EGYPT: The Moral Force of Nonviolence
In a brief speech today, Barak Obama attributed the success of the revolution in Egypt to "the moral force of nonviolence." But the story of how nonviolence was used to organize the movement over the past three weeks is little known.
These two photos posted on Twitter by Nevine Zaki, for example, illustrate one of the innovative nonviolent tactics used in the field. They showChristians holding hands (see the Coptic cross wrist tatoo in the second photo) in a demonstration of protection during Muslim prayers in Tahrir Square.
This took place one week ago, after protesters had been attacked by Mubarak supporters. Furthermore, it was only a month after the bombing of a church in Alexandria where many Christians died. "Yet," Zaki writes, "we all stood by each other." Last Sunday the roles were reversed, with Muslim protesters providing a nonviolent barrier around a Christian worship servicein Tahrir Square.
This revolution was NOT a spontaneous event. A recent "People & Power" documentary by Al Jazeera, entitled outlines the nonviolent organizing campaign undertaken by the April 6 Youth Movement. It mirrors very well the "A Force More Powerful" video segment used in Creating a Culture of Peace trainings.
- The April 6 group had been organizing for three years before the post-Tunisia protests broke out in Egypt.
- They educated themselves on nonviolent tactics through videos provided by Srdja Popovic, the leader of the nonviolent movement in Serbia that toppled Slobodan Milošević.
- They used technology as an organizing tool, but had to quickly adapt when the internet and cell phones were cut off by the regime.
- They organized small teams last Friday to lead protesters out of the mosques and churches and successfully converge in small groups, from unpredictable directions, on Tahrir Square.
- Despite some fires being set, stone-throwing by some protesters, crowds being attacked by thugs / plain-clothes police with significant loss of life, and the April 6 office itself being sacked and some of the leaders arrested, the group kept focused on nonviolent discipline, remained firm in their goals, adapted their strategies, and escalated the protests.
- They adopted a strategy of non-confrontation with the army, demonstrated by specific gestures of goodwill on the ground, which paid off with tank commanders refusing to fire on the crowds on Jan. 30, and in the end with the army essentially coming over to the side of the protesters.
I recommend this video as a nonviolence training resource for CCP.
Also, here is a good New York Times article on the background organizing for the Egypt protests, including the work of the April 6 Youth Movement.