From there he formed a team consisting of SNVM members who started to collect the vast amounts of data about the grassroots activism in Syria.

Maimouna Alammar, who was arrested with her husband when she was pregnant with her daughter in the first days of the revolution, worked on this from inside Syria. She was key to this mammoth data collection operation and another SNVM member, Nisreen Alzaraee , translated the information into English. The project was in development for 3 months as there was so much activism and campaigning to document.

Omar said to me “It was very difficult and challenging to collect this amount of activities. We decided also to include some overview about each item in the map and a link to its website/Facebook page. Maimouna was working from inside Syria and most of the time she worked offline and without electricity to finish the project because of the difficulties to access the internet due to constant power outages”.

For Omar, the main objective of creating this map is to show the Syrian people and the rest of the world how powerful and widespread non-violence is within the Syrian uprising. He wanted to document the hundreds of activities involving tens of thousands of people to show a wider perspective of the revolutionary mosaic. This in turn would help challenge the narrative that all those opposed to the regime are “terrorists”.

Omar said “In the SNVM we believe that there is still a room for peaceful struggle and creativity amid all this chaos. Many people thought that the non-violence came to an end and this is a small step to show them that it is still there and they are using it or working with it on daily basis. So mainly it was to motivate people and the other aim is to document all these activities so interested people can have access to it easily.”

Omar and the SNVM plan to keep updating the map every fortnight. It is an excellent work in progress – regime apologists or indeed anybody that justifies human rights abuses, hate this sort of thing which makes the experience of navigating this map so much sweeter.

So check it out, especially those who think those opposed to the regime’s crimes against humanity are medieval barbarians only looking to munch your heart out.

PS for the techy minded, Omar says “the diagram is based on the Force-Directed Graph algorithm which automatically place nodes depending on their relations. Some of the tools used to generate the diagram are: Gephi, Sigma,InteractiveVis project by JISC and Oxford institute of technology. I did some coding using HTML and Javascript. The add/modify form is based on Form+ powered by Google Apps Script”


via Amnesty International UK.

Protest Guidelines

7 Jul

To make sure everyone stays safe, knows their rights, and keeps their protest movement peaceful and non-violent, here’s a useful checklist.

  • DON’T litter. In fact, if you see trash, pick it up! There’s often a fine for littering.
  • DON’T indulge in any form of vandalism or anti-social behaviour.
  • DON’T block entrances or exits to buildings.
  • DO keep to the sidewalks and make sure that others can pass if they need to.
  • DON’T bring microphones, bullhorns, air horns, or electric instruments. If you need to be loud then use the people’s microphone.
  • DO look out for people who are getting too rowdy or violent. If you see one, politely but firmly encourage them to quiet down, or find your nearest peace keeper if you have them.
  • DO keep a buddy! You and your buddy will look out for each other, exchange names, contact details, any essential information such as who to contact in an emergency, or details of any medical needs. Never lose sight of your buddy.
  • If you see someone isolated please DO make them your buddy.
  • DON’T scream or swear at people; it will only antagonize them. You want them understanding, even admiring and  joining you.
  • On the other hand, please DO be as loud as you want.
  • DO bring your friends and family to peaceful events which affect everyone.
  • DO keep marshals, peacekeeping teams, medics and other protest organisers in sight.
  • DON’T get distracted from your mission. Remember why you protest.
  • DO have a plan – for how to get to a protest, where to meet up with others, what to do when you arrive, and how to get back home.
  • DO pay attention to your clothing, especially shoes, and to what personal or valuable items you take with you to a protest
  • DO know your rights. Do you have rights to free speech and to peaceful public assembly only under certain conditions?
  • DON’T assume you can door say  anything you want in the name of freedom of speech. Limit yourself to political speech, stay focused on your goals, and stay within the law.
  • DO take pictures and video! Photos of posters or banners that are used in similar protests elsewhere is a good way to show unity and strength of numbers.
  • DON’T respond to violence from police, security, thugs, interlopers or rivals with violence.
  • DO take photos of, and try to identify if possible, anyone using violence. but..
  • Whenever possible, DO give aid to victims as a FIRST PRIORITY, ahead of taking photos or video
  • DON’T let others escalate violence and DO protect each other.

Follow these tips if the worst happens. Remember, safety of yourself and others comes FIRST

  • If tear gas is deployed DO wet a sleeve or scarf with vinegar, cola, or any liquid you can find and breathe through it as a simple air filter while you leave the area as quickly and safely as possible.
  • If physically confronted DON’T fight back. Go limp and protect your core while shouting LOUDLY for help.
  • If you have asthma or a heart condition stay back. Keep your medicine on you. Stay safe!
  • Pepper spray or tear gas can send you into shock if you’re unprepared. If you’re sprayed DON’T panic. DO keep taking deep breaths of clean air and breathe out slowly. Be aware that it will hurt, a lot, but it will eventually feel better.

How To Topple A Dictator Peacefully

31 May

Five tips from Serbian group Canvas*

  1. Do your homework – analyse the pillars of support you want to pull on your side (“pillars” refer to institutions and organisations that are crucial for non-violent social change)
  2. Come out with a clear vision and your strategy for your struggle – and don’t listen to foreign advice
  3. Build unity within a movement – unity of purpose, unity of people and unity within the organisation
  4. Maintain non-violent discipline – one single act of violence can destroy the credibility of your struggle
  5. Keep on the offensive, pick the battles you can win and make sure you know when and how to proclaim each victory

* Canvas: A group of Serbian activists which founded the Centre for Applied NonViolent Strategies, better known as Canvas, an organisation that trains activists around the world in how to successfully overthrow a dictatorship.

Canvas says it only works with groups with no history of violence: for example, they have refused to work with Hamas or Hizbollah. But they count Georgia, Ukraine and the Maldives (where they helped dissidents end the 30-year rule of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom) as success stories, and work with activists from nearly 50 other countries, including ­Iran, Zimbabwe, Burma, Venezuela, Belarus and, recently, Tunisia and Egypt.

Canvas is run by two best friends from the Otpor days, Srdja Popovic, 38, and Slobodan Djinovic, 36.

Canvas founders Slobodan Djinovic and Srdja Popovic in front of the well-known logo
Canvas founders Slobodan Djinovic and Srdja Popovic in front of the well-known logo

Djinovic founded Serbia’s first wireless internet provider and gives half of what he earns to keep Canvas afloat. (The other half comes from various NGOs and the UN.)  They were 18 and 16 when the savage Yugoslav wars began in 1991, old enough to know that they needed to get rid of Milosevic. Now, they want to take their knowledge and pass it on to the world.

This is done with a staff of “four and a half”, dozens of trainers around the world and an office on Gandhiova (as in Gandhi) Street in New Belgrade. In one corner sits a Canvas worker who has just returned from a fact-finding mission to Tunisia aimed at helping the new leaders into a peaceful transition post-Ben Ali.  There is a whiteboard listing places they are targeting next.

It looks more like a Seattle coffeehouse than a revolutionaries’ hive. How, I ask them, have they managed to spread the word from this tiny space to Tahrir Square? Why are people talking about them in Yemen and Algeria?

“When people hear the Serbs are coming,” laughs Popovic, “they want to see us, they want to hear how we did it. We can tell them what worked with us, what did not work in Georgia, what worked in Ukraine. We feel a responsibility to share our knowledge.”

from FT via @lissnup

Howard Zinn on Non-Violent Civil Disobedience

11 Sep

In 1985, Dr. Howard Zinn testified for the defense in the criminal trial of seven citizens who hammered equipment and poured blood on blueprints for the Cruise Missile and Missile X factory in Wilmington, MA. The video shows Dr. Zinn’s compelling testimony in which he makes the case for non-violent civil disobedience as instrumental in changing American history and advancing democracy.
YouTube – Howard Zinn on Non-Violent Civil Disobedience

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