What Arabs must know about Nonviolent Revolutions?

Rowaida Mroue

Words about “human values” heard in traditional media have power… Slogans about “democracy” raised in social media do have much power… Mass voices calling for “freedom” in streets and squares are much more powerful… In other words, the “power of people” using nonviolent struggle to preserve their rights, dignity, and existence is becoming more popular and successful among Arabs day after day since the Tunisian revolution started until it became during the last six months a “democracy trend” known as the “Arab Spring”… Simply, to rephrase it, all of the above mentioned tools & techniques which are classified as “nonviolent” actions are successful because they rely on honour, courage and truthfulness of causes in order to confront the powerful ruling repressive regimes or dictators or status quo in some Arab countries…
When the Mass’s socio-political movements use violence against regimes’ actors or policemen or dictators’ guards, history shows that they are almost defeated. However, when people use nonviolent tactics and strategies, thus giving the regime no excuse for repression, they gain the moral authority and support that, in many cases during the last hundred years – such as in Chile and South Africa – led to successful transition from dictatorship to democracy…
Youth in many Arab countries are leading today the “Arab Spring” & its associated socio-political movements, pressing for a “real” change. They believe that the current international economic and political systems exclude their voices and offer little hope for better future for them & the coming generations…
The question coming to mind here is: what is missing in the “Arab Spring” today at the tactical level? What new plans might people demonstrating in streets and squares bring to action to make their movements a “real” lasting success? In other words, what we, as Arabs, can do to support nonviolent movements currently taking place in the Arab world? But why it is all about non-violent actions? Simply because escalated violence proved to push governments and regimes to exert more violence against protestors to mitigate the conflict, thus ending up in an “endless” cycle of “violence” and “anti-violence”… so what are the alternatives to violent actions?
Did we ever think as Arabs about teaching sacrifice, courage, nonviolence, co-existence, and charity values in schools or universities or local communities? Did we ever think of wearing special shirts in a strike or demonstration raising same demands to “unify” our power and “strengthen” our movements? Did we organize ourselves to boycott governmental high taxes applied on us? Nonviolent is all about making people, governments, and media adopt values of “nonviolent struggle” for reaching the achievement stage of demands through some creative ideas that remain away from violence in actions, words, slogans, dialogue, and tonalities…
But is it that easy? The answer is definitely NO… because governments, any government, even in “slightly” advanced democratic societies in the Arab world, will always try to silence such actions by firing on demonstrators, imprisoning or torturing them and they might sometimes fight them by a propaganda campaign in media which might be more harmful for the opposition movements than using “clear” and “traditional” violent tools… That’s why we are in need nowadays to teach set of political, social and economic nonviolent alternatives for people and to be aware of what stages such “peaceful revolutions” as the current “Arab Spring” might pass by… It has became clear after what is going on in Egypt & Tunisia after the withdraw of Mubarak & Bin Ali’s regimes that people there are “lost”, living “chaos” of choices, due to insufficient awareness, of what has to be the next step!...This reality leads us to the question asked by many analysts about whether the Arab opposition is ready to rule? And whether the opposition leaders, appearing on media today, are ready to “take care” of the countries’ affairs in the democratic transition period? However, most importantly the question is: Are Arabs aware of nonviolent struggles, as a culture, to defend their rights?
The beauty of nonviolent action is that throughout history, people around the world discover it on their own without getting trained or having superhuman qualities. The heroes of this Arab Spring are not magnificent saints nor they are genius creatures... They are ordinary people; they are me and you, putting efforts and sacrifices on the frontline for change… But it is also true that any “creative art” form improves better and professionally with study… Therefore, marching in the streets is not the only element for social change. The dialogue between the Mass, training on nonviolent, and development of economic, political and social platforms are missing in many of today’s Arab movements… Rowaida Mroue is researcher in international Affairs info@itcrcenter.org