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About Stephen Zunes

Stephen Zunes is a professor of politics at the University of San Francisco, where he coordinates the Middle Eastern Studies program, and co-chairs the academic advisory committee for the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

Articles by Stephen Zunes

This week’s front page editor


Francesc Badia i Dalmases is Editor and Director of democraciaAbierta.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

Powerful nonviolent resistance to armed conflict in Yemen

As with the initial uprising against the Saleh regime four years ago, an unarmed civil society movement rises up to challenge the Huthi militia.

How to discredit your democratic opponents in Egypt

The Egyptian military regime is pushing conspiracy theories to discredit their democratic, non-violent opponents. Aiming at several birds with one stone, with respect to their US backers, they are trying to have it both ways at once. Democracy and non-violence will fight back.

Mandela’s utilitarianism and the struggle for liberation

“Mandela was a great leader because he recognized that the movement had become a civil insurrection, a largely nonviolent struggle. A great leader is one who recognizes where the movement is and leads them accordingly, not one who says, ‘Do it my way!’”

Ruthless regimes not impervious to civil resistance: A reply to Maged Mandour

There is little systematic evidence to suggest that “ruthlessness” is, in and of itself, a critical variable.

The Maldives: a serial coup in progress?

Should Britain, the United States and others who claim to be concerned, stand by and allow reactionary forces to stage-manage a phony election, this sends yet another inconsistent and disheartening message to those struggling for peaceful democratic change in the Islamic world and beyond. 

On Syria, most thoughtful people are torn

Foreign military intervention would prolong the war and increase the carnage still further. But this does not mean that the US in conjunction with others, including Syrian civil society, cannot do anything to help the situation. Reply to Nader Hashemi.

Opposition to intervention in Syria utilitarian, not ideological

Whether or not a movement is primarily violent or nonviolent, what is important is whether it employs strategies and tactics that can maximize its chances of success. A reply to Nader Hashemi.

Apparent fraud in Maldivian elections threatens prospects for democracy

There are a number of troubling indicators that major fraud may have occurred in the election held on September 7, which raises questions regarding the integrity of the September 28 runoff.

The ongoing attack on democracy in the Maldives

If western countries are unwilling to place any pressure against a regime of questionable legitimacy, allied with a former dictator and hard-line Islamists, while failing to provide any support for a popularly-elected leader committed to democracy and to nonviolence, what kind of message does that send?

Sudan's protests become civil insurrection

Sudan has a history of non-violent pro-democracy civil insurrection which far pre-dates the Arab Spring. But can such an uprising succeed today?

Mali’s struggle: not simply of their own making

Mali serves as yet another reminder of both the power of strategic nonviolent action and the consequences of foreign powers seeking to impose military solutions on complex political problems.

Democracy imperilled in the Maldives

The United States and much of the international community has understandably been focused on increasingly violent conflict in Syria. However, attention also needs to be given to the Muslim people of this Asian nation and their commitment to the power of nonviolent action

Egypt’s pro-democracy movement: the struggle continues

Those who were expecting a quick victory are no doubt disappointed, but successful People Power movements of recent decades have usually been protracted struggles.

Upsurge in repression challenges nonviolent resistance in Western Sahara

Sahrawis have engaged in protests, strikes, cultural celebrations, and other forms of civil resistance focused on such issues as educational policy, human rights, the release of political prisoners, and the right to self-determination. They have also raised the cost of occupation for the Moroccan government and increased the visibility of the Sahrawi cause.

The power of protest in the Maldives

Without tenacious and bold nonviolent activism, the ouster of Mahmoud Gayoom would never have happened

Fighting corruption through nonviolent action

There is a quiet revolution going on in the international struggle against corruption and for greater transparency in government.

Two years ago, I attended my first International Anti-Corruption Conference (IACC), sponsored Transparency International and other groups, which takes place every other year. The location was Guatemala City, a country where the per capita annual income is only slightly more than the registration, hotel and air fare of most participants. Sponsors included Rio Tinto, Royal Dutch/Shell and other corporations whose own record of upholding legal and ethical standards is far from pristine.

There were a number of sparsely-attended workshops during the four-day conference featuring participants who emphasized the importance of grass roots struggles to fight corruption: Walden Bello, Alejandro Bedana, Shaazka Beyerle, Giorgi Meladze and a handful of others spoke about the successes of grassroots movements in such countries as the Philippines, Nicaragua, Turkey, and Georgia struggling against official corruption. However, the overall emphasis at the conference was on strengthening laws, better oversight by international organizations, stricter sanctions by foreign governments and corporations against corrupt local officials, and other top-down solutions.

What a difference two years can make.

This year's IACC, which just concluded in Athens, took on a very different tone. Though the corporate sponsorship and high visibility of current and former government officials was still enough to give one pause, there were an unprecedented number of participants from civil society: human rights activists, feminists, veterans of nonviolent action campaigns, journalists from alternative media, environmental campaigners, advocates of debt relief, and - despite the European location - and unprecedented number of participants from the global south.

More harm than good

Morocco's proposed plan to grant Western Sahara autonomy is a poor solution to Africa's forgotten conflict.
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