civilResistance https://www.opendemocracy.net/taxonomy/term/13622/all cached version 04/07/2018 12:53:58 en A woman challenging state-sanctioned violence in Northeast India https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/bhavana-mahajan/woman-challenging-state-sanctioned-violence-in-northeast-india <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>When repression is a reality, individuals often rise up to uphold democratic principles. In India, Irom Sharmila’s nonviolent struggle has riled the government, rallied the masses and inspired victimised populations.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558870/picture 1_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Irom’s cause reaches Delhi, where this 2009 protest took place to challenge the AFSPA. Joe Athialy/Flickr. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558870/picture 1_0.png" alt="Irom’s cause reaches Delhi, where this 2009 protest took place to challenge the AFSPA. Joe Athialy/Flickr. Some rights reserved." title="Irom’s cause reaches Delhi, where this 2009 protest took place to challenge the AFSPA. Joe Athialy/Flickr. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Irom’s cause reaches Delhi, where this 2009 protest took place to challenge the AFSPA. Joe Athialy/Flickr. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Democracy, or rather democratic sincerity, means more than just free and fair elections. It is reflected in every aspect of society – from a free judiciary and space for civil society to thrive, to freedom from fear and violence in everyday life. When repression is a reality, even in an established democracy such as India, individuals often rise above the state’s diktats to uphold democratic principles. This is the story of one such individual, Irom Sharmila.</p> <p>Irom lives in India’s troubled northeast region, where many citizens have for decades suffered from arbitrary state violence or fear of such violence, which has been made possible by a long outdated act. This act — the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) — continues to be challenged through civil resistance, both locally and nationally. The issue has become a litmus test for the democratic sincerity of one of the world’s largest democracies.</p><p><span>Irom’s story is one of how an individual act of resistance can help gain recognition of civil rights for many. Irom Chanu Sharmila</span>&nbsp;<span>is a civil rights activist who has been on a hunger strike that has entered its sixteenth</span><span>&nbsp;year now. Starting on 2 November 2000, at the age of 28, she has been on what is now the world's longest documented hunger strike. Since then, she has been arrested on charges of “attempt to commit suicide”, hospitalised, only to be force-fed by the Indian state, released, only to be re-arrested — in annual cycles — because this woman refuses to eat or drink voluntarily. Needless to say, the state is really vexed by her simple, yet persistent defiance.</span></p><p>But what caused her to take up and endure such an extraordinary feat? For this, let me take you on a trip to her home, the Indian state of Manipur in north-east India, a beautiful, yet poignantly distressed part of the country.</p><h2><strong>The history of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act</strong></h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/558870/^7EF397932DD1CD3A6B8D2D2BA23DE1F033C11597E3351B9C71^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Amnesty International recognizes Irom Sharmila as a prisoner of conscience. Wikimedia. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/558870/^7EF397932DD1CD3A6B8D2D2BA23DE1F033C11597E3351B9C71^pimgpsh_fullsize_distr_0.jpg" alt="Amnesty International recognizes Irom Sharmila as a prisoner of conscience. Wikimedia. Some rights reserved." title="Amnesty International recognizes Irom Sharmila as a prisoner of conscience. Wikimedia. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="546" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Amnesty International recognizes Irom Sharmila as a prisoner of conscience. Wikimedia. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>After India gained independence from British colonial rule, for administrative ease, the country was divided into territorial units called ‘states’. While the mainland of India is congruent, there are seven states in the north-east that share international borders with many countries of south-east Asia and are therefore unique and distinct from those in the mainland. Geographically land-locked and cut off from the mainland, these states are home to many distinct tribes and ethnic groups distinguished by dialects and cultures that often differ even from village to village.</span></p> <p>Due to this diversity as well as cultural dissonance with the states in the mainland (which are all contiguous), integration and assimilation of the north-east in mainstream polity has continued to remain a challenge for the Indian government and all central policies have tended to treat the region as a collective unit. </p> <p>One of the states in the north-east is Manipur. Originally a kingdom, Manipur acceded to India in 1949. However, many groups within Manipur viewed this merger as being against their ethnic and territorial interests. There are over 30 different ethnic and tribal groups in Manipur, with some wanting a separate state under the Indian Constitution, some seeking sovereignty in alliance with sister tribes from neighbouring countries, and others demanding protection of their customary laws.</p><p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left">AFSPA has caused widespread human rights violations.</span></p> <p>The state therefore has suffered from tribal wars, insurgency, and terrorism ever since. In 1958, the Indian government passed a law, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA),&nbsp;that granted security forces unprecendented power to curb insurgency, including but not limited to the power to search properties without a warrant, to arrest people, and even to shoot at will if there is "reasonable suspicion" that a person is acting against the state. </p> <p><span>Ever since its enactment in 1958, AFSPA has become an “emergency” tool of state policy and has been enforced in several parts of India to curb insurgencies. Under this act, the armed forces, trained to fight international wars, are vested with extraordinary powers to combat internal strife.&nbsp;</span>Such unlimited power can, however, be the source of more wrongs than right. Henri Tiphagne, <a href="http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/15-years-and-counting-irom-sharmilas-protest-against-afspa/">Chairperson of FORUM-ASIA notes</a>, “AFSPA has caused widespread human rights violations like enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture and sexual violence...[it] has been used to justify killings on mere suspicion as well as granted virtual immunity through a clause prohibiting legal proceedings without sanction from the federal government, which is virtually never granted.” &nbsp;</p> <p>Since it was first promulgated in 1958, the act has been extended to other states including Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and parts of Arunachal Pradesh in addition to Manipur, just within the region of north-east India. Subsequent to being enforced, it has only been rolled back in one state, namely Tripura, <a href="http://www.firstpost.com/india/afspa-removed-tripura-18-years-imposed-gone-2266770.html">in May 2015</a>. In another part of the country, Jammu and Kashmir, AFSPA has been in force since 1990. In another northern state, Punjab and the union territory of Chandigarh, the act was enforced in 1983 and withdrawn 14 years later, in 1997. </p> <p>Once enacted for a state, there is little relief for local populations under this act. This continual state of state-sanctioned terror is what led Irom to take up her protest. </p> <h2>After the "Malom massacre", Irom’s protest gains nation-wide support</h2> <p>Since the act confers extraordinary powers to the security forces, it has not only been misused but has led to the massacre of many civilians. One such massacre occurred in Manipur on November 2, 2000.</p> <p>Reported as the “Malom Massacre” by mainstream media, 10 civilians were allegedly shot and killed by the security forces while waiting at a bus stop in Malom, a town in the <a href="http://www.meghalayatimes.info/index.php/front-page/22585-manipur-remembers-malom-massacre">Imphal valley of Manipur</a>. A group of rebels had attacked a convoy of the paramilitary forces and in retaliation, the soldiers opened fire on people at the bus stop. Victims included a 62-year-old-woman and a young boy who had been awarded a national award for bravery as a child. But the town’s woes did not end at this. </p> <p>After the attack, reportedly 42 people were dragged out from their houses and severely beaten. People were in shock, and this is when Irom embarked on her protest — the law that had caused so much grief needed to be repealed. </p> <p>However, simple acts of resistance always invite the state’s wrath. Since suicide is a culpable offence under Indian law punishable with imprisonment for one year, Irom has been released and re-arrested in annual cycles since she began her protest fast in 2000. However, in 2004 her cause suddenly gained momentum and many other Manipuri women publicly joined the call for repealing AFSPA. </p> <p>The trigger for this increased mass mobilisation was another shocking incident shrouded under the cloak of AFSPA – the rape and shooting of Thangjam Manorama, a middle-aged Manipuri woman who was picked up from her home on 10 July 2004, on uncertain suspicions. The next day, her bullet-ridden body was found in a field near her village with an autopsy revealing semen traces. </p> <p class="mag-quote-right">She emerged as an icon of civil resistance.</p><p>Five days later, around 30 middle-aged women walked naked through the state’s capital, Imphal, to the headquarters of the specific unit of armed forces that was behind this horrific incident with a banner that read, “<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/09/world/asia/09iht-letter09.html?_r=2&amp;">Indian Army, Rape Us</a>.” In a separate move, Binodini Devi, an author of international acclaim, returned her Padma Shree award, the fourth highest civilian award in the country, to protest the killing. </p> <p>It was just the beginning of growing attention to Irom’s protest; national and international headlines began picking up her story, and she emerged as an icon of civil resistance. </p> <p>Over the next few years, other female activists from the region emerged who wrote, spoke, and started mainstreaming how AFSPA was being used specifically to target women. The argument that activists and academics such as Binalaxmi Nepram and Rita Manchanda put forth was that the ongoing conflict disproportionately targeted and harmed women. Over the next few years, repealing the AFSPA became a mainstream cause of the feminist movement in India. </p> <p>The movement gained further traction with productions and plays in India’s independent theatre scene during the same period. For example, in 2011, <em>The New York Times</em> reported on the one-woman play <em>Le Mashale</em>, on Irom’s struggle, as having “gained a cult following over the past two years on India’s independent theater circuit.” More recently, in 2014, Bollywood, which is India’s answer to Hollywood, saw the commercial production and release of a film entitled <em>Haider</em> starring very popular actors and a storyline and dialogues directly criticizing the act. </p> <p>This is a far shift out from the traditional song and dance family dramas that the industry typically churns out. Past productions with political themes had never been associated with commercial success and thus had tended to remain on the fringes with a limited release and lesser-known cast. The fact that mainstream Bollywood dedicated big budgets and star power to such a cause (and managed to make a success out of it) has added a popular culture amplification to what was probably otherwise just another social movement. This is a big win for activists against AFSPA.</p> <h2><strong>Further grassroots and international mobilisation to challenge AFSPA</strong></h2> <p>Since human rights violations under the act can be inflicted based on mere suspicion, it confers extraordinary powers on law enforcement agencies and personnel, which have in many instances led to state-sanctioned human rights abuses. The act thus feeds vicious spirals of violence. The <a href="http://www.hrdc.net/sahrdc/resources/armed_forces.htm">South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre has noted</a>, “the use of the AFSPA pushes the demand for more autonomy, giving the peoples of the North East more reason to want to secede from a state which enacts such powers and the agitation which ensues continues to justify the use of the AFSPA from the point of view of the Indian Government.” </p> <p class="mag-quote-left">You cannot bring peace by imposing AFSPA, but through justice, truth and reconciliation.</p><p>However, while popular support for the protest continues to surge, the government seems be rethinking its strategy. In October 2015, the high court in Meghalaya, another north-eastern state, directed the central government to consider enforcing AFSPA in parts of the state to help the local administration with a deteriorating law and order situation. However, the central government has instead decided to challenge this directive. Civilians, including many students, came out in large numbers for an anti-AFSPA <a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/guwahati/Shillong-Tura-erupt-in-protests-against-AFSPA/articleshow/49808070.cms">march in November 2015</a> proclaiming, “…you cannot bring peace by imposing AFSPA, but through justice, truth and reconciliation.” </p> <p>Meanwhile, 60 social activists from all over the country issued a joint statement against <a href="http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/eminent-citizens-oppose-hc-order-on-afspa/article7920006.ece">AFSPA in November 2015 stating</a>: </p> <blockquote><p>“The AFSPA is widely considered to be a legislative measure unique in its absolute disregard of the rights of the residents against unlawful exercise of coercive power. The law exposes people to wanton and reckless use of force by security forces as it grants them absolute power and authority to use force. Over the years, a consensus has emerged on the AFSPA being a security measure of colonial origin in that it is a distinctively regressive tool, which sets up a military ecosystem where security forces act with impunity and whip up an environment of fear and terror in the hearts and minds of people living in these places. The use of the AFSPA as a substitute for routine policing and maintaining law and order is a dangerous development… this blatant and unilateral order does not serve the democratic fiber of the region.”</p></blockquote> <p>Though the act still remains in force in Manipur, the mobilisation around Irom’s protest fast bears testimony to how much Irom herself has managed to impact the national psyche and channelise popular support against this draconian legislation. </p> <h2><strong>Testing India’s democratic sincerity</strong></h2> <p>India’s quest for a sincere democracy, it seems, is marked by a history of repression.</p> <p>While it may have been rolled back in some parts of the country, once enacted, the AFSPA has tended to stick for decades in various regions without any checks and balances put in place. </p> <p>As a resource-rich region that buffers the mainland against China, Bangladesh and Burma, the north-east is quite vital to the economic and geo-strategic interests of India. However due to ongoing insurgencies, the region has continued to suffer from a development and governance deficit. The Documentation Centre noted in 2010, "...in such a situation strong-arm tactics will only help to further alienate the people.” </p> <p><span><span class="print-no mag-quote-right">The beauty of civil resistance lies in its ability to enable everyone to participate.</span></span></p><p><span></span>The fact that the act has been in force for over 50 years in Manipur is a serious question mark on India’s democratic credentials. However, instead of making Irom’s fight about individuals in power, her efforts target the systemic source of repression – a law that curbs civil liberties and puts civilians directly at the mercy of other ordinary men and women, vested with extraordinary power. Her protest gained traction and has earned her the epithet of “Iron lady of Manipur.” Irom’s struggle has riled the government, rallied the masses, spawned other movements in related causes, and inspired victimised populations. Her means of protest, fasting, has won her not only fans but also admirers. </p> <p>The beauty of civil resistance lies in its ability to enable everyone to participate since barriers to participation are low. For the region, the shock value of protests and other civil resistance tactics — and of the ability of these tactics to galvanise wider support — have ensured that nonviolent conflict is effective and may one day successfully push for the repeal of the AFSPA. </p> <p>By amplifying voices from the region into the mainstream, Irom’s protest has set the ball rolling. Citizens of a democracy cannot truly be free as long as legislation continues to legitimise violence.&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/jack-duvall/civil-resistance-and-language-of-power">Civil resistance and the language of power</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openindia/nimmi-kurian/india%E2%80%99s-subaltern-border-citizen">India’s subaltern border citizen</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/openindia/renjini-rajagopalan/need-to-decriminalise-attempted-suicide-in-india">The need to decriminalise attempted suicide in India </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/pranshu-prakash/armed-forces-special-powers-act-india-mediaeval-law-in-kashmir-and-its-northeast">Armed Forces Special Powers Act: India&#039; mediaeval law in Kashmir and its northeast</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Bhavana Mahajan Wed, 27 Jan 2016 18:30:18 +0000 Bhavana Mahajan 99368 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Saving Mexico’s Eden: Chontal resistance against national oil giant https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/tomas-ayuso/saving-mexico-s-eden-chontal-resistance-against-national-oil-giant <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Mexico’s state oil company has caused significant disruption and damage to livelihood in Tabasco. Struggling nonviolently and with increasing difficulty to hold it accountable for its actions – the indigenous Chontal. <em><strong><a href="https://opendemocracy.net/democraciaabierta/tomas-ayuso/salvando-al-ed-n-mexicano-la-resistencia-de-las-comunidades-chontales-" target="_blank">Español</a></strong></em>.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/civresistnew4_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Community member Rubicel walks on raised earth formed by the 2013 oil well explosion in Oxiacaque. Author’s photo."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/civresistnew4_0.png" alt="Community member Rubicel walks on raised earth formed by the 2013 oil well explosion in Oxiacaque. Author’s photo." title="Community member Rubicel walks on raised earth formed by the 2013 oil well explosion in Oxiacaque. Author’s photo." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Community member Rubicel walks on raised earth formed by the 2013 oil well explosion in Oxiacaque. Author’s photo.</span></span></span>In the Mexican state of Tabasco an environmental catastrophe has slowly been unfolding. Decades of reckless expansion by Petroleos Mexicanos (Pemex), Mexico’s state-owned oil company, has affected all aspects of life and livelihood in the oil-rich region of the Chontalpa. This past spring, I visited the Chontal Mayan communities that live atop Mexico’s most important hydrocarbon reserves, to understand how they have fought against and endured the destruction of their ancestral lands since Pemex first arrived.</p> <p>The welcoming communities of the Chontalpa shared with me their deep-seated history of nonviolent struggle against the oil behemoth — decades of marches, nonviolent occupation and media messaging. The most recent mobilization was triggered by the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Y-PVFgqMDw">massive explosion of well site Pozo 123</a> in Oxiacaque in October 2013. The force of the blast was so strong that several houses in the area were leveled and fissures ripped through the matted dirt roads. Community based organizing by the Chontal began even as the cratered well site still burned: it was not the first time they would mobilize against Pemex.</p><p>As a journalist covering Mexico’s underreported flashpoints, I found that the country’s contemporary context — one with pockets of organized crime, impunity and corruption — clouds the context in which the Chontal are waging their struggle. The memory of the nominally successful mass mobilization in 1996 — the first of its kind in modern-day Tabasco — laid the blueprint for the current phase of the conflict. But I wondered: how can the Chontal communities of Tabasco successfully confront the impunity of the national oil company in the country’s rapidly changing landscape? &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Tabasco: from “Eden” to wasteland</strong></h2> <p class="mag-quote-right">The state government and Pemex persuaded the people of the Chontalpa to buy into the idea that oil production would bring a veritable black gold rush their way.</p> <p><span>The eponymously named Chontalpa region of Tabasco is home to the Chontal Mayans who live off a network of wetlands famed for their fertility — so much so that a popular adage in Tabasco says that a seed cast to the ground will be a fully bloomed tree the following day. Tabasco is blessed with one-third of the country’s fresh water, fed by a complex network of rivers. This system carves the state into an interconnected and hyper-productive marsh. It is no wonder the earliest records of the region refer to Tabasco as “an Eden.”</span></p> <p>When the massive oil fields that lie beneath were discovered in the late 1960s, Pemex relocated the bulk of their infrastructure to the Gulf state. Both state government and Pemex persuaded the people of the Chontalpa to buy into the idea that oil production would bring a veritable black gold rush their way. They promised wealth in ways the previous attempts to spur development in the area had not been able to deliver.</p> <p>Since then, Pemex has riddled the verdant state with explosion-prone well sites, leaky oil ducts and asphyxiating flare stacks. The much-touted windfall from oil never left Pemex’s coffers, while the Chontal farmers were saddled with the environmental bill. Unfettered pollution and environmental degradation swept through the Chontalpa in the decades that followed. Routine leaks from hastily installed wells rendered acres of productive ancestral wetlands <a href="http://www.sinembargo.mx/02-04-2014/949446">permanently barren</a> and bountiful rivers toxic. I heard several times from the Chontal that since Pemex arrived, people who have wished to express a grievance have experienced the same sequence of events over and over: file a complaint and expect it to languish in bureaucratic limbo.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/civresist_1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Chontal woman in Tabasco congressional building waits to speak with state representatives about Pemex damage. Author’s photo."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/civresist_1.png" alt="Chontal woman in Tabasco congressional building waits to speak with state representatives about Pemex damage. Author’s photo." title="Chontal woman in Tabasco congressional building waits to speak with state representatives about Pemex damage. Author’s photo." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Chontal woman in Tabasco congressional building waits to speak with state representatives about Pemex damage. Author’s photo.</span></span></span></p><h2><strong>Well explosion ignites resistance </strong><strong></strong></h2> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left">From the very beginning the importance of solidarity and collaboration at the local level were the key for the movement to coalesce.</span></p> <p><span>Rubicel Lopez, a Chontal farmer and local community leader, awoke that night in October 2013 with an orange hue of the blaze burning over the tree line. As an elder of the village he immediately rushed to the </span><a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702304527504579168911018067536">raging fire with other leaders</a><span>. By the time they got close enough, the flaming crater from the blast was pouring burning oil into nearby rivers and lagoons. Rubicel took me to the site and pointed out that the area around the explosion — once a fertile grove used by farmers and with plentiful waters for fishermen — had been permanently poisoned. There he explained that the year-long mobilization he would eventually lead started that very night.</span></p> <p>The morning after the explosion, Chontal elders of each community organized meetings in communal buildings where they agreed to demand accountability from Pemex. Rubicel’s status as an elder made <a href="http://tabascohoy.com/2/notas/?ID=230119">him the voice</a> of the village of Oxiacaque. From the very beginning, solidarity and collaboration at the local level were key for the movement to coalesce. Once organized, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4YootSKQNe8">Rubicel and other village elders</a> led their communities to occupy wells near the blast site to pressure Pemex to respond. The company dismissed the growing movement, accusing the people of looking for handouts even while Pozo 123 was still in flames. </p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right">Already managing to force Pemex to react and be held accountable in the slightest was a small victory on which to build continued Chontal resistance.</span></p> <p><span>Local indigenous state congresswoman Veronica Perez then stepped up to build coalitions between the affected Chontal and Tabascans at large. Over the next six months, thousands of people engaged in sit-ins at the Pemex headquarters, including a 44-day nonviolent occupation, and continued obstructing vital Pemex infrastructure. Leveraging her position, strengthened by these direct actions, Perez negotiated with Pemex on behalf of the Chontalpa, despite significant risk to her safety. Having suffered millions of dollars in losses, Pemex was ready by mid-2014 to open an inquiry into the claims of negligence surrounding the explosion at Oxiacaque.</span></p> <p>However, the momentum was short-lived. In February 2015, a year and a half after the explosion at Oxiacaque, the official inquiry presented its results. In a move that shocked no one, Pemex cleared themselves of wrongdoing, <a href="https://diariodelatarde.com.mx/2015/02/16/no-proceden-40-mil-reclamaciones-pemex/">only acquiescing in an offer totalling 6 million Mexican pesos</a> (about US$364,000) to select parties, and annulling the 48,000 outstanding claims filed against the company for the catastrophe at Oxiacaque. Although these results were extremely disappointing, already managing to force Pemex to react and be held accountable in the slightest was a small victory on which to build continued Chontal resistance.</p><h2><strong>The spring of ‘96: strategies of success</strong><strong></strong></h2> <p>The 2013-14 mobilization was not the first time the Chontal came together to resist Pemex oil production. In early 1996, decades of ignored claims leveed by Chontal communities against Pemex boiled over. Comparatively, the 1996 mobilizing was more successful than the more recent campaign for a number of reasons. At the time, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) had risen up in the neighboring state of Chiapas against the violent incursions into their land by a mix of armed state and paramilitary groups. The EZLN famously launched an armed insurgency to overthrow the government, but were quickly rebuffed by the military. More importantly, the communities they represented did not support a violent campaign. In understanding the rapidly changing context that did not align with their original plan, the <a href="https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/learning-and-resources/educational-initiatives/academic-webinar-series/3917-dynamics-and-factors-of-transition-from-violence-to-nonviolent-resistance">EZLN turned their struggle towards the nonviolent path</a>. </p> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left">Chontal resistance tactics aim to put Pemex in crisis mode and pressure it to properly address the environmental damage oil extraction is causing.</span></p> <p><span>The Chontal quickly learned from the EZLN experience and capitalized on the group’s momentum and media attention to make a move against Pemex. Though the EZLN and the Chontal did not interact all that much, the EZLN did issue statements of solidarity as they considered their struggles “</span><a href="http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/1996/02/15/saludo-a-los-chontales-y-al-pueblo-de-tabasco/">similar and convergent</a><span>.” Their aim was to draw further global attention to the campaign unfolding in Tabasco.</span></p> <p>The second major element in jumpstarting the 1996 mobilization was the backing of local politician Andres Lopez Obrador who pushed for civil resistance against Pemex and the state government. His plea to mobilize was heard by communities from across the region. Heeding his call, entire Chontal villages <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzMed5V8se4">amassed to occupy Pemex installations</a> in the area. With the support of Lopez Obrador and his then-party, the PRD, relaying information and helping coordinate actions between different communities, the Chontal achieved a broad cross-sectional coalition that could no longer be ignored.<strong> </strong><strong></strong></p> <p>In terms of nonviolent tactics and overall strategy, Chontal-organized resistance, both in 1996 and now, consists mainly of protests, occupation and obstruction of critical sites, hunger strikes and marches (including several 750km/466 mile marches to the Pemex headquarters in Mexico City) — all with the aim of placing Pemex in crisis mode and pressurising it to address the environmental damage caused by oil extraction. </p><p>These tactics led to several small victories in 1996. For example, a major inquiry was opened to investigate decades-old complaints reaching settlements that had long eluded the disenfranchised Chontal. At its height in March 1996, with extensive coverage from Mexican and international press, the movement was over 30,000 strong; all united in bringing environmental justice to Tabasco.</p><p> Nevertheless, countless claims went uninvestigated, and the unrestricted extraction plaguing Chontal communities only continued to ramp up. Pemex’s historically untouchable status, from its inception to the present, soon allowed it to revert to ignoring the demands of the Chontal, once media attention turned elsewhere.&nbsp;</p><h2><strong>The road ahead, paved in impunity</strong><strong></strong></h2> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-right">With the well explosion fading from collective memory, the Chontal no longer have a “moment” to seize.</span></p> <p><span>The present conditions in which the Chontal strategize have only further deteriorated over the past 20 years. The changing sociopolitical context in Mexico has seen a rise in organized crime, impunity and an accelerated breakdown in rule of law. With the well explosion fading from collective memory, the Chontal no longer have a “moment” to seize, or prominent figures standing alongside them. Their resistance efforts have grown distant from civil society and other groups engaged in similar struggles within Mexico. </span></p><p><span>Furthermore, intimidation in the form of targeted violence, mainly by criminal groups and hostile pressure from local government, has become overwhelming. The veiled threats against civil society have become brazen. For example, while promoting an auction of oil fields to foreign companies </span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/XEVARadioHogar/photos/a.387640567992701.93018.387627567994001/890692241020862/?type=3&amp;theater">on a local radio station</a><span>, the secretary of the interior (SEGOB) spokeswoman Liliana Díaz Figueroa stated, “Local leaders must be eliminated for the benefit of these companies.” The Chontal face all of this with scant motivation, or time to create avenues for the repression to backfire.</span></p> <p>Moreover, with foreign companies soon arriving to develop the remaining oil fields, the Chontal’s most enduring ally, Codehutab, the lead human rights organization in Tabasco, feels that their ability to organize against oil production is “less effective.” Pemex learned from the 44 days their headquarters waere occupied; they moved their headquarters 800 kilometers back to Mexico City. This means organizers would need greater resources to target the Pemex nerve center. Coupled with the harsh economic realities of working polluted agricultural land during a time of a historic drought, the Chontal have grown demoralized.</p><h2><strong>Regrouping to remobilize</strong><strong></strong></h2> <p><span class="print-no mag-quote-left">The current political system is discredited, and the only way to fight back is to rely on civil society and nonviolent action.</span></p> <p><a href="http://www.codehutab.org.mx/">Codehutab</a><span>’s legal counsel, Armando Dorantes comments that the organization has moved to playing a more central role in helping local Chontal communities organize with trainings in organizing and nonviolent actions. It is Codehutab’s belief that the current political system is discredited, and that the only way to fight back is to rely once again on other members of civil society. </span></p><p><span>Rubicel, Codehutab and other veteran Chontal organizers are developing a joint strategy to raise awareness and rebuild alliances. Dorantes suggests that building a Chontal network of elders was the easy part. Now Dorantes and the rest of Codehutab intend to build a broad coalition of organizations worldwide that support the fight for justice. Their focus will broaden from Pemex to encompass the foreign oil companies that are soon to arrive as well. He admits this will be an uphill battle but, like the EZLN, to survive, the movement must adapt to the present context.</span></p><p> In a last conversation with Rubicel at his home in Oxiacaque, visibly weary, he stressed why he continues to fight: “I used to take my boy to see the land we owned. He asked me after the explosion to take him again. I told him ‘I can’t take you right now,’ knowing it was destroyed. And he insisted and insisted. He didn’t let up until one day I put him on my shoulders and walked to what was left. And I told him ‘this is what they have left you.’ So I ask, what hope does my son have if we don’t come together and make a stand?”&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/civresistfinalfinal.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Rubicel Lopez shares a moment of levity with his boy at his home near the site of the well explosion. Author’s photo."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/civresistfinalfinal.png" alt="Rubicel Lopez shares a moment of levity with his boy at his home near the site of the well explosion. Author’s photo." title="Rubicel Lopez shares a moment of levity with his boy at his home near the site of the well explosion. Author’s photo." width="460" height="394" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Rubicel Lopez shares a moment of levity with his boy at his home near the site of the well explosion. Author’s photo.</span></span></span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Civil society Democracy and government civilResistance Tomas Ayuso Fri, 04 Dec 2015 15:32:20 +0000 Tomas Ayuso 98161 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Nonviolent activism around the Olympic Games: History and lessons learned https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/michael-caster/human-rights-new-millennium-for-olympics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Whereas countless public figures have insisted that the Olympics be kept “apolitical” for decades, nonviolent action and civil society together have succeeded in revealing the hollowness of such a notion.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Human rights_a new millennium for the Olympics_Final draft_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/Human rights_a new millennium for the Olympics_Final draft_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A Tiananmen Square-themed Olympic logo. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Bringing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to act on human rights has been the product of decades of international and local resistance, from boycotting South Africa in 1968 to obstructing China’s torch relay in 2008. The key message of this resistance has consistently been that the Olympics is more than just a sporting event. Many campaigns have used the Games to draw attention to myriad rights violations ranging from minority discrimination and the loss of indigenous land to the treatment of political prisoners. There is an opportunity for civil society to build on its achievements, in particular by taking on a proactive role in holding future host countries more accountable.&nbsp;</p> <p>The empowering spirit of the Olympics motto "Faster, Higher, Stronger" is increasingly out of step with <a href="https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2015#.VgNszM6-r_4">the global decline in freedom</a> and assault on human rights defenders over the past several decades. These problems are sometimes pronounced in Olympics host countries.</p> <p>When the IOC votes to award cities like Beijing or Sochi, it is partially complicit in legitimizing repression and permitting ongoing persecution. Until recently, the IOC could brush aside calls from the international community to acknowledge its place within the politics of repression. Today, that is no longer the case.</p> <p>Indeed, following decades of pressure from civil society groups and activists, the IOC in <a href="https://sports.yahoo.com/news/rights-group-praises-ioc-human-153717072--oly.html">October 2014</a> updated host city contracts with a reference to human rights. The 2024 bid — to be announced in September 2017 — will be the IOC’s first official opportunity to demonstrate its newfound stated commitment. And yet the entity is already <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/olympics/2015/09/24/human-rights-groups-attack-ioc-on-host-city-contract/72737148/">coming under criticism</a> for not going far enough with the new group of potential cities between now and 2024 — a sign that public opinion on just how “apolitical” the Olympics can really be has shifted.&nbsp;</p><h2>The 1936 Berlin Olympics</h2><p class="mag-quote-right">When the IOC votes to award the Olympics to cities like Beijing or Sochi, it is partially complicit in legitimizing repression and permitting the ongoing persecution of human rights defenders.</p> <p>The history of the Olympics reveals its contentious nature and illustrates how civil resistance has shaped or been shaped by the Games. The narrative naturally begins in 1936 in Berlin. While Jesse Owens’ glory is widely remembered, what is not so well known is just how close the United States came to boycotting Hitler’s Olympics.&nbsp;</p><p>C<span>oncern that rising anti-Jewish discrimination should preclude Germany from hosting the 1936 Olympics began in earnest in 1933. In 1934, American Olympic Committee President Avery Brundage was invited to Germany to judge for himself whether or not Jewish citizens of the Third Reich faced discrimination. With no expertise in the matter, Brundage was a poor choice for such an important fact-finding mission and proved pliable in Hitler’s hands. In a trip that was </span><span><a href="http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007087">deplored by the US ambassador to Germany</a></span><span>, in Berlin Brundage was wined and dined. Following his trip, he argued that sporting events should not “interfere in the internal political, religious or racial affairs of any country or group.” A few months later, Hitler passed the Nuremberg Laws, stripping German Jews of citizenship and other basic rights.</span></p> <p>Ignoring substantive grounds for concern, and the growing domestic movement for a boycott, Brundage succeeded in convincing the AAU to support US participation in Berlin. Advocates of a boycott were narrowly defeated.&nbsp;</p><h2>Under pressure, Apartheid South Africa drops out of 1968 Games</h2><p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_left caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/111_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/111_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="240" height="336" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Smith and Carlos raised fists in Black Power salute at 1968 Olympics in symbolic act of civil resistance. Source: Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span>Thirty years later, Avery Brundage would again come under fire leading up to the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Formed in 1967, the Olympics Project for Human Rights (OPHR) was a central actor utilizing the Olympics spotlight to expose widespread, systematic racism and exploitation of black athletes in the United States. The organization had <span><a href="http://www.isreview.org/issues/61/feat-zirin.shtml">five central demands</a></span>, among them the removal of Avery Brundage from his then role as the president of the US Olympic Committee, and the denial of Apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia from participating in the 1968 Olympics.</p> <p>Brundage had disregarded previous demands that South Africa be banned from participating in the 1960 Olympics following <span><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/march/21/newsid_2653000/2653405.stm">the Sharpeville Massacre</a></span> in March of that year. During the massacre, South African security forces opened fire on a nonviolent demonstration of some 5,000 people. For OPHR, allowing South Africa to participate in 1968 would be tantamount to failing to revoke the 1936 Games from Berlin. They announced a boycott.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-medium'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/unnamed (14).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Polish pole vaulter Władysław Kozakiewicz, 1980 Summer Olympics. Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_medium/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/unnamed (14).jpg" alt="Polish pole vaulter Władysław Kozakiewicz, 1980 Summer Olympics. Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved." title="Polish pole vaulter Władysław Kozakiewicz, 1980 Summer Olympics. Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved." width="240" height="327" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-medium imagecache imagecache-article_medium" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Polish pole vaulter Władysław Kozakiewicz, 1980 Summer Olympics. Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Enthusiasts for the boycott included Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who, months before his assassination, <span><a href="http://www.isreview.org/issues/61/feat-zirin.shtml">offered his absolute support saying</a></span>, “This is a protest and a struggle against racism and injustice and that is what we are working to eliminate in our organization and in our total struggle.”</p> <p>OPHR succeeded in one of its demands. Under the threat of boycott and related international mobilization, the IOC eventually advised South Africa not to participate. During the 1968 Games, in a well-known instance, OPHR members Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised their fists in the Black Power salute after receiving Gold and Bronze medals — in solidarity with the broader civil resistance campaign (see left image). In 1980, western nations boycotted the Summer Olympics in Moscow in protest against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. As a result, only communist countries and their allies were in attendance. Polish pole vaulter&nbsp;Władysław&nbsp;Kozakiewicz&nbsp;made a provocative gesture (captured in the photo) to booing and hissing Soviet spectators and dignitaries present in the stadium upon winning the gold medal – beating out the Russian jumper&nbsp;Konstantin Volkov.&nbsp;In Poland, in the midst of the Solidarity struggle, his public defiance came to be&nbsp;known as the “Kozakiewicz gesture,” symbolizing the Polish nonviolent resistance to the communist regime and its Soviet backers.</p> <p>In this way, OPHR also succeeded in establishing a repertoire for activists to utilize the spotlight of the Olympics to draw attention to oppressive conditions within host countries and also to more universal grievances.</p> <h2><strong>A new millennium for the Olympics?</strong></h2> <p>Activism around the 2008 Beijing Olympics was built on a similar repertoire of international mobilization to draw attention to widespread human rights violations within the host country.</p> <p>When I first traveled to China in 2006, especially in Beijing, one could not escape banners proclaiming China’s motto for the Games, “同一个世界,同一个梦想,” (One World, One Dream), as China hoped to leverage the Games for increased soft power and a projection of a “harmonious society.” Two years later, this narrative was challenged at many stops along the international Olympics Torch Relay.</p> <p>The torch was lit in Greece, on 24 March 2008, about a week <a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/tibet/report-08222014161202.html">after a security crackdown</a> on what had begun as a <a href="https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/images/stories/pdfs/tendor_dorjee_tibetan_nonviolent_resistance_monograph_2015">nonviolent demonstration</a> in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. The demonstration resulted in an unknown number of Tibetan deaths and detentions. Images of crimson-clad monks surrounded and beaten by Chinese police shocked international audiences. For many around the world, it was the first they learned of widespread human rights concerns in China.</p> <p>There were <a href="http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/china/Travails-of-the-torch-The-story-so-far/articleshow/2959748.cms">a few scattered incidents</a> along the route but the first major demonstration took place on 6 April in London. Free Tibet flags and placards voicing myriad human rights concerns contrasted with Chinese flags and “One China” supporters. In similar rhetoric as Brundage’s toward the Berlin Olympics, Beijing torch relay spokesperson <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk/7332942.stm">Qu Yingpu told the BBC</a>, responding to events in England, that, “This is not the right time, the right platform, for any people to voice their political views.”&nbsp;</p> <p>Other organized nonviolent actions in Paris, San Francisco, Southern China and elsewhere succeeded in interrupting the Torch Relay, drawing major international attention to a number of human rights issues. Sadly however, the international demonstrations ultimately had little concrete impact on the 2008 Games. What’s more, China has since then come to represent an even bigger missed opportunity for the IOC to demonstrate commitment to upholding human rights.</p> <p>Since President Xi Jinping came to power in March 2013, human rights organizations have <a href="https://chrdnet.com/2015/09/what-has-xi-done-xi-jinping-leaderships-human-rights-record-march-2013-september-2015/">documented over 1,800 cases</a> of arbitrary detention. A new criminal law along with legislation on national security and NGO management have increasingly constrained Chinese citizens from <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/michael-caster/matching-resistance-to-repression-in-china">exercising their rights</a>. Torture and enforced disappearances remain a state practice. Notwithstanding this regime’s deplorable track record, the IOC went ahead this July with awarding the 2022 Winter Olympic Games to Beijing.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/2Human rights_a new millennium for the Olympics_Final draft_1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/2Human rights_a new millennium for the Olympics_Final draft_1.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Tibetan rights protesters come face to face with pro-China counter-demonstrators along the torch route in San Francisco. Source: Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span></p><h2>“<strong>No Olympics on Stolen Native Land”</strong></h2><p><span>&nbsp;</span>At the <span><a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2010/2/15/olympic_resistance_indigenous_groups_anti_poverty">2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics</a></span>, the dominant narrative for many focused on the Olympic Games as an institution, as a corrupt or repressive symbol.</p> <p>In 2010, <span><a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2010/2/15/olympic_resistance_indigenous_groups_anti_poverty">Amy Goodman of Democracy Now reported</a></span> it was an historic convergence as indigenous rights defenders and poverty and civil liberties activists joined together under coalition titles such as the “2010 Welcoming Committee” and the “Olympics Resistance Network” to protest the Games and the some $1 billion dollars spent on police and security. Advocates of broad-ranging issues from women’s rights and rights of the homeless to anti-war and globalization also took part in the demonstrations. The <a href="http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/anti-olympic-protesters-converge-on-vancouver/"><span><em>Seattle Times</em></span><span> traced</span></a> parallels in coalition formation and other tactics in Vancouver back to the 1999 anti-globalization movement against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, my own introduction to civil resistance.</p> <p>Despite the fact that the 2010 Games made history as the first time indigenous people were recognized as official partners, for many the <span><a href="https://noii-van.resist.ca/?page_id=30">rallying cry in Vancouver</a></span> was still, “No Olympics on Stolen Native Land.”&nbsp;<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/3Human rights_a new millennium for the Olympics_Final draft_0.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/557324/3Human rights_a new millennium for the Olympics_Final draft_0.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Vancouver activists raise concerns about land destruction and neglect for native peoples in the lead-up to the 2010 Winter Olympics. Source: Wikimedia Commons.</span></span></span><span>At the 2014 Sochi Olympics, undoubtedly LGBTI issues took center stage. Many of the tactics employed by activists over the preceding decade were repeated, from international coordination in multiple cities to boycott movements. There was also a sense of rising disgust with the IOC and the Olympics in general. How could the IOC allow such a blatant violation of IOC Principle 6 on discrimination, asked the </span><span><a href="http://www.principle6.org/">eponymous movement</a></span><span>.</span></p> <h2><strong>The IOC responds to direct challenges</strong></h2><p>Human Rights Watch and others outlined the need for the IOC to change <span><a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2014/04/11/human-rights-watch-submission-olympic-agenda-2020">in a 2014 submission</a></span> to the “Olympic Agenda 2020.” This included media freedom, labor rights, freedom of expression and association, and nondiscrimination based on race, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. <span class="print-no mag-quote-right">" Too often major sports events have seen people forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for infrastructure, workers exploited, campaigners locked up, the environment damaged beyond repair and notoriously opaque bidding processes.”&nbsp;</span></p> <p>In a February 2015 open letter to IOC <span><a href="https://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/related_material/SRA-letter-to-DrBach-IOC-022315.pdf">President Thomas Bach of the Sports and Rights Alliance (SRA) wrote</a></span>, “As you know, too often major sports events have seen people forcibly evicted from their homes to make way for infrastructure, workers exploited, campaigners locked up, the environment damaged beyond repair and notoriously opaque bidding processes.” SRA identified the need for concrete and measurable indicators in the future host city bidding process.</p> <p>In late 2014, the IOC added a <span><a href="http://www.olympic.org/Documents/olympic_charter_en.pdf">human rights clause</a></span>, meaning countries must meet minimum standards to be awarded host. The problem is, the IOC isn’t set up to be a human rights monitoring body. It will need help, from IOC member countries and civil society.</p> <p>This is a good step forward and should be lauded, with caution. Whereas countless public figures have insisted that the Olympics be kept “apolitical” for decades, nonviolent action and civil society together have succeeded in revealing the hollowness of such a notion. But without concrete action, the IOC may inadvertently continue legitimizing repressive regimes.</p> <h2><strong>Eyes on 2024 and beyond</strong></h2> <p>Ongoing innovation in civil resistance and organizations such as Principle 6 and the SRA have contributed to forcing the IOC to recognize its place within the politics of repression. Decades of civil resistance succeeded in shifting the narrative.</p><p>Nevertheless, the IOC lacks monitoring and enforcement mechanisms, other than the threat of refusal to award host city status. Human rights defenders and civil society organizations should take this on as a new objective in their work around the Olympics.</p> <p>These actors would benefit from tactical innovation that engages with the IOC’s updated Charter in a new, more proactive and direct way.&nbsp;In addition to many of the previous tactics such as boycotts or collective action, this will also at times require less disruptive actions. For example, civil resisters should deepen coalitions with human rights law practitioners, especially those most skilled in practical fact-finding and reporting. Different tactics can be combined, but they must be done so as part of a broadly inclusive grand strategy that aims to hold the IOC accountable to its recently stated embrace of human rights. If the IOC is sincere, it should welcome such civil society participation and monitoring at all phases. If it is unwilling to do so, then it makes itself vulnerable to such visible, popular nonviolent actions as those chronicled in this article.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance civilResistance Michael Caster Tue, 24 Nov 2015 17:24:13 +0000 Michael Caster 97751 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Villagers stand up for peace in Colombia’s civil war https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/juan-masullo-jimenez/villagers-standing-up-for-peace-in-colombia-ongoing-civil-war <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>A small farming community in Colombia has long championed civil resistance tactics. Its history is one of&nbsp;war and suffering, but also of solidarity and courage. <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/juan-masullo-jim-nez/campesinos-colombianos-defienden-la-paz" target="_blank"><em><strong>Español</strong></em></a>. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/civresistlatest1_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="PCSJA members honour those who lost their lives for standing up for peace in Colombia’s civil war. (www.cdpsanjose.org)"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/civresistlatest1_0.png" alt="PCSJA members honour those who lost their lives for standing up for peace in Colombia’s civil war. (www.cdpsanjose.org)" title="PCSJA members honour those who lost their lives for standing up for peace in Colombia’s civil war. (www.cdpsanjose.org)" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>PCSJA members honour those who lost their lives for standing up for peace in Colombia’s civil war. (www.cdpsanjose.org)</span></span></span>Last summer – one year after finishing <a href="https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/component/content/article/271-icnc-2015-monograph-publications/4614-icnc-2015-monograph-publications"><em>The Power of Staying Put</em></a>&nbsp; – I went back to La Holandita, Colombia, home to the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó (PCSJA). My admiration for the PCSJA’s perseverance, resourcefulness and commitment to nonviolent resistance in the face of war had not diminished one bit. Still facing repression and stigmatization from armed groups stationed in their area, this small farming community in northwestern Colombia continues to engage in an impressive array of civil resistance tactics which have sustained the lives and livelihoods of its residents for almost two decades. As a peace community, the PCSJA does not cooperate with or rely on any group or entity that derives power from the barrel of a gun – state forces, the FARC, and paramilitary groups alike.&nbsp;</p><p>First established in 1997 in San José de Apartadó, PCSJA villagers did not flee the violence these actors were perpetrating. Instead they stayed put as an act of nonviolent resistance, declaring total neutrality. Many villagers have paid the ultimate price for this choice. In 2005, they were forced to move their headquarters a few miles down the road to La Holandita, when a military outpost was built in San José de Apartadó (which overtly violated their raison d’être of neutrality). Nevertheless, the PCSJA today has grown into a robust, sophisticated peace community which operates its own school and self-sustained economic activities. Many major international actors, including the <a href="http://forusa.org/content/peace-community-san-jose-de-apartado">Fellowship for Reconciliation</a>, <a href="http://www.operazionecolomba.it/">Operazione Colomba</a>, and <a href="http://pbicolombia.org/accompanied-organizations-2/peace-community/">Peace Brigades International</a>, as well as burgeoning peace initiatives around the world recognize the PCSJA as a model and authentic, grassroots peacebuilder.</p> <p>Returning to La Holandita this past summer felt like going back home; warm smiles and friendly greetings welcomed me. I had the chance to meet the new members of the Internal Council, play with the kids, help with the community vegetable garden, enjoy a few days refreshing community life, and learn about recent developments since my last visit in spring 2014.</p> <h2><strong>The history: suffering, organizing, courage</strong></h2> <p>The history of the PCSJA is one of war, violence and suffering, but also one of solidarity, organization and courage. </p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_right caption-small'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/sign2345.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="“It makes me happy when the community fights back.” PCSJA. Credit: Juan Masullo J."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_small/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/sign2345.png" alt="“It makes me happy when the community fights back.” PCSJA. Credit: Juan Masullo J." title="“It makes me happy when the community fights back.” PCSJA. Credit: Juan Masullo J." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-small imagecache imagecache-article_small" style="" width="160" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>“It makes me happy when the community fights back.” PCSJA. Credit: Juan Masullo J.</span></span></span>Situated at the foot of the Abibe Mountains, San José de Apartadó is a tight-knit rural village with a complex history of social and political tensions and acute violence. The agitation was in large part due to the village’s location – in the economically vibrant and geostrategic region of Urabá, which became one of the hearts of Colombia’s civil war over the course of the twentieth century. The residents are mainly <em>campesinos </em>(peasant farmers) – with poor access to education and surviving on meagre income.</p><p class="mag-quote-left">Acting collectively and nonviolently was all the PCSJA had to try to protect each other from violence and to salvage what was left of their livelihoods in the midst of war.</p><p>War came to the village in the early 1970s with the arrival of left-wing guerrilla groups. After almost two decades of insurgent control, San José residents saw the arrival of right-wing paramilitaries subsequently in the mid-1990s. With the paramilitaries disputing guerilla territorial control, villagers were swept into a violent contest for domination of their land. Under these circumstances, and an increase in violence that <em>campesinos</em> increasingly perceived as inescapable, many villagers decided to flee the area. But a small group of farmers (around a thousand) instead stayed put and chose to collectively defy violent groups by engaging in organized nonviolent forms of noncooperation, self-organization and disruption.&nbsp;</p><p>For San José villagers, acting collectively and nonviolently was all they had to try to protect each other from violence and to salvage what was left of their livelihoods in the midst of war. Many of the (primarily Catholic) villagers and leaders believe in the ethical value of nonviolence. But for them, outright rejection of violence was quite simply the best strategic way to guarantee a minimum of protection, and to signal to <em>all</em> armed groups their intention not to cooperate with them and to stay out of a war they did not feel was theirs.</p><p><em><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/hamlet.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Hamlet of La Unión, village of San José de Apartadó, situated in the geostrategic region of Urabá. Credit: Juan Masullo J. "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/hamlet.png" alt="Hamlet of La Unión, village of San José de Apartadó, situated in the geostrategic region of Urabá. Credit: Juan Masullo J. " title="Hamlet of La Unión, village of San José de Apartadó, situated in the geostrategic region of Urabá. Credit: Juan Masullo J. " class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hamlet of La Unión, village of San José de Apartadó, situated in the geostrategic region of Urabá. Credit: Juan Masullo J. </span></span></span><a href="https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/component/content/article/271-icnc-2015-monograph-publications/4614-icnc-2015-monograph-publications">The Power of Staying Put</a></em><em> </em>provides a near-comprehensive history of the PCSJA. What I would like to highlight in this article is, first, the unique contributions that this committed and organized peace community has to offer as a guide for other communities living in the midst of war; and second, the takeaways it offers to the <a href="http://politicalviolenceataglance.org/2015/08/18/interview-a-local-peacebuilders-take-on-the-farc-peace-talks/">national peace process for ensuring a long-lasting peace</a>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/mural.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/mural.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><em>The painted stone memorial to PCSJA members who had been killed in Colombia’s civil war, depicted on the mural in this photo, was purposefully destroyed by the military in the mid-2000s. Credit: Juan Masullo J.</em></p><h2>Core values of the Peace Community</h2> <p>What makes the PCSJA particularly robust is its functional structure and the strict rules of behaviour members abide by. All this is clearly stipulated in its <a href="http://www.cdpsanjose.org/">Declaration</a>, which was publicly signed and presented on 23 March 1997, in the town centre of the village. This declaration was the result of a very risky and difficult process of consultation and coordination among villagers (with the support of third party actors at a later stage) in the mid-1990s amid heightened violence in the region. A symbolic act marking the official foundation of the Community, it communicated unmistakably to all parties present – <em>campesinos</em>, international representatives, members of national NGOs, representatives of the local church and the local government – villagers’ intentions to not cooperate with armed actors and to have absolutely nothing to do with the armed conflict. The process leading to the Declaration was in fact so complicated, and implied so much effort that it immediately became an achievement to celebrate – initially every three months, as they were uncertain how long the Community would last, and now every year.</p><p>The PCSJA Declaration opens with a description of the conditions that pushed <em>campesinos</em> of San José to create the PCSJA, codifies the rules and expectations that govern life within the Community, and closes with a list of principles, internal structure and formal procedures of the Community. &nbsp;Article 3 of the Declaration explicitly lays out the villagers’ strategic principles and nonviolent methods (quotes below are adapted from <em>The Power of Staying Put</em>):</p><p class="mag-quote-right">There is intrinsic value in bringing a community together to spell out their suffering on paper – in essence, creating a list of grievances.&nbsp;</p><p><span>&nbsp;</span></p><ol><li><span>“Not to participate, directly or indirectly, in hostilities” [non-involvement]</span></li><li><span>“Not to carry or own arms, ammunitions and/or explosives” [nonviolent discipline]</span></li><li><span>“Not to provide logistical support to any of the armed groups” [noncooperation]</span></li><li><span>“Not to turn to any of the armed groups to manage or resolve internal, personal or communal disputes” [rejection of armed actors’ involvement in favour of conflict resolution at the community level]</span></li><li><span>“Commit to participate in community work projects” [self-organization, sometimes known as the constructive programme]</span></li><li><span>“Commit to fight against injustice and impunity” [values/cause]</span></li></ol><p><span>San José villagers also abstain from selling or consuming alcohol on Community grounds. This rule, an example of self-restraint, is a way to avoid conflicts, further close inroads into the community, and reinforce nonviolent discipline.&nbsp;</span></p><p>Furthermore, the declaration carries significant, inherent, symbolic and practical value. First, there is intrinsic value in bringing a community together to spell out their suffering on paper – in essence, creating a list of grievances. This strengthens the sense of <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/hardy-merriman/trifecta-of-civil-resistance-unity-planning-discipline">unity, which is an essential ingredient</a> to ensuring a nonviolent movement’s success. Second, publicly presenting a collective declaration lends an element of formality to a community’s actions. Third, in more practical terms, it spells out the fundamental elements of the Community’s self-organization (a central component of civil resistance), which includes the composition and procedures of the Internal Council, and the existence and role of thematic working groups and committees. </p> <p>All this together, plus several years of resistance and community work, have forged a strong collective identity which today is the strongest weapon they have to face the multiplicity of challenges that emerge almost on a daily basis when one opts for noncooperation with armed actors in the midst of a civil war.</p><h2>The peace process, <em>issue du jour</em></h2> <p>The peace process in Havana was an important conversation topic during my visit this summer. In a group conversation with the members of the Internal Council, including some who were recently elected, leaders stressed the importance of actively involving local groups and grassroots social organizations in the peace process. While some such groups were invited to the talks in Havana, not all felt their views carried weight as official parties present at the talks. </p> <p>I spoke with a leader of the Community who went to Havana as an individual victim and also to represent the PCSJA. After highlighting the not-so-easy internal consultation process the Community held in deciding whether to go or not, given the relationship they have with the government, he said the experience was valuable in that the victims met face-to-face with the victimizers. He stressed the plural in <em>victimizers, </em>as for him it is clear that both the FARC and the Colombian government are responsible for the violence that has affected San José de Apartadó. He told me:</p> <blockquote><p>“We [the victims] were invited and that is very important. My family has been strongly affected by this war, and all armed groups have done things to us. That is why we thought that I was the right person to go, both as an individual victim and as part of the Peace Community. We have to be central in the process. That process can only be successful if they take us seriously, if they really incorporate the views of social organizations, of victim organizations. It is not a matter of going there once and that’s it….”</p></blockquote><p class="mag-quote-left">The focus during the talks in Havana was on one simple message:&nbsp;The PCSJA embodied a living, breathing example of how peace can be achieved nonviolently.</p><p>Risking accusations of traveling to Havana as FARC “friends”, he and the PCSJA focused on delivering one simple message during the talks: that the Community embodied a living, breathing example of how peace can be achieved nonviolently. And they brought with them the proposal of designating humanitarian areas that both sides would respect, where villagers could carry on their lives in safety and tranquility while real and sustained peace arrives. The PCSJA had put forth this proposal many years ago, but it was never taken into consideration. Given the fact that now both parties are reaching agreements, they were hopeful that this time the proposal could succeed.&nbsp;</p><p>The proposal was neither accepted nor rejected. The officials said that they were going to evaluate the proposal and continue to discuss it. San José de Apartadó&nbsp;cited this as the perfect example of why a mere invitation to the talks is not enough, and that what was needed to produce long-lasting results was deeper, more long-term involvement of social organizations in the entire process.</p><h2><strong>Challenges looking forward: violence, stigmatization, extractive industry interests</strong></h2> <p>My visit this summer coincided with the Community’s celebration of 18 years of nonviolent resistance in the midst of Colombia’s longstanding civil war – a war that, although changing constantly, sadly does not cease to affect San José villagers. </p><p>Many challenges lie ahead for this peace community. Armed groups still disturb villagers and disrespect their neutrality. The Community’s <a href="http://www.cdpsanjose.org/node/33">latest communiqué</a> denounced how in the month of October (2015) they have had to deal with regular incursions and the presence of armed groups (mainly paramilitaries) in their territory. Moreover, part of an old strategy of stigmatization, villagers constantly face <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-L-LYL7fIgQ">defamatory claims</a> by different actors, including armed state forces and various media outlets. </p> <p>Beyond these rather classic forms of repression, the PCSJA must also struggle with increasing extractive industry interest in their land. Members of the Community have repeatedly reported being pressured by armed organizations, some with links with multinational corporations, to leave or sell their lands for virtually nothing. But the Community is equipped with the self-organization, unity, nonviolent discipline and adaptability they need to face any new challenge.</p><p><em>I would like to thank Amber French for helping me put together this article and ICNC in general for its support in drafting The Power of Staying Put.</em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/can-europe-make-it/liam-barringtonbush-jen-wilton/spanish-town-where-people-come-before-profit">The Spanish town where people come before profit</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/openglobalrights/c-sar-rodr-guez-garavito/soft-vengeance-of-peace-in-colombia">The ‘soft vengeance’ of peace in Colombia</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Colombia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Transformation Colombia Civil society Conflict Democracy and government civilResistance Juan Masullo Jiménez Wed, 04 Nov 2015 20:47:38 +0000 Juan Masullo Jiménez 97378 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Against Letpadaung: copper mining in Myanmar and the struggle for human rights https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/michael-caster/against-letpadaung-copper-mining-in-myanmar-and-struggle-for-human-ri <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Contention around a mine in Myanmar – especially police treatment of activists campaigning to close it – has grown into a challenge for the development of rule of law in that country.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/mining.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Credit: http://www.e-paolive.net/galleries/images/misc/2012/12/Bur-protest-1-Dec.jpg (All rights reserved)."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/mining.png" alt="Credit: http://www.e-paolive.net/galleries/images/misc/2012/12/Bur-protest-1-Dec.jpg (All rights reserved)." title="Credit: http://www.e-paolive.net/galleries/images/misc/2012/12/Bur-protest-1-Dec.jpg (All rights reserved)." width="431" height="288" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Credit: http://www.e-paolive.net/galleries/images/misc/2012/12/Bur-protest-1-Dec.jpg (All rights reserved).</span></span></span>The Letpadaung copper mine in the Sagaing Region of central Myanmar has become a major fault line in the struggle for human rights in that country. It is also emblematic of a global problem: the damage caused by exploitative resource extraction coupled with impunity for state violence.&nbsp;</p><p>Although the complex which houses the mine is some 20 years old, it has attracted increasing resistance since Myanmar began its ostensible transition away from strict military rule in 2011. Fed up with massive forced relocation and environmental degradation, residents have taken advantage of gradual political liberalization to begin staging demonstrations at the mine. But state brutality promptly tramples these actions, including at least one police assault on civil resisters — civilians — using military weapons. Abusive state officials have escaped prosecution while activists have been sentenced for exercising their fundamental rights.</p><p>Contention around the project — and especially police treatment of those engaging in nonviolent civil resistance to put an end to it — has grown into a real challenge for President Thein Sein’s rhetoric of civilian government and the development of rule of law. How the situation is eventually resolved will be a serious barometer for democratic transition in Myanmar. </p> <p><span>But already its unraveling has revealed the potential for several innovations in rights defense in Myanmar. These innovations include increasing regional networking to facilitate deeper exchange between human rights defenders in neighbouring countries engaged in similar struggles, and developing more sophisticated advocacy and lobbying skills for drawing on the support of the international community. Domestic civil resistance can benefit both from the development of a culture of litigation and from a stronger network of professional human rights lawyers.&nbsp;</span></p><h2><strong>How civil resistance and litigation converged</strong></h2> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Thein Sein, President of Myanmar. Alexander Widding_Demotix. All rights reserved .jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Thein Sein, President of Myanmar. Demotix/Alexander Widding. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Thein Sein, President of Myanmar. Alexander Widding_Demotix. All rights reserved .jpg" alt="Thein Sein, President of Myanmar. Demotix/Alexander Widding. All rights reserved." title="Thein Sein, President of Myanmar. Demotix/Alexander Widding. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Thein Sein, President of Myanmar. Demotix/Alexander Widding. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Following a police crackdown on several hundred monks, students and farmers nonviolently protesting the Letpadaung mine in November 2012, an independent investigation by a group of Burmese lawyers and the US-based human rights organization </span><a href="http://www.justicetrust.net/wordpress/">Justice Trust revealed</a><span> that the police had used white phosphorous grenades against the nonviolent resisters — a chemical weapon of </span><a href="https://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/interview/weapons-interview-170109.htm">complicated legality</a><span> under international law. The monks, many shielding the other protesters, </span><a href="http://justicetrust.net/Justice%20petition%20for%20injured%20monks.pdf">suffered the worst injuries</a><span>: deep burns and lasting pain. “There was something specific about the particular fire,” one of the monk organizers, U Teikkha Nyana, told a group organized by several human rights organizations at Harvard Law School this past April.</span></p> <p><span>This assault strengthened the ties between two groups — civil resisters and human rights lawyers — that have become increasingly inseparable fronts in the struggle for democratic transition in Myanmar. With modest political liberalization, and a generally decreased risk of lengthy prison terms, more Burmese lawyers are willing to take on potentially sensitive rights cases.</span></p> <p><span>Following long periods of hospitalization, victims of the violent repression were finally in a place to embark upon the challenge of holding perpetrators accountable. On 11 March 2015, a group of monks led by U Teikkha Nyana filed criminal and civil suits against Home Minister Lieutenant General Ko Ko, who ordered the crackdown, and others. The case is a “fight for justice and to highlight human rights violations and the lack of rule of law in Myanmar,” </span><a href="http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/police-reject-lawsuit-against-burmas-home-affairs-minister.html">Aung Thein</a><span>, a lawyer involved with the case, explained to me at the same meeting in April.</span></p> <p><span>Monks have become increasingly common litigants in Myanmar, although </span><a href="http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/2-years-hard-labor-for-htin-lin-oo-in-religious-offense-case.html">sometimes causing major polemics</a><span> such as the ultra-nationalist monk U Wirathu. Civil resistance can help weaker groups increase their leverage over oppressors, while rights lawyers can serve to both maintain activists’ legitimacy and offer some protection against arbitrary abuse. Legal procedures force the state to articulate its persecution in legal terms. When the state clumsily insists on the legality of arbitrary persecution of civil resisters, for example, it often produces a backfire effect and further delegitimizes the state’s position.</span></p> <p><span>On 24 March, the monks’ charges against the Home Minister and police were rejected on the grounds that no lawsuit can be filed against officials who are operating in good faith — a blow to hopes of institutionalizing accountability. Nevertheless, I have been told further legal challenges are likely to follow.</span></p><h2><strong>Meanwhile, protests spread as repression intensifies</strong></h2> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Police violently evict farmers working near Letpadaung copper mine in 2013. Han Win Aung_Flickr. Some rights reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Police violently evict farmers working near Letpadaung copper mine in 2013. Flickr/Han Win Aung. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Police violently evict farmers working near Letpadaung copper mine in 2013. Han Win Aung_Flickr. Some rights reserved.jpg" alt="Police violently evict farmers working near Letpadaung copper mine in 2013. Flickr/Han Win Aung. Some rights reserved." title="Police violently evict farmers working near Letpadaung copper mine in 2013. Flickr/Han Win Aung. Some rights reserved." width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Police violently evict farmers working near Letpadaung copper mine in 2013. Flickr/Han Win Aung. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Despite the police crackdown, demonstrations continued at Letpadaung and began to swell around the country as others joined in solidarity, directing their resistance toward the Chinese companies involved in exploitative environmental projects in Myanmar.</span></p> <p><span>Small outbursts at the Chinese embassy in Yangon have continued since November 2013, the one-year anniversary of the violent crackdown on monks. At that time, Tin Htut Paing, a leader of the youth movement Generation Wave, </span><a href="http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/burma-activist-detained-burning-chinese-flag.html">burned a Chinese flag</a><span> in front of the embassy. He was charged with violating Myanmar’s Penal Code and the Law on Peaceful Assembly and detained.</span></p> <p><span>The next year, demonstrating with the “Black Campaign” students, </span><a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/charged-12312014153818.html">Tin Htut Paing was arrested</a><span> again for protesting outside of the embassy along with five others. His lawyer </span><a href="http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/afp/article-2908370/Two-Myanmar-protesters-charged-China-demo.html">Robert San Aung explained</a><span> that the six protesters were being charged disproportionately for exercising their freedom of expression.</span></p> <p><span>The group of activists was convicted and sentenced to four years and four months in a May 2015 trial </span><a href="http://www.icj.org/letpadaung-convictions-taint-the-legal-system-in-myanmar/">condemned by the International Commission of Jurists</a><span> (ICJ), a Geneva based organization that promotes human rights through the rule of law, and others. </span><a href="http://www.amnesty.ca/get-involved/take-action-now/myanmar-release-six-detained-after-mining-project-protests?utm_source=AmnestyNow&amp;utm_medium=TWITTER&amp;utm_campaign=Freedom_of_expression">Amnesty International called</a><span> for their immediate and unconditional release while </span><a href="http://www.icj.org/letpadaung-convictions-taint-the-legal-system-in-myanmar/">others asserted that the convictions seriously tainted</a><span> the legal system in Myanmar.</span></p> <p><a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/1799447/myanmar-court-adds-hard-labour-punishment-six-activists">Naw Ohn Hla, one of the women convicted</a><span>, said she would continue to fight for others’ rights as soon as she is freed but assumed that the government deliberately gave them lengthy sentences to keep them imprisoned during the countrywide general elections in November 2015. The next day, the court </span><a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/1799447/myanmar-court-adds-hard-labour-punishment-six-activists">added hard labour to the sentence</a><span>.&nbsp;</span></p><h2><strong>Strategic opening for international diffusion</strong></h2> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Myanmar protestors in Yangon. Manaw Htun_Demotix. All rights reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Myanmar protestors in Yangon. Demotix/Manaw Htun. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Myanmar protestors in Yangon. Manaw Htun_Demotix. All rights reserved.jpg" alt="Myanmar protestors in Yangon. Demotix/Manaw Htun. All rights reserved." title="Myanmar protestors in Yangon. Demotix/Manaw Htun. All rights reserved." width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Myanmar protestors in Yangon. Demotix/Manaw Htun. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The mine at Letpadaung is a joint venture between Wanbao, a subsidiary of Norinco, a Chinese industrial manufacturing company that also specializes in high-tech weapons, and the military-owned Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Company. This is a reminder of the important role foreign firms and governments play in developing or hindering the rule of law in Myanmar. This is not just about China.</span></p> <p><span>A 2015 </span><a href="https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2015/02/myanmar-foreign-mining-companies-colluding-serious-abuses-and-illegality/">Amnesty International report criticized</a><span> the Canadian firm Ivanhoe Mines, now Turquoise Hill Resources, and others for profiting from a corrupt or unregulated legal climate for resource extraction in Myanmar.</span></p> <p><span>Ivanhoe Mines was involved in the Monywa Complex since the joint venture began in 1996. Between April 2003 and January 2005, it may have violated Canadian, US, and European sanctions for large amounts of copper sales to blacklisted military firms. &nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.amnesty.ca/news/news-releases/turquoise-hill-must-disclose-all-transactions-related-to-myanmar-divestment">Amnesty has called</a><span> for Canadian authorities and the securities commission to investigate.</span></p> <p><span>In 2007, Ivanhoe Mines claimed that it was divesting from the Burmese mine and transferred its shares to an “independent third party,” the independence of which has been </span><a href="http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/canadian-mining-firm-may-breached-sanctions-rights-group-says.html">contested by Amnesty</a><span>.</span></p> <p><span>A </span><a href="https://www.wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09RANGOON20_a.html">2009 cable published by WikiLeaks</a><span> shows Ivanhoe was simultaneously negotiating with Burmese and Chinese buyers but was eventually forced to sell to the Burmese state-owned ME-1 for $100 million, on the grounds that ME-1 had already agreed to sell the mine to the Chinese interest for $250 million plus $50 million in consulting fees and $100 million in upgrades. The sale was finalized in 2011.</span></p> <p><span>Turquoise Hill is currently invested in two mining projects in Mongolia. In May 2015, a deal to sell its shares in the underperforming SouthGobi Mine to a Chinese firm fell through. Meanwhile the company has faced domestic opposition at another of its mine sites. Noted in a recent </span><a href="http://www.minorityrights.org/13061/attachments/_MRG-state-of-the-worlds-minorities-2015-FULL-TEXT.pdf">report by the Minority Rights Group</a><span>, the Oyu Tolgoi Mine has sparked resistance by local herders, environmental and minority rights groups over the destructive impact of the mine on the surrounding landscape. The parallels to Letpadaung don’t need elaboration.</span></p> <p><span>In their 2015 World Report, </span><a href="https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/country-chapters/canada?page=3">Human Rights Watch commented</a><span> on the “enormous collective impact on the human rights of vulnerable communities worldwide” of Canada’s mining industry. HRW expressed concern that the Canadian government neither regulates nor monitors the respect for human rights of Canadian firms overseas. In 2009, Canada did establish a corporate social responsibility advisory, but has yet to empower it with oversight or investigatory powers over Canadian firms operating domestically or in foreign countries, such as Myanmar.</span></p><h2>Broadening resistance strategies</h2><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/caster1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/caster1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Myanmar will continue to open up to more foreign trade and investment in the coming years. And the government is currently in the process of negotiating a <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/03/25/burma-address-rights-impact-new-investment-law">contentious Investment Law</a>. In early July, ICJ hosted a workshop with Myanmar’s Attorney General and others to discuss the investment law and protection of human rights in the country. <a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/1799447/myanmar-court-adds-hard-labour-punishment-six-activists">Daniel Aguirre, ICJ Legal Adviser</a>, commented that, “Myanmar needs to update its regulatory system to protect the environment and human rights.”</p><p>At the same time, civil society and human rights defenders may consider updating their strategies of resistance and rights defense. A targeted boycott of foreign-made products from host countries responsible for exploitive industries is one possible next step for national coordination of resistance. Increasing civil society pressure on the political and financial elite of select countries has its limits, as long as Myanmar protects elite interests over those of Myanmar citizens. Resistance to exploitative foreign involvement will require improving transnational activism and communication with activists engaged in similar struggles abroad. Ideally, it would also entail coordinating with networks of human rights defenders in countries whose foreign presence is targeted by civil resisters in Myanmar.<strong> </strong>This requires financial and logistical support.<strong></strong></p> <p><span>International funders interested in supporting rule of law development in Myanmar will play an important role in regional exchange. Organizations like Amnesty and </span><a href="https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/">Frontline Defenders</a><span> have long provided platforms for this type of exchange, but the demand is growing. Imagine the learning potential of combining activists and lawyers who have struggled against Letpadaung with their Mongolian counterparts who have resisted Oyu Tolgoi, or with the organizers of the </span><a href="http://www.phayul.com/news/article.aspx?id=33506">thousands of Tibetans</a><span> who have resisted the destruction of sacred or farming land by mining operations across western China. There are other transferable case studies for Myanmar from rights defenders around the world, such as </span><a href="http://upsidedownworld.org/main/bolivia-archives-31/3695-democracy-from-below-in-bolivia-an-interview-with-oscar-olivera">Oscar Olivera</a><span> who organized the successful resistance campaign against exploitive privatization in Cochabamba, Bolivia by the US construction firm Bechtel.</span></p> <p><span>The upcoming Universal Periodic Review of Myanmar in November, wherein the Human Rights Council will review Myanmar on the totality of its human rights record, presents an opportunity for rights defenders from Myanmar and around the world. It might also provide a platform for putting pressure on other governments to examine their human rights records in Myanmar.</span></p> <p><span>The UPR is a truly unique opportunity for universalizing domestic rights campaigns and forging links with supportive foreign governments. Unfortunately, </span><a href="http://hrp.law.harvard.edu/student-perspectives/government-official-suspected-of-war-crimes-put-in-charge-of-human-rights-review-for-myanmar/">reports indicate Home Minister Ko Ko</a><span> will lead Myanmar’s delegation, seriously calling into question the country’s commitment to the process.</span></p><h2><strong>Building bridges to broaden tactics of nonviolent resistance</strong></h2> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/caster2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/caster2.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="230" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>Protesting outside of embassies or burning country flags draws attention but is insufficient for sustainable coalition formation. To guarantee greater accountability for foreign companies operating in Myanmar, and the state officials tasked with protecting the interests of the local and international elite, domestic human rights defenders can target their activism at those firms’ countries of origin and strengthen their networks among human rights defenders in those countries. To complement these efforts, foreign governments with embassies in Myanmar can ensure they are accessible for civil society and guarantee they will not prioritize economic or political alignment with the elite at the expense of substantive commitments to human rights and the rule of law. But international action can only augment domestic mobilization; it cannot replace it.</span></p> <p><span>In the narrative above we see the importance of bridging nonviolent civil resistance with the community of human rights lawyers. While the rule of law is barely poking through the soil in Myanmar, the country has made limited advances in terms of domestic and international law. While such concessions may be more to placate the international community toward abandoning sanctions and stimulating investment, they have created openings for challenging oppression. Addressing resistance to Letpadaung, </span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/27/world/asia/27iht-myanmar27.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=2">Ant Maung, a popular poet</a><span>, commented, “Five years ago this would have been impossible; such a movement would have been cruelly crushed.”</span></p><p><span>Myanmar has a long way to go but, as Aung Thein noted at our meeting in April, it is time to nurture a domestic culture of litigation. Belief in the rule of law must come from below and strategic litigation should be calculated alongside other tactics of resistance. Through greater training, made increasingly possible by support from international organizations, Myanmar civil society will gain more rights awareness, allowing for more informed rights demands.</span></p><p>At the same time, just as the international community must perform due diligence when supporting top-down initiatives or large-scale investment, it must be cautious in supporting bottom-up programming. Sitting in his apartment in Yangon, Robert San Aung, the idiosyncratic human rights lawyer and six-time political prisoner under the <em>ancien régime</em>, shared his concern with me. Entrepreneurs have emerged to take advantage of legal aid and development funds, just as in other contexts of post-conflict or development, which is upsetting the network of nascent domestic lawyers. For San Aung, funders truly interested in supporting human rights in Myanmar must ensure checks and balances, which can be achieved through deeper engagement on the ground, meaning more language officers and interactions with civil society.</p> <p><span>Arguably the way forward for rights defenders in Myanmar is to continue augmenting domestic rights defense with transnational activism and international law, and to continue finding ways to take advantage of the same international opening that has benefited the government.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/civilresistance/michael-caster/in-myanmar-students-test-sincerity">In Myanmar, students test the sincerity of democratic transition</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Myanmar </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Myanmar Civil society Conflict Democracy and government civilResistance Michael Caster Mon, 03 Aug 2015 16:53:53 +0000 Michael Caster 94974 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Nonviolent resistance in Palestine: steadfastness, creativity and hope https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/katherine-hughesfraitekh/nonviolent-resistance-in-palestine-steadfastness-creativity-and-hope <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>"I don’t want my children to live my life.&nbsp;I’m looking for a future for my children and all children that is without occupation and violence. We have to have hope to resist.”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><iframe width="460" height="259" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/T_Tz7KFMiTA" frameborder="0"></iframe></p> <p><em>Editor’s note: On June 8, 2015, prominent nonviolent resistance leader Iyad Burnat of Palestine received the </em><a href="http://bit.ly/nonviolentAward"><em>James Lawson Award</em></a><em> for Achievement in the Practice of Nonviolent Conflict. The award, founded in 2011, is given during an </em><a href="file:///C:\Users\KatherineHF\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows\Temporary%20Internet%20Files\Content.Outlook\8UTM2860\bit.ly\FSI2015videos"><em>annual educational institute</em></a><em> on nonviolent conflict, jointly organized by the </em><a href="http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org"><em>International Center on Nonviolent Conflict</em></a><em> (ICNC) and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Massachusetts, USA. During Iyad’s acceptance speech, as well as during an exclusive follow-up video interview with <a href="https://opendemocracy.net/author/amber-french">Amber French</a> and Katherine Hughes-Fraitekh of ICNC, Iyad spoke about the motivating factors behind the movement that Bil’in spearheads, key aspects of building and sustaining the movement, strategies and tactics used, the importance of Israeli and international allies, lessons learned, and the way forward.</em> </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">For Iyad Burnat, nonviolent resistance is as central to daily life as the twisted-trunk olive trees that frame his rural village of Bil’in in the occupied West Bank. An enthusiastic father of five with a large smile and deep, piercing eyes, he is recognized not only in Palestine, but also among scholars and opinion-shapers around the world as a courageous </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://fsi2015.org/2015/06/11/father-of-five-leader-of-many/">leader among leaders</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;"> in an exemplary movement of nonviolent resistance.</span></p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">Over the past decade, images and footage of Bil’in’s resistance have spread across the world, in large part due to the movement’s </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://artthreat.net/2010/03/avatars-protest-bilin/">characteristic use of creative actions</a><span style="line-height: 1.5;">, which have increasingly captured the attention of international journalists. The movement also gained significant exposure, especially in the United States, when the film </span><a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://www.theguardian.com/film/2012/oct/21/5-broken-cameras-review"><em>Five Broken Cameras</em></a><em> </em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">(incidentally filmed by Iyad’s brother, Emad Burnat)</span><em> </em><span style="line-height: 1.5;">was nominated for the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary. It has helped spread the news of the extraordinary efforts of a small group of Palestinian farmers to end the Israeli occupation through nonviolent action and strategies to halt expropriation of their land to expand illegal settlements and build the separation wall.</span></p> <p>Iyad first joined the decades-long nonviolent resistance movement in Palestine as a pupil and member of a school committee in Bil’in. Since then, he and his family have experienced significant repression under occupation. At the age of 17, Iyad himself was arrested by the Israeli military and during interrogation was forced to sign a confession in Hebrew he didn’t understand for crimes he didn’t commit. He was then sentenced as a minor to two years in a desert prison which caused him to graduate late and derailed his planned career as a doctor. </p> <p><span style="line-height: 1.5;">In 2014, Iyad’s son was shot point blank in the leg by a soldier while standing next to his father during a nonviolent demonstration and he continues to face physical difficulties from this injury today. Yet throughout his years of nonviolent resistance, Iyad’s message has not waivered: “We are not against Jews; we are against the Israeli occupation.”</span></p><p><span style="line-height: 1.5;"><span class="image-caption"><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/CivResist1 (1).png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/CivResist1 (1).png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="417" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span>The Burnats have lived their entire lives under occupation. Iyad appears second from the left.&nbsp;Source:&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/iyad.burnat?fref=ts">Iyad Burnat’s Facebook page</a> (with permission).</span></span></p> <h2><strong>From Bil’in to the international stage</strong></h2> <p>Bil’in was among the first villages (including Budrus and Jayyous) to organize nonviolent resistance against the wall, <a href="http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/files/131/1677.pdf">deemed illegal under international law</a>, due to its planned route into occupied territory instead of along the <a href="http://www.unicef.org/oPt/OCHABarRprt05_Full.pdf">internationally-recognized Green Line</a> that is the modern border between Israel and the Occupied Palestinian territories.</p> <p>In response to this challenge, in the early 2000s, Iyad and members of his community joined with allies from villages throughout the West Bank, and more recently Gaza. Facing sustained repression — including beatings, arrests, torture, home night raids, kidnapping of children and killing of unarmed participants — from Israeli soldiers and settlers, the Palestinians from Bil’in and their partners have continued their resistance nonviolently, including weekly marches every Friday now for more than a decade.&nbsp;</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/map23.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/map23.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="279" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Loss of land in Palestine (1917-present). Information source: Foreign Ministry of Israel, IHR.org, unhcr.org, Reuters, jewishvirtuallibrary.org and unispal.un.org. Click to expand.</span></p><p>The ever-growing weekly protests are the tip of the iceberg of this increasingly visible and vibrant nonviolent movement which draws inspiration from prominent leaders such as Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela, but also Palestine’s own experience in nonviolent struggle beginning in the 1930s and continuing through the first and nonviolent aspects of the second intifada. The villagers are joined in their movement by an increasing number of allies throughout the world, including Israelis, Palestinians abroad, and communities in the Global South and Global North. One of the international visitors, Nobel laureate <a title="More articles about Desmond M. Tutu" href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/t/desmond_m_tutu/index.html?inline=nyt-per">Desmond Tutu</a> of South Africa said during his visit to Bil’in:&nbsp;“Just as a simple man named Gandhi led the successful nonviolent struggle in India and simple people such as&nbsp;<a title="More articles about Rosa Parks" href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/p/rosa_parks/index.html?inline=nyt-per">Rosa Parks</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a title="More articles about Martin Luther King Jr.." href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/k/martin_luther_jr_king/index.html?inline=nyt-per">Martin Luther King</a>&nbsp;led the struggle for civil rights in the United States, simple people here in Bil’in are leading a nonviolent struggle that will bring them their freedom.”</p><blockquote><h2><span style="font-style: normal;">International personalities who have participated in the weekly protests in Bil’in</span></h2><p><span style="font-style: normal;"><br /></span></p><ul><li><span style="font-style: normal;">· Nobel Prize winners Mairead Maguire from Ireland and&nbsp;Desmond Tutu from South Africa;</span></li><li><span style="font-style: normal;">· Former Vice President of the European Parliament <a href="http://www.imemc.org/article/68875">Luisa Morgantini</a>;</span></li><li><span style="font-style: normal;">· Former US President Jimmy Carter; </span></li><li><span style="font-style: normal;">· Former President of Ireland <a title="More articles about Mary Robinson." href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/r/mary_robinson/index.html?inline=nyt-per">Mary Robinson</a>; </span></li><li><span style="font-style: normal;">· Former Norwegian Prime Minister <a title="More articles about Gro Harlem Brundtland." href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/b/gro_harlem_brundtland/index.html?inline=nyt-per">Gro Harlem Brundtland</a>;</span></li><li><span style="font-style: normal;">· Former President of Brazil <a title="More articles about Fernando Henrique Cardoso." href="http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/fernando_henrique_cardoso/index.html?inline=nyt-per">Fernando Henrique Cardoso</a>; </span></li><li><span style="font-style: normal;">· <a title="Times profile of Ela Bhatt" href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/07/world/asia/07bhatt.html">Ela Bhatt</a>, an Indian advocate for the poor and women’s rights. </span></li><li><span style="font-style: normal;"><br /></span></li></ul><p><span style="font-style: normal;">Some of these individuals, including <a href="http://ncronline.org/blogs/road-peace/nobel-laureate-mairead-maguire-practices-nonviolence-palestine">Mairead Maguire</a>, and Luisa Morgantini, sustained injuries during the protests.</span></p></blockquote><p><span style="font-style: normal;">Burnat explains that the impetus for Palestinians to resist is embedded in their daily reality — their lives and environment under occupation teach them to resist. “I learned a lot of methods from Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, but life teaches more. When you struggle and live the life under occupation; when you are suffering and in pain every day, it teaches you how to resist. It comes from the life. Nonviolent struggle comes from the life. We are a simple people and nonviolent resistance is a part of our lives.”</span></p><h2><strong>Creativity for countering repression, celebrating success</strong></h2> <p>Iyad discusses the process of coming up with the creative, diverse and ever-changing tactics and methods that are the hallmark of&nbsp;the village resistance movement. Members of the local Bil’in Popular Committee and the umbrella Stop the Wall Coalition hold weekly meetings to discuss and analyze the latest news, key issues on the ground, and the political situation internally and externally and then propose new ideas and actions focusing on achievable and short-term goals that align with broader strategies. These are then implemented at strategic times and locations by a number of the movement members. As lessons are identified, tactics and methods are continually honed. This is very similar to the process used by Palestinians across East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza <a href="https://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/learning-and-resources/resources-on-nonviolent-conflict?bTask=bDetails&amp;bId=4">during the first intifada</a> from 1987-93, which featured a wide array of nonviolent actions supported by local committees all over Palestine.</p><blockquote><h2><span style="font-style: normal;">Decision-making in the Bil’in Popular Committee</span></h2><p><span style="font-style: normal;"><br /></span></p><p><span style="font-style: normal;">Decisions for the movement are made in a horizontal manner with input and decisions made in local popular committees representing each member village, such as the Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall, then passed on and distributed through an umbrella committee, the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, comprised of representatives from the 12 active villages in the West Bank, including Budrus, Nabi Saleh, and Nil’in, and the newest member, Khan Younis, Gaza.</span></p></blockquote> <p>Bil’in has become known for its weekly marches and for originating creative ideas and diverse tactics of nonviolent resistance. Examples include protesters tying themselves to olive trees that are being uprooted by bulldozers to make way for the wall; locking themselves in cages which then must be hauled away by cranes; or chaining themselves to steel pillars on the ground. They haul in trailer houses and place these to reclaim their stolen land, barricading themselves inside in response to the same tactic used by the illegal Israeli settlers. The farmers of Bil’in also seek to win over the soldiers, offering flowers or joking with them to find the human connection, even as the soldiers continue to arrest, beat and sometimes kill them.&nbsp;</p><blockquote><h2><span style="font-style: normal;">Mondoweiss co-editor Adam Horowitz’s 2009 eyewitness account of nighttime raids</span></h2><p><span style="font-style: normal;"><br /></span></p><p><span style="font-style: normal;">“On July 7th at 3:30 am soldiers disrupted the tranquility of Bi'lin by forcing their way into several houses.&nbsp;Israeli soldiers came with a list of 10 names for arrest. When Palestinian, international, and Israeli activists arrived at the scene they were subjected to violence and intimidation by the Israeli occupation forces… When activists and community members responded, they were beaten back with batons and forced to dodge a large number of percussion grenades. Meanwhile, activists tried blocking the jeeps from leaving by erecting makeshift barricades in the street.&nbsp;The Israeli occupation forces responded with a number of percussion grenades and then rammed their jeeps through.&nbsp;They forced their way up the street and to several other houses.&nbsp;While there, they arrested a young man and issued nine summons to families of youths who were not present.&nbsp;This was done without explanation or warning.&nbsp; The jeeps had to make an escape through a second set of erected barricades and they exited into the night.”</span></p><p><span style="font-style: normal;"><br /></span></p><p> Source: <a href="http://mondoweiss.net/2009/07/israeli-forces-raid-bilin-at-3-am">http://mondoweiss.net/2009/07/israeli-forces-raid-bilin-at-3-am</a></p></blockquote> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/blue.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/blue.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">In one of the most memorable marches yet, villagers painted themselves blue and dressed as the indigenous Na’vi people who triumphed over repressive human colonizers in the popular movie <em>Avatar</em>, gaining international press coverage and stunning Israeli soldiers sent to disrupt the event. Iyad appears second from the right. Source: <a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="http://australiansforpalestine.com/17749">Australians for Palestine</a> (2010).</span></p><p>Another method of nonviolent resistance that Bil’in has developed is in direct response to a form of repression that Israeli soldiers began to use extensively in 2009 and 2010 — nocturnal raids of villagers’ homes. These nighttime raids instill fear in families and involve targeting and arresting children with the aim of breaking the families’ will to resist. &nbsp;To counter this tactic, Iyad and the popular committees developed the idea of increasing their demonstrations and holding them in the evening, thereby exhausting the soldiers who then had to protect the wall construction by day and protests by night. This tactic ended in a small but critical victory for Bil’in — although the night raids did not end entirely, they decreased significantly from a daily occurrence to once or twice a week, thereby giving the families and children some relief and less daily trauma.&nbsp;</p><p>To help counter the violence and prepare the children for a life under occupation and struggle, Bil’in teaches its children the context of the conflict and how to resist nonviolently. This is achieved through modeling nonviolent action and attitudes, and counseling against revenge. Parents also try to de-escalate and funnel uncontrollable anger and frustration into symbolic acts such as throwing stones and water balloons. (In the literature of civil resistance, stone throwing is not considered a nonviolent tactic.&nbsp; Many Palestinians argue that it is a symbolic act that is not meant to hurt Israelis, since they have superior military capacity and armoured vehicles. For them, stone throwing shows agency and an unwillingness to submit.)</p> <p>The children are also empowered to organize their own marches, including one pictured in <em>Five Broken Cameras</em> where the children march alone holding signs saying “let us sleep” and “we want to sleep,” messages directed to the Israeli soldiers against the nighttime raids.&nbsp; In the movie<em>, </em>there is also a heartrending conversation between a father and his child who is confused about why his parents are not fighting back with violence or protecting themselves and others with force against violence by Israeli settlers and military.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/children.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/children.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">“Freedom for the prisoners. Our hearts with you.” Source: <a style="line-height: 1.5;" href="https://www.facebook.com/iyad.burnat?fref=ts">Iyad Burnat’s Facebook page</a> (with permission).</span></p><h2><strong>Interim goals: disruption, media coverage and getting international actors involved</strong></h2> <p>Interim goals of the nonviolent resistance were to drive up the material costs of the wall, reduce the legitimacy of it and its supporters, and delay its construction so that complementary legal challenges and media strategies would have more time to work. These goals were achieved, as the financial costs increased exponentially. Much of the world now questions the legitimacy of the separation wall, and the construction of the wall was delayed years longer than planned. While construction was being disrupted, the cause in Bi’lin gained supporters in Israel and the international community, gaining support in the “court of public opinion.” Simultaneously, Palestinian activists worked with Israeli lawyers who were allies to argue their formal legal case against the wall in Israeli civil courts (known for relative independence when compared to the Israeli military courts functioning in the Occupied Territories). They argued that it was illegal to build the wall inside the internationally-recognized borders between Israel and the Occupied Territories and cited international rulings in their favour including the critical July 9, 2004 Advisory Opinion by the International Court of Justice, supporting the Palestinian position.</p> <p>In September 4, 2007, Bil’in had a major victory when the High Court of Justice in Israel ordered the government to change the route of the wall near Bil'in. Chief Justice&nbsp;<a title="Dorit Beinish" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorit_Beinish">Dorit Beinish</a>&nbsp;wrote in her ruling: "We were not convinced that it is necessary for security-military reasons to retain the current route that passes on Bil’in’s lands." The&nbsp;<a title="Israeli Defense Ministry" href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_Defense_Ministry">Israeli Defense Ministry</a>&nbsp;said it would <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6979923.stm">respect the ruling</a>, but it was not until 2011 — after four years of continued nonviolent action and pressure to enforce the order— that they began dismantling a section of the barrier to <a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6979923.stm">relocate it along an alternative route</a>. This ruling and rerouting forced Israel to return 500 dunums (4 = 1 acre) to farmers in Bil’in.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Even after the court case was won, activists in Bi’lin continued to gain media coverage and sympathy.&nbsp; Their flare for creative actions, use of visually compelling images, skill in framing their message, education of journalists around the world, and international speaking tours by community leaders, as well as the film <em>Five Broken Cameras</em>,<em> </em>has significantly increased the number of media outlets and audiences aware of the existence of nonviolent movements in Palestine and correspondingly, increased active allies.&nbsp;</p> <p>Another key strategy of the Stop the Wall Coalition is to engage external actors and international citizens, including Israelis. Iyad explains that in the beginning, villagers were not always clear on their importance, but over time the presence of international allies in Bil’in in protests, including protective accompaniment in homes, resulted in less use of deadly force by the Israeli military against protestors, less destruction of houses and property during night raids, independent documentation of violence and other repression used against villagers, and greater visibility to the rest of the world of the struggle going on in Bil’in and other villages.&nbsp; This in turn brings increased international solidarity and understanding of the reality of life under occupation in Palestine.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Unity counts, both locally and among Palestinians abroad</strong></h2> <p>Iyad understands the importance of unity among the movement and continually talks about growing the movement, the significance of shared goals and values, and the importance of connecting and unifying with other Palestinians. He is very aware of “divide and conquer” strategies that have been used by Israelis against Palestinians, dividing Palestinians residing in the Holy Land — those inside the 1948 borders, Gaza Strip, the West Bank and &nbsp;East Jerusalem — from each other through checkpoints, blockades and administrative processes. Iyad says sorrowfully: “I have never been there. I can’t go inside. I’ve never been to Jerusalem, I live only 25 kilometres away; nor to the sea, nor to Gaza.”&nbsp;</p><blockquote><p><em>“I learned a lot of methods from Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela, but life teaches more. When you struggle and live the life under occupation; when you are suffering and in pain every day, it teaches you how to resist. It comes from the life. Nonviolent struggle comes from the life. We are a simple people and nonviolent resistance is a part of our lives.”</em></p></blockquote><p>His story is common among Palestinians of his generation. Israeli law and actions have aimed to exacerbate divisions in Palestinians among ethnic, religious, geographic and political lines. Bedouins, Christians, Druze, Jews, and Muslims from historic Palestine; supporters of different political parties and factions; urban, rural, and refugee dwellers; and Palestinians inside 1948 boundaries, residents of the Occupied Territories and East Jerusalem and Gaza and those living in diaspora — have all been given different status, and coerced with benefits or sanctions at various times. The Christian Palestinians inside Israel recently refused a plan proposed by an Israeli Knesset member to give them special privileges in order to set them against their Muslim compatriots. Yariv Levin, the leader of the government coalition in the&nbsp;<a href="https://electronicintifada.net/tags/knesset">Knesset</a>, the Israeli parliament, explained his objectionable proposal this way: “My legislation will grant separate representation and treatment for the Christian public, which will be separated from the Muslim Arabs.”</p><p>Iyad also points out the division among the Palestinian refugees living outside of historic Palestine in refugee camps or in exile in various Arab countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, and Palestinians dispersed in diaspora communities around the world. He states that: “Palestinians all over the world need to stand with Palestinians inside, because we have to be together and united in the same struggle. For example, Palestinians in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria are affected by the regimes and have to stand up and say no. I want my freedom, I want my right to return to my home. Sometimes you have to be willing to lose something. Freedom doesn’t come on a plate of gold [old Arab proverb]. This is the right for everybody, human rights to live in freedom, justice and equality.” In reaction to repressive tactics, he feels that Palestinians must resist oppression and find a way to unify. </p> <h2><strong>Pushing for a third intifada with global support</strong></h2> <p>When discussing the way forward and their grand strategy, Iyad stresses his vision and his movement’s vision — the start of a third intifada in the West Bank and broader Occupied Territories. “We’re looking for a third intifada like the first intifada. A third intifada in Palestine will lead the Palestinian people to be united in Palestine. There are many problems inside the Palestinian community, between the West Bank and Gaza and between political parties, Fatah/Hamas and others. We have to lead the third intifada, so everyone can be together against the occupation, not each other.” Palestinians are feeling more divided than ever before and understand that without unity, they lose the power in numbers they need to stand up against the Israeli government. It is key that Iyad is calling for a third intifada first, and foremost, to unify themselves.</p> <p>Burnat continues: “I wish to build a global movement to end the occupation. I wish all the world will put pressure on the Israeli government to follow the rule of law to stop the occupation.” He mentions major avenues for internationals to assist Palestinians nonviolently. The first is the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, (BDS) movement which is based on a call for assistance by a broad coalition of over 100 Palestinian NGOs in July 2005 modeled on the South African BDS movement and calls for action against Israel until it complies with international law and universal principles of human rights. Second, Iyad calls for involvement with the Students for Justice in Palestine at universities in the United States, Canada and New Zealand where 100 now exist in the US alone. Third, he mentions supporting or joining groups providing unarmed civilian protection and protective accompaniment to Palestinians in the occupied territories.&nbsp;</p> <p>Bil’in welcomes and relies on nonviolent solidarity activists such as the Israeli Gush Shalom and Anarchists against the Wall, and global International Solidarity Movement (ISM) to provide a modicum of protection and documentation during many of their actions. Since 2005, Bil’in has lost two core members of its community, Bassem Abu Rahmeh’s death by a high velocity teargas canister fired at his chest on April 17, 2009, at the age of 29 — documented in <em>Five Broken Cameras — </em>and his sister Jawaher Abu Rahmah, 36, who died a year later in December 31, 2010, after a teargas attack.</p> <h2><strong>“We have to have hope to resist”</strong></h2> <p>As the Stop the Wall Coalition demonstrates, steadfastness (<em>sumud</em>) in Arabic and <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VlVsRWF9y8">nonviolent discipline</a> are essential ingredients of a successful movement. Members of the village communities have learned that they must continue to struggle, day by day, week by week, despite the violence directed at them. Freedom does not come easy. “You have to be willing to sacrifice for freedom, and above all else, believe in your cause and what you’re struggling for. If you believe, you will continue, if you continue, you will succeed.”</p> <p>Spend but a few hours in Iyad’s company and you’ll figure out where his hope and drive come from — his children, especially his youngest, 15-month old Mohyialdeen who shares his father’s dark, penetrating eyes. Iyad says, “We have hope to change the situation. Hope to have a better future for our children. I don’t want my children to live my life. I’m looking for a future for my children and all children that is without occupation and violence. We have to have hope to resist.”</p><p><em><br /></em></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/rana-baker/rejecting-victimhood-case-for-palestinian-resistance">Rejecting victimhood: the case for Palestinian resistance</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Palestine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-rights"> <div class="field-label">Rights:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> CC by NC 4.0 </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Transformation Palestine Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics civilResistance Katherine Hughes-Fraitekh Tue, 14 Jul 2015 14:13:52 +0000 Katherine Hughes-Fraitekh 94411 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In Myanmar, students test the sincerity of democratic transition https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/michael-caster/in-myanmar-students-test-sincerity <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <o:OfficeDocumentSettings> <o:AllowPNG ></o> <o:PixelsPerInch>96</o:PixelsPerInch> </o:OfficeDocumentSettings> </xml><![endif]--> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:WordDocument> <w:View>Normal</w:View> <w:Zoom>0</w:Zoom> <w:TrackMoves ></w> <w:TrackFormatting ></w> <w:PunctuationKerning ></w> <w:ValidateAgainstSchemas ></w> <w:SaveIfXMLInvalid>false</w:SaveIfXMLInvalid> <w:IgnoreMixedContent>false</w:IgnoreMixedContent> <w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText>false</w:AlwaysShowPlaceholderText> <w:DoNotPromoteQF ></w> <w:LidThemeOther>EN-GB</w:LidThemeOther> <w:LidThemeAsian>JA</w:LidThemeAsian> <w:LidThemeComplexScript>X-NONE</w:LidThemeComplexScript> <w:Compatibility> <w:BreakWrappedTables ></w> <w:SnapToGridInCell ></w> <w:WrapTextWithPunct ></w> <w:UseAsianBreakRules ></w> <w:DontGrowAutofit ></w> <w:SplitPgBreakAndParaMark ></w> <w:EnableOpenTypeKerning ></w> <w:DontFlipMirrorIndents ></w> <w:OverrideTableStyleHps ></w> <w:UseFELayout ></w> </w:Compatibility> <m:mathPr> <m:mathFont m:val="Cambria Math" ></m> <m:brkBin m:val="before" ></m> <m:brkBinSub m:val="&#45;-" ></m> <m:smallFrac m:val="off" ></m> <m:dispDef ></m> <m:lMargin m:val="0" ></m> <m:rMargin m:val="0" ></m> <m:defJc m:val="centerGroup" ></m> <m:wrapIndent m:val="1440" ></m> <m:intLim m:val="subSup" ></m> <m:naryLim m:val="undOvr" ></m> </m:mathPr></w:WordDocument> </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> <w:LatentStyles DefLockedState="false" DefUnhideWhenUsed="true" DefSemiHidden="true" DefQFormat="false" DefPriority="99" LatentStyleCount="276"> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="0" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Normal" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="heading 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 7" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 8" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="9" QFormat="true" Name="heading 9" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 7" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 8" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" Name="toc 9" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="35" QFormat="true" Name="caption" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="10" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Title" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" Name="Default Paragraph Font" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="11" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtitle" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="22" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Strong" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="20" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Emphasis" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="59" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Table Grid" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Placeholder Text" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="1" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="No Spacing" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Revision" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="34" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="List Paragraph" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="29" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Quote" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="30" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Quote" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 1" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 2" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 3" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 4" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 5" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="60" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Shading Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="61" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light List Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="62" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Light Grid Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="63" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 1 Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="64" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Shading 2 Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="65" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 1 Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="66" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium List 2 Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="67" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 1 Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="68" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 2 Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="69" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Medium Grid 3 Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="70" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Dark List Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="71" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Shading Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="72" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful List Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="73" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" Name="Colorful Grid Accent 6" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="19" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Emphasis" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="21" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Emphasis" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="31" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Subtle Reference" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="32" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Intense Reference" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="33" SemiHidden="false" UnhideWhenUsed="false" QFormat="true" Name="Book Title" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="37" Name="Bibliography" ></w> <w:LsdException Locked="false" Priority="39" QFormat="true" Name="TOC Heading" ></w> </w:LatentStyles> </xml><![endif]--> <!--[if gte mso 10]> <mce:style><! /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:Cambria;} --> <!--[endif] --> <!--StartFragment--> <!--EndFragment--></p><p>Students in Myanmar have achieved what few other citizens have since independence: the creation of a lasting national, cohesive social movement united around a core set of grievances and demands.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/2015-03-11-akademskih-15-borbenih-akademskih-15-39156.jpeg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Students demand change in Myanmar. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/2015-03-11-akademskih-15-borbenih-akademskih-15-39156.jpeg" alt="Students demand change in Myanmar. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved." title="Students demand change in Myanmar. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Students demand change in Myanmar. Creative Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>In Myanmar, as university students around the world begin to exalt their summer freedom, a national student movement continues to demand greater political freedom. At the end of May 2015 Myanmar’s parliament was still </span><a href="http://www.burmanet.org/news/2015/05/26/eleven-media-upper-house-discusses-to-amend-national-education-law/">discussing</a><span> proposed amendments to a National Education Law put forth by a coalition of student groups. The students have expressed their concern over the lack of academic freedom and the centralized control inherent in the law, which was passed in September 2014. Since its adoption, students and other activists have been campaigning around the country. In many ways, the struggle around education reform can be seen as a prism through which to assess the sincerity of democratic transition in Myanmar today.</span></p> <p><span>It began in March 2014 with the release of the draft law. Later, a national coalition of student groups issued an </span><a href="http://www.burmapartnership.org/updates-national-education-law-student-protest/">11 point manifesto</a><span>. They demanded, among other things, student representation in enacting education legislation, teaching that ensures the freedom of thought, multilingual education for ethnic minorities, inclusion of children with disabilities, and the expansion of compulsory education from primary school to middle school. In November 2014, students in Yangon, the capital, issued a statement </span><a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/protests-11172014180551.html">explaining</a><span> that if the government failed to negotiate within 60 days there would be nationwide mobilization.</span></p> <p><span>With little progress toward their demands, on January 20, 2015, they held true to their word. Several hundred students from Mandalay and elsewhere began marching the some 400 miles to the capital to demand negotiation. Less than a week later the government agreed to hold four-party talks. As a show of faith several of the groups marching on Yangon </span><a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/four-party-educational-reform-talks-01282015175843.html">agreed</a><span> to halt their processions. However, after only a few days the talks stalled. More than 250 civil society organizations pressed for their resumption and several protests were staged around the capital in solidarity with the marching students.</span></p> <p><span>Sustained pressure appeared successful in mid-February when government negotiators surprisingly </span><a href="http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/govt-students-reach-agreement-education-reform.html">agreed</a><span> to the students’ demands. A few days later a new version of the law was sent to parliament for discussion.</span></p> <p><span>Throughout the months of demonstrations students overwhelmingly maintained nonviolent discipline with one </span><a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/march-01202015162515.html">noting</a>:<span>&nbsp;“we don't have any weapons, not even a needle, so if there is a crackdown we will just have to bow our heads and face it.”</span></p> <h2><span>A tradition of student activism</span></h2> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/7087745.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Myanmar students protest. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/7087745.jpg" alt="Myanmar students protest. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved." title="Myanmar students protest. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Myanmar students protest. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>These students are following a long tradition of student-led nonviolent civil resistance dating back to pre-independence Myanmar. Not long after </span><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/news/2002/dec/06/guardianobituaries">General Ne Win</a><span>’s March 1962 coup, students at Yangon University began demonstrating against the military dictatorship and the sudden loss of academic freedom. In early July that year, the military cracked down savagely, massacring between 100 and 1000 students and dynamiting the student union building, the epicentre of student activism since the colonial period. There would be no student unions again until 2010.</span></p> <p><span>In 1974, following the death of </span><a href="http://www.un.org/Overview/SG/sg3bio.html">U Thant</a><span>, the United Nations Secretary General from 1961 to 1971, the regime denied him a burial with honours. Thousands of students and monks seized his body and marched to Yangon University, where they buried him close to where the student union stood. The armed forces soon drove tanks onto the university campus and exhumed his body. Upwards of 4,500 students were arrested in the ensuing melee, and some 100 were killed.</span></p> <p><span>Student mobilization was salient in the better-known 1988 pro-democracy movement from March to August. In </span><em>Unarmed Insurrections</em><span>, Kurt Schock calls this period the “Rangoon Spring” — Rangoon is the former name for Yangon — in reference to the 1968 Prague Spring, a brief period of political liberalization in Czechoslovakia that ended with military intervention. Amnesty International even established a short-lived office in Yangon at this time. But by September the state responded with pure brutality. The military assumed control under General Saw Maung and the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC). More than 3,000 were killed by the end of the month. Human Rights Watch's Asia Director, Brad Adams, has </span><a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2013/08/06/burma-justice-1988-massacres">called</a><span> the ongoing impunity for these mass killings an unaddressed wound challenging the rhetoric of reform.</span></p> <p><span>The inspiration and guidance of what became known as the 88 Generation would inspire incremental episodes of resistance and repression that followed. And in 2007, scattered demonstrations that began in April spread around the country reaching around 100,000 demonstrators in Yangon on September 24. This episode is known as the Saffron Revolution, in reference to the overwhelming presence of bright orange and red-clad Buddhist monks among the demonstrators. The spread of images, made possible by social media, of police and military savagely beating monks contributed to the international outcry and condemnation of the regime. In addition to monks, students made up sizeable numbers, as new student organizations such as </span><a href="http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/generation-wave-celebrates-6th-anniversary.html">Generation Wave</a><span>, inspired by the 88 generation, began to organize and innovate strategies of resistance.</span></p> <h2><span>The government loses patience</span></h2> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/7087757.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Myanmar police stage crackdown. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/7087757.jpg" alt="Myanmar police stage crackdown. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved." title="Myanmar police stage crackdown. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Myanmar police stage crackdown. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Despite a long tradition of student-organized civil resistance, those who began in November 2014 exhibited a stark difference with their predecessors. They were engaging in collective action in an ostensibly democratizing Myanmar.</span></p> <p><span>In November 2010 Myanmar held its first general election since 1990, although they took place amid concerns of intimidation and corruption, as well as laws that strongly favored the military. International election monitors and foreign journalists were banned. Anyone serving a prison sentence was barred from party membership, a questionable regulation in light of the more than 2,000 political prisoners. In April, Lieutenant General Thein Sein resigned from the military and formed the 'civilian' Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP), absorbing several military organizations. USDP won vast Parliamentary representation. A week later Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, although she is still banned from running in the 2015 election. In the years following, Thein Sein released hundreds of political prisoners and has presided over certain welcome legislative reforms. In response, the United States and European Union have restored diplomatic relations and lifted decades of economic sanctions.</span></p> <p><span>In light of this narrative of political liberalization, one would have hoped that the negotiation of a National Education Law would comport with Thein Sein’s attempts to maintain legitimacy by appearing more sympathetic to political reform. Unfortunately, after the student’s preliminary successes at convincing the Parliament to review their demands, the trajectory began to take a familiar arc.</span></p> <p><span>In February 2015, even as positive negotiations were under way in the capital, several hundred security personnel were being </span><a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/deployed-02052015180541.html">deployed</a><span> along the route of those marching south from Mandalay. Kyaw Thet, a student from Pathein, about 60 miles from Yangon, </span><a href="http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/despite-increased-police-presence-student-protesters-continue-march-rangoon.html">told The Irrawaddy</a>:<span>&nbsp;“if they shoot, we will be hit… We have no plans to back down, but we want to say there is no benefit to anyone if violence is used against students. If the government agrees to our demands, we will call off our strike and go home.”</span></p> <p><span>Despite the agreement at the four-party talk, it soon became clear that the Parliament would not welcome student representatives. A few days later the government </span><a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/education-02132015175711.html">warned</a><span> that action would be taken and Minister of Home Affairs Lieutenant General Ko Ko cautioned the organizers that demonstrators would be considered a threat to national stability. On February 16 two foreign freelance journalists were </span><a href="http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/foreign-journalists-deported-covering-student-protests.html">expelled</a><span> from the country for documenting protests. In early March, police in Letpadan, about 85 miles from Yangon, surrounded the students marching from Mandalay. A tense standoff ensued with students demanding to continue, and the police, who outnumbered them 5 to 1, refusing to abandon their blockade. In Yangon, police assaulted a small group of activists on March 5 who had gathered in solidarity with those at Letpadan. Then, despite the authorities and students </span><a href="http://time.com/3740141/burma-crackdown-student-protests-letpadan/">appearing</a><span> to have reached a consensus in Letpadan, </span><a href="http://asiancorrespondent.com/131270/burma-shocking-images-videos-emerge-of-brutal-student-crackdown-in-burma/">violence erupted</a><span> on March 10.</span></p> <p><span>In a move that was widely </span><a href="http://www.omct.org/human-rights-defenders/urgent-interventions/myanmar/2015/03/d23027/">condemned</a><span> by human rights organizations and </span><a href="http://www.voanews.com/content/myanmar-criticized-over-violent-crackdown-on-protesters/2675433.html">governments</a><span>, police and hired thugs, armed with truncheons and riot gear, mercilessly beat back the some 200 assembled students. Some passed out and others were badly cut from barbed wire or suffered broken bones, some were dragged into trucks, chased into the fields, or later </span><a href="http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/4/27/Myanmar-cracks-down-on-student-protests.html">snatched</a><span> from their homes at night. The police also </span><a href="http://asiancorrespondent.com/131259/burmese-police-attack-student-protesters-with-batons/">chased</a><span> away journalists from documenting the abuse but evidence quickly spread through traditional and social media, such as the “</span><a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/We-Support-Myanmar-Students/1617301761814639?sk=timeline">We Support Myanmar Students</a><span>” Facebook page, which, at the time of writing, has generated more than 25,000 likes. Soon afterwards, the Ministry of Information </span><a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-31812028">claimed</a><span> to have arrested 127 people.</span></p> <h2><span>By truncheon or by gavel, the law as a repressive tool</span></h2> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Myanmar Students Protest Police Violence. Thet Htoo, Demotix. All rights reserved.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Myanmar students protest. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/Myanmar Students Protest Police Violence. Thet Htoo, Demotix. All rights reserved.jpg" alt="Myanmar students protest. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved." title="Myanmar students protest. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Myanmar students protest. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The police violence at Letpadan, although thankfully low in casualties, bears a striking similarity to the state-sponsored violence of previous military governments. It is a disturbing return to past tactics of repression, </span><a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2015/03/10/burma-police-baton-charge-student-protesters">says</a><span> Human Rights Watch. But what seems equally, if not more troubling, is the instrumentalization of domestic law as a repressive tactic. This is part of what Thomas Risse and Kathryn Sikkink call a tactical concession. Repressive regimes will make certain concessions such as signing international treaties, passing new legislation, or releasing a few political prisoners. They do so to attempt to gain a little standing in the international community, to get human rights organizations off their backs, while not necessarily fully implementing such reforms. What this often means is that repressive regimes favour political crimes and show trials over mass killings or disappearances. It is a midpoint between traditional state repression and rule-consistent behaviour.</span></p> <p><span>Of the 127 people arrested over Letpadan some 70 were later charged, such as Po Po, who had evaded initial detention but was rounded up in the weeks following. After the crackdown, the 20-year-old history student&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.irrawaddy.org/burma/police-nab-another-student-linked-to-letpadan-protest.html">Po Po</a><span> had gone home, where she was arrested on April 8 and brought to the infamous </span><a href="http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/3006922.stm">Insein Prison</a><span>, while many others were held at Tharrawaddy Prison. Most of them have been charged with violations of the Penal Code and Peaceful Assembly Law, some facing the possibility of 10 years in prison. Enraged by the audacity of the state, activists and students in 11 cities around the country carried out </span><a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/myanmar/students-hold-protests-across-myanmar-03272015163719.html">protests</a><span> in solidarity with the detained, prompting further arrests and charges of violating the outdated Penal Code.</span></p> <p><span>The previous UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana, has called for the abolition or amendment of the antiquated Penal Code, in many ways identical to when it was first enacted in 1860, to ensure that it complies with international human rights standards if there is to be a transition to democracy. Assessing Myanmar’s transition should be based on far more than the upcoming election. As we move closer to the November election we should remain cognizant of the growing numbers of activists behind bars who have done nothing more than engage in nonviolent civil resistance.</span></p> <p><span>In testimony to premature talk of transition, the number of political prisoners since Thein Sein’s much touted amnesty at the end of 2013 has actually </span><a href="http://burmacampaign.org.uk/call-for-support-u-win-tin-blue-shirt-day-for-political-prisoners-in-burmamyanmar-on-april-21st-2015/">increased</a><span> by nearly 600 percent, according to some figures – the vast majority of whom have been placed behind bars for their parts in various nonviolent campaigns, for violations of the Penal Code and the 2011 Peaceful Assembly Law. This law requires, in Article 18, that organizers obtain permission from township police chiefs five days prior to any demonstration and for any slogans or signs they intend to display. Each violation is prosecutable based on township, which means the students marching from Mandalay could theoretically be charged with a violation for each township they passed through without prior permission. As an indicator of scale, there are 33 townships in Yangon alone. A coalition of more than 50 activists and civil society organizations have been campaigning for </span><a href="http://www.irrawaddy.org/human-rights/burma-activists-urge-protest-law-reform.html">years</a><span> to amend Article 18. The group includes the 88 Generation Peace and Open Society and Generation Wave.</span></p> <p><span>“I would say that Article 18 is related to everything, every issue. Because when people are repressed, while people’s rights are violated, they must have the right to express themselves.” Over an avocado smoothie at a roadside café in Yangon I speak with Moe Thway, co-founder of Generation Wave, one of the more active student movements that came out of the Saffron Revolution, about the detrimental impact of the Peaceful Assembly Law. “My worry about Article 18 is the first rank. It is the most important thing because it is the freedom of expression.”</span></p> <p><span>The freedom of expression is a fundamental right enshrined in Article 19 of the </span><a href="http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/">Universal Declaration of Human Rights</a><span>, which in Article 20 also recognizes the freedom of peaceful assembly and association.</span></p> <h2><span>Reform must come from below</span></h2> <p><span><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/7087775.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Myanmar students protest. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/7087775.jpg" alt="Myanmar students protest. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved." title="Myanmar students protest. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Myanmar students protest. Thet Htoo/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Students have been mobilizing around the country, seizing the right of free, peaceful expression and assembly by protesting, marching, sending open letters, engaging through social media, and negotiating with the state. Those who have been beaten and detained are engaged in active civil resistance to renegotiate the meaning of political participation in a changing Myanmar. In many ways, it is about more than just the National Education Law. In their expression of resentment toward the state, and in the level of national coordination unachieved in decades, the opportunity for civil society to influence social or political policy in Myanmar is great, even in the face of Thein Sein’s demonstrably thin commitment to democratization.</span></p> <p><span>While much of the international attention regarding democracy in Myanmar remains focused on the elections in 2015 or whether Aung San Suu Kyi will be allowed to serve as the next president, the real hope for transition in Myanmar arguably rests with the burgeoning civil society seizing every political opening to demand accountability. The movement around the National Education Law has managed to do what few in Myanmar have achieved since independence: to create a lasting national, cohesive social movement united around a core set of grievances and demands. Students, monks, and other civil resisters will continue to face repression from the state. But Myanmar’s desire to reconnect to the world after more than two decades of isolation also guarantees that the state will be forced to make increasing tactical concessions, leaving further openings for civil resistance.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/civilresistance/michael-caster/matching-resistance-to-repression-in-china">Matching resistance to repression in China</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Myanmar </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Myanmar Civil society Conflict Democracy and government civilResistance Michael Caster Wed, 10 Jun 2015 16:08:39 +0000 Michael Caster 93442 at https://www.opendemocracy.net When nonviolent action is the last resort https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/brian-martin/when-nonviolent-action-is-last-resort <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Against a repressive government, nonviolent action can often be more effective than violence. A new book surveys how the switch from armed to nonviolent resistance can occur. Book review.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/5523016-2.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/5523016-2.jpg" alt="Brigades of Zapatistas reconstruct school destroyed by paramilitary groups. Demotix/ Debora Poo Soto. All rights reserved." title="" width="460" height="305" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Brigades of Zapatistas reconstruct school destroyed by paramilitary groups. Demotix/ Debora Poo Soto. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>Imagine that you live in a country with a repressive government, such as South Africa under apartheid or Burma under the generals. You are part of a resistance movement, seeking to overthrow the government or to obtain independence for your oppressed people. What is the best way to go about it? Diplomatic efforts, education, protest, noncooperation or armed struggle?</p> <p>Research shows that a movement using primarily nonviolent action — methods such as rallies, strikes, boycotts and alternative government — is more likely to be effective than armed struggle. So you choose to join a nonviolent movement. So far so good. But there’s a complication. There’s already an active armed movement with the same goals as you, and you think this movement’s violent acts are hurting the resistance. The government calls them ‘terrorists’ and uses their violence as a pretext for arrests, torture, killing and removal of freedoms. Your nonviolent movement is paying part of the price. So you set yourself a task. You want to convince members of the armed opposition to switch to a strategy built around nonviolent action. How do you go about it?</p> <p>If you are academically inclined, you should immediately consult a new book edited by <a href="http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9781138019423/">Véronique Dudouet titled <em>Civil Resistance and Conflict Transformation </em>(Routledge, 2015)</a>.<em> </em>The term ‘civil resistance’ means nonviolent action and ‘conflict transformation’ means changing the nature of the conflict from one form to another. The subtitle is more revealing: <em>Transitions from armed to nonviolent struggle. </em></p> <p>Dudouet has found authors to write on eight prominent contemporary cases in which movements have switched from armed to nonviolent methods: Western Sahara, West Papua, Palestine, South Africa, Chiapas, Colombia, Egypt and Nepal. Few of these stories are known to the wider public. Perhaps only the struggles in Palestine and South Africa are familiar through the mass media, and even in these cases the transition from armed to nonviolent methods is little known. So here is a valuable compendium of insights about a crucially important process that has escaped the notice of scholars and members of the public alike.</p> <p>The first important insight is that nonviolent action can be a method of choice for resistance struggles. The usual assumption until now has been that armed struggle is a last resort, to be undertaken when other methods don’t work, or when the regime is so repressive that nonviolent action can’t possibly be successful. Throw this assumption out the window! A replacement assumption is that there is no such thing as a last resort, but instead that different approaches need to be examined on their merits in particular circumstances. Sometimes, indeed often, armed struggle fails and movements gain by shifting to nonviolent struggle. No doubt there are cases in which movements can benefit by shifting to conventional politics; they would be the topic for a different book.</p> <p>The second insight from Dudouet’s book is that transitions from armed to nonviolent struggle are nearly always complex and messy. It’s possible to imagine a simple process in which activists sit down and say, “Our approach isn’t working. Let’s switch to one more likely to be effective.” Actually, a couple of the cases studies start something like this. In Egypt, the leaders of the Islamic Group (IG) decided to change their methods. However, they didn’t say this was because armed struggle wasn’t working. They actually provided sophisticated theological justifications. Furthermore, a movement doesn’t suddenly change its approach on the say-so of leaders. IG leaders embarked on a systematic process of talking to the rank and file, explaining and justifying their decision and eventually persuading most movement members. </p> <p>However, this was just one of several paths to nonviolent struggle. In Mexico, the Zapatistas grew out of an armed movement and fully expected that when they launched the rebellion in Chiapas on 1 January 1994, people across the country would rise up and overthrow the Mexican government. Of course it didn’t happen. The Zapatistas received great support from within Chiapas and also, unexpectedly, from sympathisers throughout the world. Within a matter of days, pressures from the base — the people in Chiapas — pushed the Zapatistas to change to a nonviolent strategy: they retained their arms but did not use them. </p> <p>What is striking in this case is the pragmatism of the Zapatistas: seeing the response of their local and international constituency, and the lack of a country-wide insurgency, they promptly jettisoned their beliefs about the necessity of armed struggle, grounded in Marxism-Leninism, and adopted beliefs grounded in nonviolent action and local empowerment.</p> <p>As Guiomar Rovira Sancho, author of the chapter on the Zapatistas, puts it:</p> <blockquote><p>The Zapatista uprising encountered immense support, which gave rise to an extensive solidarity network. It was evident that the armed strategy put all civil allies at risk and that, at the military level, the correlation of forces, once the moment of surprise was over, was totally negative for the EZLN. Their only way to survive was to take advantage of the support coming from civil society and to continue their struggle through negotiation and political means. (p. 144)</p></blockquote> <p>Each case in <em>Civil Resistance and Conflict Transformation </em>involves multiple players, a range of influences and varying strategies. In order to make some sense of this potentially confusing diversity, Dudouet asks each contributor to examine factors relevant to understanding the transition. At the level of the movement pushing for social change, two factors are the role of the leadership and the negotiations and struggles within the movement itself. At the level of society, factors include pressures from allies, the possibility of building coalitions, learning from campaigns by other groups, and competition with other movements. Then there are factors at the level of the country, such as state repression and inducement, and international factors, such as allies, emulation and acquisition of skills.</p> <p>Each of the contributors followed this framework, with the result that the book as a whole has an exemplary level of coherence. If you are looking for an understanding of the transition dynamics in a particular country, such as West Papua or Nepal, you can turn to the relevant chapter. If you are looking to understand the transition process more generally, Dudouet’s introduction and conclusion serve as admirable guides.</p> <p>In some cases, the actions of western governments have served to undermine transitions to unarmed resistance. The US government, for example, continued to classify groups in Egypt and Western Sahara as terrorist many years after they had rejected armed struggle. Dudouet, in drawing some conclusions, notes that policy-makers should better recognise the possibility of transitions and support them. </p> <p>This, however, assumes that western governments actually prefer opposition movements to be nonviolent. If nonviolent movements are more effective, perhaps some governments intuitively prefer to provoke violence because this plays into the government’s hands, justifying its own superior violence and strengthening its grip on power. Although in some cases, most prominently South Africa, western governments supported a push for change, governments were often the last to join the campaign. </p> <p>Perhaps in the future, when many more cases have been studied and frameworks for understanding transitions have been refined, there will be a simple guide on the vital topic of movements switching from armed to nonviolent strategies. </p> <p>For now, <em>Civil Resistance and Conflict Transformation </em>is the essential source. It shows that transforming conflicts towards nonviolent struggles is usually a complex and challenging process. Most importantly, it is possible.</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/sylvia-marcos/zapatista-women%E2%80%99s-revolutionary-law-as-it-is-lived-today">The Zapatista Women’s Revolutionary Law as it is lived today</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/civilresistance/stephen-zunes/mandela%E2%80%99s-utilitarianism-and-struggle-for-liberation">Mandela’s utilitarianism and the struggle for liberation </a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics civilResistance Brian Martin Wed, 27 May 2015 17:17:36 +0000 Brian Martin 93145 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Countering hybrid war: civil resistance as a national defence strategy https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/maciej-bartkowski/countering-hybrid-war-civil-resistance-as-national-defence-strateg <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="BodyA">The western response to Russian hybrid war in Crimea and eastern Ukraine has been predicated on a show of military force. Nonviolent civilian defence promises us another path.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Maciej-Lithuania (2).jpg" alt="Baltic Way" /> <em>Lithuanian interest in civil defence dates back to their experience of waging nonviolent defence against Soviets in the late 1980s and early 1990s to win independence. One tactic involving transnational solidarity was dubbed ‘the Baltic Way’ – a chain of people hundreds of kilometres long across three Baltic states, formed to increase visibility of these populations’ struggles for independence. Wikimedia Commons/Rimantas Lazdynas. Some rights reserved.</em></p> <p>Since the annexation of Crimea and the start of conflict in eastern Ukraine, the Russian form of hybrid war that spearheaded these events has raised significant concerns among <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/01/us-ukraine-crisis-baltics-idUSKBN0GW2IT20140901">eastern European states</a> about an effective response to non-traditional warfare. Russia’s hybrid war – a term meaning a mixture of conventional and irregular warfare – has presented a vexing problem to conventional armed defense. It also demonstrates the need to determine whether a national strategy of nonviolent civilian defence can be a viable option for the current and potential victims of hybrid war to fight back non-militarily.</p> <p class="BodyA"><span>The </span><a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-threatens-to-use-nuclear-force-over-crimea-and-the-baltic-states-10150565.html">meeting between former Russian and </a><a href="http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/russia-threatens-to-use-nuclear-force-over-crimea-and-the-baltic-states-10150565.html">US defence and intelligence officials</a><span> in March gave us a glimpse into the Kremlin’s thinking about hybrid war. Instead of sending troops without insignia across the border with the Baltic states, Moscow would use at first non-military means to entice local, mainly Russian but sometimes non-Russian populations (like the </span><a href="http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21645522-leader-ethnic-polish-party-tries-broaden-his-appeal-reaching-out-ethnic">Polish-speaking</a><span> minority in Lithuania) toward Russia. This would hardly constitute a rationale for deployment of tanks and warplanes and would put a defending military in a dilemma of whether or not to shoot at unarmed civilians. As the commander of the US army in Europe, Lt-Gen Frederick "Ben" Hodges </span><a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/russia/11547247/Europe-faces-a-real-threat-from-Russia-warns-US-army-commander.html">observed recently</a><span>: Russians “don't want a clear attack, they want a situation where all 28 [NATO member countries] won't say there's a clear attack." If the alliance decided to go heavy-handed against mobilized and seemingly peaceful minorities it would turn itself into an aggressor, offer Putin a propaganda coup for more interference and rally Russian society even closer around the Kremlin’s belligerent policies.</span></p> <p class="BodyA"><span>Despite facing such unconventional threats, the western response has been predicated on a show of military force, while nonviolent strategies have largely been absent from defence plans. The most recent </span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/30/world/europe/an-american-military-convoy-in-europe-aims-to-reassure-allies.html">Operation Dragoon Ride</a><span> publicity stunt saw hundreds of US soldiers and their armed vehicles meandering through the roads of central Europe in a public display of force.&nbsp;Meanwhile, countries such as Poland have </span><a href="http://www.defensenews.com/story/defense/international/europe/2015/02/15/poland-spend-billions-defense-amid-rumblings-war-europe/23457827/">beefed up</a><span> their armouries while civilians have volunteered to join shooters’ clubs and </span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/15/world/europe/poland-steels-for-battle-seeing-echoes-of-cold-war-in-ukraine-crisis.html?_r=0">paramilitary groups</a><span> to prepare for potential armed resistance.</span></p> <h2>Thinking beyond the 'fight or capitulate' dichotomy</h2><p class="BodyA"><span>The choice society has in facing foreign aggression seems rather simple: fight with arms or surrender. That sentiment was reflected in the 2014 </span><a href="http://www.wingia.com/en/services/end_of_year_survey_2014/global_results/8/45/">Gallup survey</a><span> conducted in more than 60 countries that asked: “Would you fight for your country?” Globally, 60 percent were willing to fight or, as it was interpreted, “take up arms,” while 27 percent would not. By default, “fight” was understood as armed struggle while its opposite – not to fight – as a capitulation.</span></p> <p class="BodyA"><span>A recent opinion poll in Poland, however, showed a far more nuanced gamut of responses. Last month, the survey </span><a href="http://www.tvn24.pl/wiadomosci-z-kraju,3/sondaz-dla-faktow-tvn-tylko-27-proc-polakow-walczyloby-za-kraj,525137.html">asked Poles what they would do if their state faced armed invasion</a><span> by another country. Tellingly, 37 percent of respondents – the equivalent of almost 12 million Polish adults if applied to the nation’s population – said they would resist foreign aggression “not by fighting with arms, but by engaging in other, non-military activities.” Only 27 percent declared it would take up arms. The remaining would emigrate, were undecided or would surrender.</span></p> <p class="BodyA"><span>Many more Poles – a population that could very well find itself in Russia’s crosshairs – are ready to engage in nonviolent resistance than in armed struggle to defend their country. While at first blush, Gallup’s global survey suggests the default is armed struggle, responses by Poles indicate that when given more choices, nonviolent resistance has more support than is often recognized.</span></p> <p class="BodyA"><span>That point is not lost on Russia and China. My study published by the Krieger School of Johns Hopkins University in March 2015 on </span><a href="http://advanced.jhu.edu/academics/graduate-degree-programs/global-security-studies/program-resources/publications/white-paper-maciej-bartkowski/">countering hybrid war with nonviolent civilian defense</a><span> shows that these countries are preoccupied equally with shielding themselves </span><em>against</em><span> nonviolent resistance, while at the same time </span><em>using</em><span> civilian mobilization to propel their hybrid war machines. The new </span><a href="http://static.kremlin.ru/media/events/files/41d527556bec8deb3530.pdf">Russian military doctrine</a><span> released at the end of 2014 identifies social movements and civilian-led demonstrations as a major weapon in territorial conflicts. This strategy is no doubt the result of Russia’s lessons from the so-called </span><a href="https://books.google.com/books?id=uO4fAwAAQBAJ&amp;dq=color+revolutions+Valerie+Bunce">colour revolutions</a><span>, the Arab Spring and the </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/peter-ackerman-maciej-bartkowski-jack-duvall/ukraine-nonviolent-victory">Ukrainian Euromaidan</a><span>.</span></p> <h2><strong>Nonviolent resistance as part of a nation</strong><strong>’</strong><strong>s defence strategy?</strong></h2><p class="BodyA"><span>Ironically, authoritarian states seem to give more credit to people power than their democratic counterparts. Only one tiny democratic state – recognizing both the historical contribution of this type of warfare to its pro-democratic and pro-independence struggle in the 1980s and beginning of the 1990s, as well as the costs and risks of armed defence against a militarily stronger adversary – has explicitly integrated strategies of nonviolent resistance into its territorial defence. Last January, the Lithuanian Ministry of Defence published </span><a href="http://www.kam.lt/lt/naujienos_874/aktualijos_875/%252520pristatytas_leidinys_ka_turime_zinoti_apie_pasirengima_ekstremaliosioms_situacijoms_ir_karo_metui.html">a manual</a><span> that asks Lithuanian citizens to engage in civil resistance in case of invasion and occupation. It offers specific examples of how civilians can wage nonviolent actions against a foreign adversary while referring to </span><a href="http://www.aeinstein.org/nva/198-methods-of-nonviolent-action/">Gene Sharp’s 198 methods of nonviolent resistance</a><span>. The manual acknowledges that “Civilian-based defense or nonviolent civil resistance is another way for citizens to resist aggression…This method is especially important for threats of hybrid war.”</span></p> <p class="BodyA"><span>Lithuanians recognized that nonviolent civilian defence could turn a whole nation into a resistant society as it strengthens its cohesion, solidarity and self-organization – essential ingredients in a struggle against a polarizing hybrid war. Nationwide, nonviolent civilian defence turns the whole nation into a fighting society that is disciplined to wage a long-term, all-encompassing and targeted noncooperation effort with the aggressor, including its allies at home and abroad to disrupt their control and undermine their legitimacy in each area of social, political, economic and cultural life.</span></p> <p class="BodyA"><span>Seemingly weak, occupied populations </span><a href="http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/PDF/Fletcher_Forum_MStephan.pdf">have in fact been able to exercise direct and indirect leverage</a><span> over the occupiers when they engaged in nonviolent resistance. </span><a href="http://www.recoveringnonviolenthistory.org/explore-content/themes-explored/external-leverages">The experience of the past anti-colonial and anti-occupation struggles</a><span> suggests that civil resisters were most effective when they were able to look beyond their domestic struggle and extend their immediate battlefield outside the borders to mobilize external actors, including adversaries’ international allies, as well as drive a wedge between the aggressor’s government and its own society.</span></p> <p class="BodyA"><span>As a result, organized collective actions of millions of ordinary people were able to erode the loyalty of the adversary’s allies often more effectively than arms. During the </span><a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=OVtKS9DCN0kC&amp;printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false">occupation of the Ruhr</a><span> after World War I, German citizens were so effective in nonviolent outreach to the occupying French troops that Paris was gravely concerned about their loyalties and readiness to continue implementing occupation orders. This and other civil resistance actions forced the French government to call up reservists, which increased the cost of occupation, deepened the budget deficit and raised resentment among the French public.</span></p> <p class="BodyA"><span>Civil resistance has also undermined oppressors’ domestic constituencies, as it did during the Indian independence struggle when </span><a href="http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/learning-and-resources/resources-on-nonviolent-conflict?bTask=bDetails&amp;catid=3&amp;bId=22">Gandhi effectively reached out to the British media and the public</a><span> to put pressure on the British government. Similarly, during World War II, civil resistance by the Norwegian teachers and trade unions </span><a href="http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/learning-and-resources/resources-on-nonviolent-conflict?btask=bdetails&amp;catid=2&amp;bid=5">against the pro-Nazi Quisling regime</a><span>, the </span><a href="http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/danish-citizens-resist-nazis-1940-1945">Danes’ collective nonviolent actions</a><span> against the Nazi occupation, </span><a href="http://maryking.info/?page_id=547">the first Palestinian nonviolent intifada</a><span> against Israeli occupation and </span><a href="http://nvdatabase.swarthmore.edu/content/east-timorese-activists-campaign-independence-indonesia-1987-2002">the East Timorese nonviolent pro-independence struggle</a><span> against the Suharto regime were all credited with protecting civilians, and reducing civilian deaths particularly in comparison with violent resistance. Nonviolent resistance also increased the economic, political and social costs on the violent adversary, often forcing it to offer tangible concessions that were hardly likely to have been extracted through direct violent challenge.</span></p> <h2>The untapped potential of nonviolent defence</h2><p class="BodyA"><span>At its core, </span><a href="http://advanced.jhu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/GOV1501_WhitePaper_Bartkowski.pdf">nonviolent civilian defence</a><span> is about engaging the greatest number of people with the least amount of risk for civilians and greatest number of disruptions for the adversary, including its key domestic and international supporters.</span></p> <p class="BodyA"><span>Historically, nonviolent resistance has worked far better than its armed alternative. Civil resistance has been determined to be </span><a href="http://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156820">twice as effective</a><span> against a violent adversary than armed struggle, able to mobilize campaigns that are </span><a href="http://maciejbartkowski.com/2015/03/18/in-case-of-aggression-more-poles-will-join-nonviolent-defense-and-civil-resistance-than-armed-struggle/">11 times larger</a><span> than average armed resistance ones, </span><a href="http://maciejbartkowski.com/2013/10/31/does-civil-resistance-reduce-civilian-deaths/">likely to reduce civilian deaths</a><span> and </span><a href="http://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156820">tenfold</a><span> more likely to bring about a democratic outcome compared to a victory though arms.</span></p> <p class="BodyA"><span>The untapped powers of nonviolent resistance offer a serious alternative against the threat of contemporary hybrid wars. Furthermore, as shown in the Polish survey results, pursuing this form of waging conflict might match people’s own instincts in the face of external aggression. When it comes to mobilizing the masses, enhancing internal solidarity and unity, limiting overall human costs, maximizing strategic effectiveness of disruptions to a foreign adversary and increasing chances for post-conflict stability, democracies would do well to take note of the potential that nonviolent civilian defence holds for their defensive capabilities to counter protracted hybrid wars.</span></p> <p class="BodyA"><span>This is particularly relevant to smaller nations and their populations vulnerable to external threats from authoritarian states who are equally afraid of people power and eager to manipulate it to their benefit.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/civilresistance/elena-volkava-maciej-bartkowski/russians-resisting-war-and-repression">Russians resisting war and repression</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics civilResistance Maciej Bartkowski Tue, 12 May 2015 18:16:13 +0000 Maciej Bartkowski 92747 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Powerful nonviolent resistance to armed conflict in Yemen https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/stephen-zunes-noor-alhaidary/powerful-nonviolent-resistance-to-armed-conflict-in-yem <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>As with the initial uprising against the Saleh regime four years ago, an unarmed civil society movement rises up to challenge the Huthi militia.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/taiz.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/taiz.jpg" alt="Demonstrations in Taiz to force Huthi militia from the city, March 2015." title="" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Demonstrations in Taiz to force Huthi militia from the city, March 2015. Erem News. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>While media coverage of the tragic situation unfolding in Yemen in recent months has focused on armed clashes and other violence, there has also been widespread and ongoing nonviolent civil resistance employed by a number of different actors. </p><p>In fact, the most significant setbacks to the Huthi militia in their march southward across the country in recent months have come not from the remnants of the Yemeni army or Saudi air strikes, but from massive resistance by unarmed civilians which has thus far prevented their capture of Taiz, the country’s third largest city, and other urban areas. The resistance efforts have also pressed the Houthis to withdraw their forces from a number of previously-held areas, including universities, residential neighborhoods, and even military bases. This kind of nonviolent resistance by ordinary people is remarkable, but it is not new in Yemen.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>The fall of President Saleh and rise of the Huthis</strong></h2> <p>It was just four years ago, in 2011, when—inspired in part by the successful civil insurrections against the Ben Ali regime in Tunisia and the Mubarak regime in Egypt—millions of Yemenis took to the streets in massive nonviolent protests against the autocratic US-backed government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, who had held power for three and a half decades. An impressive degree of unity was forged between the various tribal, regional, sectarian, and ideological groups taking part in the pro-democracy protests, which included mass marches, sit-ins, and many other forms of civil resistance. Leaders of prominent tribal coalitions publicly supported the popular insurrection, prompting waves of tribesmen to leave their guns at home and head to the capital to take part in the movement. These tribesmen, along with the hundreds of thousands of city dwellers, were encouraged to maintain nonviolent discipline, even in the face of government snipers and other provocations which led to the deaths of hundreds of unarmed protesters. </p> <p>These ongoing nonviolent protests, combined with shifting alliances between competing elites and armed factions, made President Saleh’s continued hold on power increasingly untenable. &nbsp;Saleh was eventually forced to resign, but it wasn’t long before conflict returned.&nbsp; Backed by Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the United States, Saleh’s vice president, Major General Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi took over as the head of state, over the objections of civil society and the masses that had ousted the former president.&nbsp; </p> <p>The new Hadi government was unpopular, lacked credibility, and was widely perceived as inept and corrupt. &nbsp;These factors, combined with the mass resignation of the cabinet, controversial proposals for constitutional change, and support from armed groups allied with the former Saleh dictatorship led to a power vacuum that enabled the Huthi militia (despite representing only the Zaidi minority in the north of the country) to emerge as the most potent military force in Yemen.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Popular resistance to the Huthi takeover</strong></h2> <p>Despite having participated in various forms of nonviolent action in previous years, the Huthi militia made a decision to begin engaging in violence, and on July 10, 2014 they attacked the city of Amran, overrunning a military base, seizing a large array of weaponry, and killing dozens of soldiers and civilians in the process. While the Hadi government was unpopular, the Huthi attack was also summarily rejected by many Yemenis, and the following day massive protests took place in Amran, Sana, Taiz, Ibb, Hadramout, Dhamar, Al Bayda, and Ad-Dhale’e, condemning the Huthi attack (along with Israel’s military campaign in Gaza), demanding investigations of the incident and a return of the stolen weapons. </p> <p>In August 2014, the Huthi’s surprised the world by seizing the capital of Sana’a, which led to a new round of anti-Huthi protests in September, with hundreds of thousands marching in Taiz against what they called “threats of royalists” along with calls to resist the violent groups that were trying to impose their control by force. </p> <p>Major student protests swept the country throughout the fall, primarily in Hodaidah, Ibb and Baydha. On November 2, hundreds of students and employees of the Sana’a University formed a silent chain around their campus, raising signs with slogans condemning the control of their campus by the Huthis. Protests were continuous, with students insisting they would not stop until the “Huthi occupation” ended. As a result of ongoing protests, Huthi forces finally withdrew from the university on December 10. </p> <p>In addition to demonstrations, a wave of strikes took place across the country targeting a variety of sectors where the Huthis attempted to assert their control: in addition to universities and high schools, the military academy in Sana’a, the judiciary in several cities, and fuel production facilities in Shabwa were shut down. Hundreds of prisoners held captive by the Huthis went on hunger strike, as did President Hadi while under house arrest prior to his escape. Scores of prominent Yemenis have resigned from their posts in protest, including governors, police chiefs, senior military officials, and top administrators in transportation, medicine, communications, and other sectors. <strong>&nbsp;</strong><strong></strong></p> <p>Young activists, many taking advantage of social media networking, have played a role in resisting the Huthi armed advance and have tried to emphasize the need for national unity and nonviolent means of settling differences. A September 28 protest in front of the Ministry of Youth and Sports in Sana’a incorporated national songs and dances in order to emphasize Yemenis’ commonalities and to condemn the presence of armed groups. Protesters chanted such slogans as “Dear my country, rise and shine, no weapons after today” and “Altogether for a capital without weapons.” Similar themes were stressed in a December 13 demonstration calling for national unity and nonviolent action with protesters marching from Change Square to the president’s house. The largest protests during this period took place on January 26, 2015 in response to the Huthi consolidation of their takeover, in which tens of thousands took the streets in Sana’a despite violent repression by the Huthis.</p> <p>By the end of January, a number of tribal groups and other associations declared they would no longer comply with orders, military or otherwise, coming from the Huthi-dominated government in Sana’a. The Huthis began recognizing that control of government buildings in the capital did not necessarily mean control of the country, even in areas where their forces were present. </p> <p>A series of mass protests took place in response to the detention of anti-Huthi activists, the most significant of which took place in Ibb on February 15. Thousands of nonviolent protesters who took to the streets were met with gunfire, with armed forces trying to separate the mass demonstration into smaller more controllable units. The protesters not only held their ground, but were able to seize a number of armed Huthis. As these citizens maintained nonviolent discipline and refused to disperse, Huthi-led security forces then refused commands by their superiors to continue firing on the crowd, calling it “deliberate repression of peaceful demonstrators.” </p> <p>Remarkably, even with the dramatic escalation in fighting last month with the Huthi advance southward and the subsequent Saudi military intervention, nonviolent resistance has continued. The most impressive episodes took place in Taiz, located between Sana’a and the strategic port city of Aden. On March 19, Huthi militiamen seized the important Yemeni Special Forces camp on its outskirts and were expected to shortly take over the entire city, no longer defended by Yemeni government troops, who had fled or defected. However, largely youthful demonstrators massed outside gates of the captured base, raising banners rejecting the Houthis’ armed presence, and remained encamped to physically block additional militiamen from entering the area. The region’s governor, Shawki Ahmed Hayel, called on all Taizis to join the sit-ins and remain in place until the Huthis left the city. </p> <p>On March 21, armed Huthis militiamen attempted to break up the “human wall” surrounding the base with teargas and gunfire, killing several unarmed demonstrators. This resulted in a public backlash, with hundreds of thousands marching the following day from the center of the city demanding that the Huthis withdraw their gunmen from Taiz. By March 24, a general strike was in effect to demand Huthi withdrawal from city. Taiz effectively shut down and the mostly youthful protesters set up roadblocks preventing access to the city by Huthi reinforcements. Despite additional casualties among the protesters, the Huthis — who just days earlier were presumed to have been preparing to occupy the entire city — were forced to withdraw from the captured base and surrounding areas.</p> <h2><strong>Conclusion</strong></h2> <p>The recent military intervention by Saudi Arabia has resulted in a mixed response. Popular anger at the Huthi aggression has led many Yemenis to support the Saudi air strikes, with rallies in support of the bombing taking place in Ibb, Hodeidah, and Taiz. Larger rallies in opposition have taken place in Sana’a and Amran. Even among those who oppose the Huthis, there is widespread suspicion regarding Saudi intentions and actions due to their previous interventions in Yemen’s internal affairs, their support for authoritarian and extremist elements, their maltreatment of Yemeni guest workers, and their ultra-conservative Salafi brand of Islam. </p> <p>The Saudi role in creating conditions for the current crisis by marginalizing civil society elements in supporting Hadi’s takeover of the presidency and their overall aspirations in the Arabian Peninsula have led many Yemenis to fear that once again they seek to usurp nonviolent nationalist pro-democracy forces. In addition, there has been widespread outrage at the large-scale civilian casualties resulting from the Saudi air assault.</p> <p>It was the sidelining of civil society and leaders of the 2011 nonviolent pro-democracy struggles by the Saudis, GCC states, and the US which helped create the current crisis. It would therefore behove the international community not to similarly ignore the hundreds of thousands of Yemenis who, in the midst of the current chaos and violence, have again taken to the streets in unarmed civil resistance. </p> <p>The history and ongoing manifestations of nonviolent action in Yemen is greater than is generally perceived by the outside world, which has long dismissed the country as “primitive,” “violent,” “tribal,” “chaotic,” and incapable of handling its own affairs. The most effective means of ensuring stability and resisting the Huthis, Al-Qaeda, or other armed extremists comes not from backing allied strongmen, but from allowing civil society to take the lead in developing broad-based democratic institutions without the use of arms. </p> <p>Yet it is in this history of civil resistance that lies the country’s greatest hope. The power of Yemenis of various and even competing tendencies to wage their struggles nonviolently is something that should be acknowledged and encouraged, not undermined in pursuit of military solutions to complex political problems.<em> </em></p><p><em>Thanks go to <a href="http://www.eremnews.com">Erem News</a> for photo permission</em>.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" height="97" width="460" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Yemen </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance North-Africa West-Asia civilResistance Yemen Civil society Conflict International politics civilResistance Noor Al-Haidary Stephen Zunes Sat, 11 Apr 2015 16:28:12 +0000 Stephen Zunes and Noor Al-Haidary 91941 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Matching resistance to repression in China https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/michael-caster/matching-resistance-to-repression-in-china <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For domestic rights defenders in China’s high-capacity authoritarian regime, strategic actions rather than tactics of sudden unrest can achieve more in a situation of slow-onset repression.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Untitled1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Chinese human rights defender Pu Zhiqiang. VOA/Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved."><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Untitled1.jpg" alt="Chinese human rights defender Pu Zhiqiang. VOA/Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved." title="Chinese human rights defender Pu Zhiqiang. VOA/Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved." class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" width="460" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Chinese human rights defender Pu Zhiqiang. VOA/Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>Prominent human rights activist Pu Zhiqiang has languished in pre-trial detention since his arrest last May – in the lead-up to the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre – on charges for several crimes including “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”. His case remains at a <a href="http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2015/feb/09/china-pu-zhiqiang-inventing-crime/">crossroads</a> today. Any day now prosecutors should decide whether to indict and begin his trial or hand the case again back to the police for further investigation – meaning more time to conjure up criminal intent. It is unfortunately highly unlikely that he will be released. </p> <p>Pu Zhiqiang is another high-profile prisoner of conscience suffering under a severe crackdown on civil society under President Xi Jinping since 2013. But is this vocabulary of a crackdown, with its connotations of sudden escalation, constructive? </p><p>Throughout 2013 to 2014, I remember many grassroots activists around China relating to me their perceptions that the ferocity of government repression should be understood as steadily increasing pressure, not as a swift crackdown. It is severe and inexcusable, without question, but in this sense it is more similar to the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog">‘frog in boiling water’</a> folk tale than the sudden purges of past dictatorships. </p><p>For domestic rights defenders, the challenge has therefore become matching their resistance efforts to this sort of slow-onset repression. Rather than pursuing tactics of sudden unrest and demanding high-profile victories, more can arguably be achieved – especially within a high-capacity authoritarian regime such as China – through strategic actions, producing limited but sustained improvements. </p><p>The importance of such realizations is universal. Activists and movements that demand sudden systemic change can become upset when they fail in their mission, causing participation to dissipate or making participation in successive waves harder to secure. They may refuse to abandon or adapt their tactics accordingly, such as refusing to evacuate a public occupation until all their demands are met. The world witnessed the gruesome consequences of this logic in Beijing in the early hours of 4 June, 1989. </p><p>Observers and analysts began to issue similarly cautious remarks regarding Occupy Central and the Umbrella Revolution in late 2014. Victoria Hui, <a href="http://www.nonviolent-conflict.org/index.php/learning-and-resources/educational-initiatives/academic-webinar-series/3868-explaining-the-umbrella-revolution-for-political-rights-in-hong-kong#victoria">speaking with the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict</a>, for example, outlined the need for tactical evolution in the form of methods of dispersion, which might garner less publicity but ultimately have more impact. Focusing on more systematic, grassroots, or small-scale change can ultimately be more productive for civil resistance and rights campaigns. </p><h2><strong>Broad resistance is harder to repress </strong></h2> <p>Mark Lichbach came up with the five percent rule, that no regime can withstand the collective force of five percent of its population mobilized against it. Research by <a href="http://cup.columbia.edu/book/why-civil-resistance-works/9780231156820">Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan</a> actually puts that number even lower, showing that the sustained active participation of 3.5 percent of a population is sufficient for a successful campaign. </p><p>While 3.5 percent is a lot larger than it sounds (nearly 45 million people in China), it is not an impossible number. As Chenoweth and Stephan have shown, it’s been done before. But it does require diverse tactics that can appeal to broad sections of society, and the ability to outmanoeuvre repression and think in terms of grand strategy over immediate rewards. </p><p>The Chinese government is likely aware of the possible threat posed by sustained collective action achieved through small-scale victories for activists. This, in part, explains the sophisticated attempts to circumscribe collective action and to respond with draconian measures against even minor civil dissent. Indeed, the government is notorious for issuing harsh sentences for moderate voices and activists. </p><p>The year 2014 was marked by a procession of reprisals against all manifestations of nonviolent civil resistance and domestic rights defenders, from Xu Zhiyong’s <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/11/china-upholds-sentence-activist-xu-zhiyong">four year prison sentence</a> and Liu Ping’s <a href="http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/19/anticorruption-activist-sentenced-to-more-than-6-years-in-prison/?_r=0">six and a half year sentence</a> to <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/24/ilham-tohti-nobel-peace-prize-uighur-han-people-china">Ilham Tohti’s</a> life sentence. Figures released by the US-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders indicate <a href="http://chrdnet.com/2015/02/deprivation-of-liberty-and-tortureother-mistreatment-of-human-rights-defenders-in-china-partial-data-updated-6302013/">nearly 1000 cases</a> of detention and torture of Chinese rights defenders in 2014, with more than 100 detentions drawn from seven provinces and three municipalities as simple <a href="http://chrdnet.com/2014/10/individuals-detained-in-mainland-china-for-supporting-hong-kong-pro-democracy-protests/">reprisals</a> against those who supported the Hong Kong demonstrations. </p><p>Much of this repression has come through the manipulation of Chinese law. In this sense it is persecution through prosecution, or what is called legalist repression. The vaguely worded crimes of “Picking Quarrels and Provoking Trouble” or “Disturbing Public Order,” outlined in Chapter VI, Section I of the Criminal Law, articles 290 to 293, have become a canvas applied to virtually anything the state finds discomforting. However, far more serious crimes have also been conjured to silence rights defenders, such as the appalling life sentence for Ilham Tohti on absurd charges of separatism. </p><p>There are several lessons in this for domestic actors and those who would support them – particularly the importance of steady, strategic development and a focus on details. This requires recognizing the dynamic between rights abuse and repression on the one hand, and the interconnectivity of resistance tactics on the other. Put another way, because repression is most often the context for a series of rights abuses, resistance that is too narrow is also more susceptible to persecution. The Chinese rights defence community has begun to recognize this. </p><p>For example, what begins as a land rights violation or <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/china-rise-forced-evictions-fuelling-discontent-2012-10-11">forced eviction</a> can <a href="http://chrdnet.com/2008/05/beijing-activist-ni-yulan-arrested-for-resisting-forced-demolition/">escalate</a> into a situation of arbitrary detention or disappearance of villagers who intervene between developers, <a href="http://www.amnestyusa.org/news/news-item/china-police-crackdown-against-activists-outside-forced-eviction-trial">hired thugs</a>, police and local officials. Village petitioners might blockade township government offices or issue <a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/release-05012013111354.html">open letters</a>. Some have resorted to <a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/eviction-12112013144520.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&amp;utm_medium=twitter">mass public suicide</a>. They also travel from the village or township to cities seeking government redress, file open information requests to expose the corrupt development negotiations, or organize small campaigns against corruption. By doing so, they may find themselves <a href="http://www.scmp.com/news/china-insider/article/1573635/petitioner-tells-abuse-and-torture-black-jail">detained in black jails</a> and abused by thugs or charged with illegal assembly. </p><p>Some turn to citizen lawyers or licensed lawyers for support at different stages. More tech-savvy petitioners and rights defenders post evidence of land theft and abuses to Weibo and other <a href="http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/cyber-activism-scores-victories-behind-great-firewall/">social media</a>, or communicate with domestic or international media and organizations, at which point some might be arrested on charges of sharing state secrets. Sometimes the victim, jaded by an endless petitioning cycle, sees <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/news/liu-ping-jailed-picking-quarrels-and-provoking-troubles-2014-12-08">independent candidacy</a> in local elections as a means of holding officials accountable. </p><h2><strong>How to protect a movement from state repression</strong></h2> <p>Effective rights defence campaigns and civil resistance must prepare for the protection challenges of steady state repression. For a time, certain civil society actors such as lawyers, journalists, scholars, petitioners and labour, land or LGBT rights activists were focused on narrower solutions to their own causes. The mentality is shifting, however, in favour of more coordination and horizontal networking between groups. </p><p>This is not to say that issue-specific rifts don’t still exist. I’ve been frustrated in conversations with licensed rights lawyers who claim that grassroots ‘barefoot’ lawyers aren’t worth collaborating with. Similarly, freedom of religion activists have told me that gender issues aren’t an important civil society concern or that women don’t make as good ‘barefoot’ lawyers as men. But the broader preference is a trend toward more integrated communication and exchange. </p><p>These are among the lessons I have learned from nearly five years of supporting civil society and human rights in China. </p><p>The main protection challenges stem from the government’s manipulation or outright disregard of domestic law. However, despite the more traditional inclination of civil resisters to work outside of established state institutions, couching resistance in Chinese law has a demonstrated benefit. </p><p>The police often illegally detain rights defenders and activists. In some cases merely the presence of a lawyer or ‘barefoot’ lawyer may force the police to release the arbitrarily detained individual or at least begin proper legal proceedings. While the charges may still be contrived, operating within the legal system is preferable to disappearances or prolonged detention and is also advantageous to sustained rights defence and gradual normative change. Furthermore, even a flawed trial often supports greater coordination of civil resistance or advocacy campaigns than more illegal alternatives such as disappearance or detentions without trial. </p><p>The degree of international attention and domestic pressure and the profile of the activists are important factors in the effectiveness of rights defence. The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Liu Xiaobo is unlikely to be released from prison any time soon nor will Gao Zhisheng realistically be free of revolving detention and harassment despite considerable domestic and international advocacy. These high-profile cases are important to the central government and maintaining a strong stance is related to demonstrating their supremacy. On the other hand, in 2005 Rebiya Kadeer was released from prison and permitted to leave China following international advocacy. More recently, in 2011, following sustained domestic and international efforts, journalist Qi Chonghuai was transferred out of Tengzhou prison where he was being savagely beaten under direct order of local officials. </p><p>While Beijing likely later grew to regret releasing Rebiya Kadeer, these cases demonstrate that concessions have been made but only in cases where the central government doesn’t have a direct interest in the detention. One of the most successful tactics in rights defence and civil resistance to date is recognizing and capitalizing on cases where central and local government interests do not overlap. Although no easy task, identifying targets for support within the pillars of the state can have a drastic impact. </p><p>What role can the international community play? Recognizing the differences on the ground and the specific needs of Chinese rights defenders and civil resisters is essential. This can be accomplished through greater support of civil society, especially through increasing attention to activists outside of Beijing and Shanghai, supporting less high-profile rights defenders and activists throughout the country. Pressure must also come from within Chinese society. The greater rights defence campaign successes have tended to come most from domestic organizations working from the grassroots. </p><p>This can be achieved through the creation of space. Chinese rights defenders and activists must be provided greater opportunities to simply come together and exchange ideas and skills. This can be done through more training programmes and experience sharing but also just through creative ways to gather freely. While digital networking is important for direct exchange in individual cases, the sustainability of a rights movement is built on face-to-face interaction. This increases trust and supports more intimate exchanges about grievances and tactics. </p><p>Furthermore, as activists around the world know, you don’t always need a strict schedule of events and curriculum; sometimes just facilitating gatherings of activists is the best way to support the development of rights awareness and resistance tactics. Again, the government of China is aware of such moves, which is why it responded mercilessly to the New Citizens’ Movement dinner meetings and the small apartment gathering organized by the Tiananmen Mothers in 2014 for which Pu Zhiqiang was detained. </p><p>Additionally, increasing awareness of the needs and limitations of front line rights defenders in China can be reflected in more flexible donor contributions, through international organizations or government mechanisms, to support small initiatives and start-up organizations. The Chinese government investigates and has persecuted foreign funded Chinese organizations and individuals receiving money from abroad. Leaking state secrets continues to be an opaque legal charge and method of repression, as with Gao Yu, and many activists have been detained or had funding seized for collaborating with international donors. Financial security for domestic activists is a serious challenge and should be part of the agenda of international rights defence support moving forward. </p><p>This assessment is far from comprehensive. These are some of the principal means of state repression and small tactical changes that Chinese rights defenders and activists engaged in civil resistance campaigns have begun to recognize. Focusing on more daily routines and details rather than higher profile events is an important step for the sustainability of civil resistance and rights defence in China. The utility of such principles, however, is not confined to China. </p><p>A common refrain among activists in many countries is that their struggle is unique, oppression too institutionalized, dictatorships too brutal, or causes not well supported by the international community. One can differentiate between the conditions for domestic resistance in China, Zimbabwe and Russia from the United States, Spain and Australia but civil resistance trainers are wont to repeat that conditions do not dictate outcomes. </p><p>While specific country conditions do not determine the outcomes of resistance, they do affect the availability of tactical options for a given act or campaign of resistance. And recognizing the importance of building sustainable campaigns through a series of small-scale victories, matching resistance to repression, and horizontal networking are therefore not only important guidelines for civil resistance in China. They also have universal value.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" height="97" width="460" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/civilresistance/michael-caster/contentious-politics-of-china%E2%80%99s-new-citizens-movement">The contentious politics of China’s New Citizens Movement</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance China Civil society Democracy and government civilResistance Michael Caster Wed, 08 Apr 2015 13:26:03 +0000 Michael Caster 91866 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Arrest of a nonviolent leader in the Maldives challenges the international community https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/matt-mulberry/arrest-of-nonviolent-leader-in-maldives-challenges-international-commu <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>‘Terrorism’ charges might give the government leverage against a bid made by Nasheed to participate in any official political action at any point in the future. What happens now?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Mohamed Nasheed (MDP).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/Mohamed Nasheed (MDP).jpg" alt="Mohamed Nasheed." title="" width="460" height="308" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Mohamed Nasheed. Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The former President of the Maldives and global climate activist Mohamed ‘Anni’ Nasheed was arrested on February 22 on “terror” charges just days before he was to lead a mass demonstration against the current government. Both the UN and the EU have issued statements of concern over what now appears to be an escalation by entrenched power holders in the Maldives to stifle effective political opposition.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>Known to outsiders for its pristine beaches, clear turquoise waters, and five-star luxury resorts, the Maldives is a nation of about 340,000 people spread across an archipelago of 26 atolls located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, roughly 500 miles southwest of Sri Lanka. Its natural beauty is its biggest asset, given that nearly one-third of the country’s GDP is generated via tourism. But that beauty also has a way of obscuring the intense political struggles that have come to characterize everyday life for most Maldivians over the past 30 years.</p> <p>In 2008 after almost a decade of nonviolent struggle for free and fair elections, Nasheed succeeded in becoming the nation’s first democratically elected president after defeating at the polls South Asia’s longest-standing dictator, Mamoon Abdul Gayoom. He served as president for three years, attempting to rebuild the nation’s crumbling institutions and infrastructure, and campaigning internationally for action against climate change by showcasing the effects of rising seas on the low-lying and densely populated island nation. </p> <p>In February of 2012, Nasheed was forced out of office in a swift and bloodless coup, staged by security forces working in concert with elements of the former regime and a notoriously corrupt, hostile and inept judiciary. He again campaigned for re-election in 2013, only to be stopped this time by judicial proceedings that cancelled one election in which Nasheed was placed first, and stalled another polling date for long enough for the current president, Abdulla Yameen Abdul Gayoom, the brother of the former dictator, to obtain a win.</p> <p>Nasheed and other Maldivian democrats responded by working within the system, through organizing popular pressure on behalf of reform, and drawing international attention to democratic backsliding, shrinking press freedom, and rising corruption. With decades of experience waging these struggles, credibility with diplomats in the region and international institutions, and increasing popular support, Nasheed’s efforts began to gain traction--until he was arrested on February 22.</p> <p>So what were these “terrorism” charges? </p> <p>The context of events began after the 2008 elections when, as president, Nasheed sought to bring cases against figures in the corrupt resort-owning elite that had amassed fortunes thanks to the cronyism that characterized the Gayoom years. Nasheed had been campaigning on a commitment to focus on needs in transportation, education, and public health, as well as infrastructure to combat rising seas--all of which were neglected and crumbling during 30 years of authoritarian rule. Just one problem: the nation’s judiciary remained largely in the hands of figures from those earlier decades.</p> <p>The country’s Chief Judge of Criminal Court Maldives&nbsp;quashed countless corruption cases involving members of the former regime until finally a constitutionally appointed committee charged with judicial oversight and reform tried to indict him. Judge Mohamed failed to show up at his initial hearing, and then later moved to quash his own charges and arrest warrant, prompting President Nasheed to arrest him. Nasheed’s decision to arrest Judge Mohamed was portrayed by his political opponents as a gross violation of his power and that was used to justify the putsch in February 2012.</p> <h2><strong>Retrospective terrorism</strong></h2> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/7704217432_8ebae60cd0_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/7704217432_8ebae60cd0_z.jpg" alt="Pres. Mohamed Nasheed summoned to police HQ in 2012." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Pres. Mohamed Nasheed summoned to police HQ in 2012. MinivanNews/Flickr. Some rights reserved..</span></span></span>This same episode is now being re-invoked by the judiciary to justify Nasheed’s current arrest, somehow labeling his action three years ago as “terrorism”, despite the fact that force had been used against him to compel him to resign. Moreover, Nasheed has been refused access to his attorneys because they were unable to register themselves with the court, since a trial was called within 24 hours. To get him to the court, the authorities <a href="http://www.livemint.com/Politics/rKd3aH8y05A1Nmkb7E0RLN/Maldives-defends-arrest-of-Mohamed-Nasheed.html">dragged him on the ground</a> into the chamber, injuring him. </p> <p>All this is deeply ironic in light of Nasheed’s long personal history as someone dedicated to nonviolent struggle during his years of democratic activism. That dedication was honored by his receiving in 2012 the James Lawson Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Practice of Nonviolent Action. The Lawson Award is named after the famous nonviolent strategist and advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the leader of the American civil rights movement. Nasheed is probably the Maldivian political figure who is least likely to have committed or condoned “terrorism”.</p> <p>It is now clear that if these charges go through, Nasheed could face three years in prison, just long enough to prevent him from running in the 2018 presidential elections. Even the possibility of pending terrorism charges might give the government leverage against a bid made by Nasheed to participate in any official political action at any point in the future.</p> <p>What happens now?</p> <p>In previous episodes when force or extra-legal action by Maldivian authorities were used to suppress Nasheed’s political activity, international actors were initially slow to take the initiative of bringing their influence to bear – although they must have recognized that the Maldives have been through a long and difficult process in achieving democracy. </p> <p>In 2008, success in bringing about the nation’s first free and fair elections was in no small part due to the pirate radio stations created by Maldivian democrats which ensured that the movement could reach both foreign and domestic audiences with its own voice. Through these ‘minivan’ broadcasts (‘minivan’ means freedom in Dhivehi), they were able to provide evidence of repression, corruption, and human rights violations to organizations like Amnesty International. Once these reports were confirmed, the way was open for other state and non-state actors to put pressure on the old regime.</p> <p>In the run up to the 2008 elections, the movement’s effectiveness in alerting the international community to support free and fair elections meant that the world was closely watching, ensuring that the state could no longer tamper with the electoral process and that all the opposition parties, not just Nasheed’s Maldivian Democratic Party, could participate on a level playing field.</p> <p>However during the 2012 coup it was the former regime that seized the initiative in laying down the&nbsp; narrative of events and shaping international perceptions, which helped ensure the success of the putsch. They forced Nasheed to ‘admit’ overreaches in his power as president and affirm the constitutional validity of the change in leadership. Meanwhile members of the former regime had their own supporters take to the densely populated streets of the capital, effectively creating the perception that Nasheed resigned amidst popular pressure.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Caged in corruption</strong></h2> <p>Of all the methods used by the political forces that support the former dictator and his family--in the effort to manipulate democracy, maintain a solid hold on the hundreds of millions of dollars in tourism revenue generated annually, and deal profitably with new business partners such as the Chinese government--their control over the nation’s judiciary is perhaps the most reliable. &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>When repression is wrapped in a judicial garment, it is easier to keep international actors at arm’s length. It not only applies a superficial veneer of legitimacy to political irregularities, it forces anyone who is suspicious enough to want the full story to try to disentangle a complicated web of history and judicial action before getting to the truth. This is one way that countries are kept in the cage of corruption. </p> <p>The present leadership of the Maldives doubtless hopes that influential international actors – who could otherwise deploy sanctions on behalf of rights and democratic standards – will continue to find the Maldives too small, too unserious, and too corrupt to justify such time and effort. But until they do, a kangaroo court may remain in control.</p> <p>Nevertheless Maldivian democrats understand that this process can work both ways and will devise their own tactics for framing the struggle internationally, as well as apply careful domestic leverage against the regime. At the very least, ‘political instability,’ i.e. popular protests, have been able to discourage tourists from coming to the islands and thus inflict measurable economic costs on the resort-owning elite. After the 2012 coup, Nasheed called upon the international community to ‘boycott’ the Maldivian tourism industry. He told the <em>Financial Times </em>“I’d say to anyone who has booked a holiday to the Maldives: cancel it. And to anyone who is thinking of booking one: please don’t bankroll an illegitimate government.”</p> <p>According to the Maldivian ministry of tourism, Nasheed’s actions along with the popular outrage that followed in the wake of the 2012 coup scared away an estimated 40,000 tourists for the remainder of that year. Such actions also forced the coup-government to spend the equivalent of 4.5 million US dollars on an international public relations campaign designed to offset the losses generated by negative headlines. In the present crisis, the UK government has already issued warnings stating political unrest brought about by Nasheed’s arrest might make for an unpleasant holiday.&nbsp;</p> <p>The bottom line is that ‘unrest’ is costly, however much the tourism industry has sought to protect itself by hiring legions of illegal foreign workers, mostly from Bangladesh, to supplant local employees. According to the Minister of Economic Development, as of mid-February 2015 there are 116,000 foreign workers in all sectors of the Maldivian economy totaling now roughly half the work force. Meanwhile youth unemployment for Maldivians has continued to hover around 43 percent.&nbsp;</p> <p>The present regime has already run afoul of world concern with its maneuvering to curb press freedoms. As of 2015 the Maldives is now ranked 112 out of 179 countries on the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, which marks a return to pre-2008 levels. The country’s ranking had improved from 144th&nbsp;in 2006 to 127th&nbsp;in 2007, and then to 51st&nbsp;and 52nd&nbsp;in the years following the election of Nasheed in 2008. The recent loss of ranking was likely due to the enactment of laws forbidding public protest as well as the act of documenting such protests, pushed through parliament by the coup government in December 2012. What is believed to be the most glaring case of jeopardizing media freedom is the disappearance of Minivan News investigative journalist Ahmed Rilwan last year. The grassroots campaign calling for a more vigorous investigation has seemed considerably more animated than anything the government has done to find this reporter</p> <h2><strong>Support local nonviolent resistance</strong></h2> <p>Reacting to this new arrest of Mohamed Nasheed, the early statements made by the UN, EU, and Indian Ambassador to the Maldives, all calling for transparency and the rule of law to operate in his trial, might be taken as a sign that the campaign to draw attention to the country’s unaccountable judiciary has had traction internationally. Yet the current situation in the Maldives still presents international actors such as the United States, the British Commonwealth, and the European Union with an urgent opportunity to call for enforcing democratic norms, without military intervention or involvement in regional disputes. </p> <p>Because this is a struggle being waged by Maldivians using local nonviolent resistance, international actors can support it simply by emphasizing the need to enforce the rights of citizens and protesters in the Maldives. Doing this will help boost confidence by ordinary people to make their voices heard against injustice while reducing the government’s room to avoid accountability.</p> <p>The attempt to blunt the successful and largely nonviolent Maidan revolution&nbsp;in Ukraine through armed rebellion and military intervention generated global news coverage, serious international sanctions, and international summit meetings. But can the international community only notice annexations, rebellions and other military crises? </p> <p>Or will it bother to take action when the people in a far less conspicuous nation, where general violence has not yet occurred, face a crisis equally alarming for them: the arrest under bizarre circumstances of their country’s first democratically elected president, by a rogue branch of a government that may be backsliding into its authoritarian past?</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> <p>More on the Maldives in the <a href="http://minivannews.com">Minivan News</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/civilresistance/matt-mulberry/democratic-decline-in-maldives-will-world-wake-up">Democratic decline in the Maldives: will the world wake up?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/civilresistance/stephen-zunes/maldives-serial-coup-in-progress">The Maldives: a serial coup in progress?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Maldives </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Maldives Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics civilResistance wfd marginalisation dissent Matt Mulberry Fri, 27 Feb 2015 07:57:23 +0000 Matt Mulberry 90866 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Remembering Howard Clark https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/michael-randle/remembering-howard-clark <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Michael Randle charts the course of Howard Clark’s life and career in peace activism and research, including his time working with Clark on the Alternative Defence Commission during the 1980s. In his politics and personality, Clark committed himself to building networks and coalitions.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/howardclark1.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Howard Clark "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/howardclark1.jpg" alt="Howard Clark" title="Howard Clark " width="400" height="474" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Howard Clark. Credit: International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Howard Clark made an outstanding contribution to the theory and practice of nonviolent action - to the latter by way of years of activism in the British and international peace movement, to the former through academic work informed by that experience.&nbsp; </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/april-carter/howard-clark%E2%80%99s-scholarship-commitment-and-contribution">April Carter has written in tribute to Howard’s scholarly contribution</a><span>; I will focus on Howard the person, outlining his involvement in peace activism and research, and my collaboration with him over many years.</span></p> <p><span>Howard’s involvement in peace activism began in 1968 at the age of 18, shortly before going to the University of East Anglia (UEA).&nbsp; There he became an enthusiastic reader and distributor of Peace News, and a frequent contributor to it. His father was a Methodist Minister, and, like English socialism in the nineteenth century, his commitment to such causes as pacifism, feminism, and the environment owed more to Methodism than to Marx. He remained indeed sceptical of the more dogmatic versions of Marxism and his political orientation was rooted in the anarcho-pacifist tradition.&nbsp; However, he was not dogmatic in either his anarchism or pacifism, and always emphasised the need to build networks and coalitions.</span></p> <p><span>While at university he fell in love with, and married Penny Strange whose father had been a conscientious objector in World War II. It was discussions with him that finally decided him to become a pacifist.&nbsp; He set up the UEA Peace Group, joined the Christian-based pacifist movement, the Fellowship of Reconciliation and was elected to its National Council. Subsequently his involvement was more with the secular peace movement, particularly its direct action wing.</span></p> <p><span>In 1972 he become a co-editor of Peace News and in the same year attended the triennial conference in Sheffield of War Resisters International (WRI), an organization in which he was to play a major role in later years.&nbsp; In an </span><a href="http://www.mujerpalabra.net/activismo/indices/pacifismo.htm">interview</a><span> in June 2013 he recorded his excitement at meeting people at that conference from many parts of the world who had been involved in movements such as the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam war movements in the US, and the nonviolent campaign of Vietnamese Buddhists who opposed both the war and the repressive regime in South Vietnam.</span></p> <p><span>He remained co-editor of Peace News until 1976 and during this period helped launch a number of campaigns and organizations including London Greenpeace, the British Withdrawal from Northern Ireland Campaign and the Campaign Against the Arms Trade.</span></p> <p><span>After leaving Peace News, he moved to York and devoted his energies to grassroots campaigning for safe (non-nuclear) energy, anti-fascism and anti-sexism. In 1979 he co-ordinated nonviolent training for the occupation of the Torness nuclear power site in Scotland and followed that up with a cycle tour round all the UK nuclear power plants, visiting on the way local peace and anti-nuclear groups.&nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>He moved to Bradford in 1980 to work on his M.Phil thesis at Bradford University on alternatives to nuclear energy, and to join me as a researcher for the Alternative Defence Commission.&nbsp;&nbsp; The Commission published two book-length reports on non–nuclear defence options for Britain and Western Europe,&nbsp; </span><em>Defence without the Bomb </em><span>(Taylor &amp; Francis 1983) and </span><em>The Politics of Alternative Defence</em><span> (Paladin, 1987). Howard was an invaluable colleague and was mainly responsible for drafting a condensed version of the first report. He was also a valued fellow member of two follow-up study groups based at Bradford University, the </span><em>Social Defence Project </em><span>and the </span><em>Nonviolent Resistance Research Project.</em></p> <p><span>In 1987 he took up the position of WRI coordinator, where his first assignment was to organize a Triennial conference in India. In preparation for it he visited South Africa and was particularly pleased to have persuaded the End Conscription Campaign and the women’s Black Sash movement to send representatives to it.&nbsp; Among other participants at the conference was the US civil rights campaigner Bayard Rustin who had coordinated the March on Washington in 1963.</span></p> <p><span>Howard played an important role in expanding the outreach of WRI and organizing Triennial conferences in Brazil (1994), India (2010) and South Africa (2014), though he did not live to take part in the last of these.&nbsp; He also cultivated WRI’s links with human rights and peace groups in Eastern Europe, notably with the Wolnosc i Pokoj&nbsp; (Freedom &amp; Peace) in Poland, a country he first visited in 1986 with his then partner of Polish extraction, Lisa Zychowicz. &nbsp;In the early 1990s, as Yugoslavia began to break up he built up WRI’s relationships with anti-war groups in Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo, and worked with Christina Schweitzer, now Chair of WRI, to establish the Balkan Peace Team project that sent its first group of volunteers to Croatia in 1994. &nbsp;The work in Kosovo led to his major study, </span><em>Civil Resistance in Kosovo</em><span> and a number of monographs and articles which <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/april-carter/howard-clark%E2%80%99s-scholarship-commitment-and-contribution">April Carter discusses in her tribute</a>, together with accounts of some of his other writings and organizational work. He was a co-compiler with April and me of the bibliography on nonviolent action, </span><em>People Power and Protest since 1945</em><span> and Volume 1 of an updated version of it published just days after his sudden death. In 2007 he set up the website </span><a href="http://www.civilresistance.info">www.civilresistance.info</a><span> which includes the first edition of the bibliography and is currently being updated to add Volume 1 of the updated version.</span></p> <p><span>Howard moved to Madrid in 1997 with his partner Yolanda Juarros Barcenilla where their two children, Ismail and Violeta were born in 2000 and 2002. He soon became involved in the neighbourhood community group and in grassroots campaigns, as well as maintaining his links with British and International movements.&nbsp; In 2006 he became Chair of WRI and last year, shortly before his death, he visited South Africa to make arrangements for the Triennial conference there in July.</span></p> <p><span>I loved working with Howard.&nbsp; He had a great and at times wicked sense of humour, liked nothing better than a good gossip and was an acute judge of people’s character and motives.&nbsp; He also had a phenomenal memory for names and faces, which was invaluable in his coordinating work for WRI.</span></p> <p><span>He had a wide range of interests and some of my happiest memories of him are of the occasions when we, with friends and partners, went cycling and camping together in the Yorkshire Dales in the 1980s. He was a fanatical supporter of Manchester United Football Club, and a member of his local community choir in Madrid which performed some of his favourite songs when friends from many parts of the world came there last February to remember him and celebrate his life.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/civilresistance/maciej-bartkowski/in-commemoration-of-howard-clark%E2%80%99s-work-with-icnc">In commemoration of Howard Clark’s work with the ICNC</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Civil society civilResistance Michael Randle Remembering Howard Clark Fri, 19 Dec 2014 23:05:29 +0000 Michael Randle 86167 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Howard Clark’s scholarship: commitment and contribution https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/april-carter/howard-clark%E2%80%99s-scholarship-commitment-and-contribution <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>April Carter explores Howard Clark’s academic contribution to the study of nonviolent action. Clark had special expertise on the civil resistance in Kosovo against Serbian oppression from 1988 to 1998. But his writing and knowledge of many struggles was internationalist in breadth.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/howardclark3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title="Howard Clark "><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/549501/howardclark3.png" alt="Howard Clark" title="Howard Clark " width="400" height="371" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Howard Clark. Credit: International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. All rights reserved.</span></span></span><span>Howard was committed to war resistance and anti-militarism from his student days and his campaigning and writing reflected his belief in the ideal of nonviolence, his environmental commitments and his constructive version of anarchism. He was not, however, a dogmatist, well aware of the pressures and problems of actual campaigns, the dangers people faced and their need for appropriate international solidarity. In recent years he became increasingly respected for his knowledge of and contribution to the study of civil resistance as a means of unarmed struggle. His research and writing on the civil resistance in Kosovo against Serbian oppression from 1988 to 1998 gave him special expertise, but he also had a wide-ranging knowledge of many struggles, often illuminated by his own visits and contacts - for example of Poland, Chile and South Africa in the 1980s. &nbsp;</span></p> <p><span>He honed his writing and editing skills as a co-editor of the UK-based international pacifist paper Peace News</span><em> </em><span>in the 1970s, where he also covered many nonviolent campaigns. After he left his full time job at the paper, Peace News continued to publish his articles: a very interesting campaign he documented was the resistance by the U'wa people in Colombia to oil drilling ('An obstacle to progress', Peace News, Dec 2002-Feb. 2003, pp.12-13). Peace News also published articles in which Howard developed his ideas on the strategy appropriate to nonviolent campaigns. A good example is the 1978 </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/howard-clark/dedeveloping-nukes">'De-developing nukes'</a><span>, based on his experience of campaigning against nuclear power, and republished by openDemocracy. His Peace News pamphlet, </span><em>Making Nonviolent Revolution, </em><span>originally published in 1978, but reproduced (with an afterword on the Indignados campaign in Spain and a 45-year old cooperative in Venezuela) in 2012, examined his vision of “people acting in their own situations to take control of their own lives and asserting different values” as opposed to “a united mass movement sweeping away...the status quo”.</span></p> <p><span>As an activist as well as a theorist, Howard was very aware of the importance of planning, organisation and advance preparation and training for nonviolent action. He contributed with three others to a pamphlet on </span><em>Preparing for Nonviolent Direct Action </em><span>&nbsp;published by Peace News and CND in 1984, urging a small group approach to organising. He also co-wrote with Javier Garate and Joanne Sheehan the War Resisters' International </span><em>Handbook for Nonviolent Campaigns</em><span>&nbsp;(2009), which provided case studies, but also had substantial sections on organisation, developing campaigns and training.</span></p> <p><span>Howard's most sustained research was on the movement of nonviolent resistance in Kosovo in response to the increasingly draconian suppression of the rights of the Albanians in this province of Serbia in the 1980s. His book </span><em>Civil Resistance in Kosovo </em><span>(Pluto Press 2000) analysed the initial impressive mobilisation, including the election of an independent parliament and creation of parallel schools and a university, and then explored why nonviolent resistance lost momentum and the Kosovo Liberation Army, which began to launch armed attacks in 1996, was able to become a key player on the international scene when Serbia launched military reprisals and NATO intervened. His concern for Kosovo was reflected in a paper he wrote for the Committee for Conflict Transformation Support, 'Kosovo: Preparing for After the War' (1999), and 'Kosovo Work in Progress: Closing the Cycle of Violence', published by the Centre for the Study of Forgiveness and Reconciliation at Coventry University in 2002. A succinct updated analysis of the unarmed movement in Kosovo was his chapter </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/howard-clark/limits-of-prudence-civil-resistance-in-kosovo-199098">'The Limits of Prudence: Civil Resistance in Kosovo, 1990-98'</a><span> in Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash, eds., </span><em>Civil Resistance and Power Politics</em><span>, 2009, republished by openDemocracy. Howard argued that the nonviolent movement should have risked being more confrontational, and should have developed its constructive programme further. He also noted the limits of a strategy of noncooperation, where Serbia was not dependent on the Albanian population, and the need for a stronger attempt to foster links with potential allies inside Serbia.</span></p> <p><span>The question of how resisters can be given appropriate transnational support, by sympathetic governments, parliaments or civil society groups was one of Howard’s key concerns. He co-wrote with Veronique Dudouet a report for the European Parliament (PE407.008 Brussels, May 2009) </span><em>Nonviolent Civic Action in support of Human Rights and Democratization</em><span>. But he was also very aware of the pitfalls, not only of direct government support, but also sometimes intervention by major international nongovernmental organisations with their own agendas or by unofficial bodies that could be seen as politically biased. The book he edited, </span><em>People Power: Unarmed Resistance and Global Solidarity </em><span>(Pluto 2009)</span><em> </em><span>explored these issues in relation to a range of movements, examining positive and more negative examples. &nbsp;</span><em>&nbsp;</em></p> <p><span>Howard had definite views that he wanted to express. But he was also an excellent collaborator, and generous in giving his time and expertise to other authors. He played a leading role in organising two international conferences on civil resistance for the Coventry University Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies, where he was an Honorary Research Fellow. The first 'Unarmed Resistance: The Transnational Factor' in July 2006 led to his 2009 </span><em>People Power</em><span> book noted above; the second on 'Nonviolent Movements and the Barrier of Fear' in April 2012 brought together veterans of struggles (for example in South Africa and East Germany) with those still involved in resisting repression in Zimbabwe, Egypt, Palestine and elsewhere.</span></p> <p><span>Several of his publications, as noted above, were also the product of collective effort. In addition he contributed a chapter on Kosovo and his editorial skills to the book </span><em>Recovering Nonviolent History </em><span>(2013) edited by Maciej Bartowski, who stressed in the acknowledgements Howard's help in developing the book, his historical insights and role as 'mentor and ghost editor'.</span><em>&nbsp;</em><span>Howard also contributed significantly to compiling the annotated bibliography </span><em>People Power and Protest Since 1945 </em><span>(Housmans 2006), and to volume 1 of the greatly expanded and updated version, </span><em>A Guide to Civil Resistance</em><span>, published in&nbsp; December 2013 (and </span><a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/paul-rogers/non-violence-past-present-future">reviewed by Paul Rogers</a><span> in openDemocracy) at the time of Howard's most untimely death.</span></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/civilresistance/michael-randle/remembering-howard-clark">Remembering Howard Clark</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Civil society civilResistance April Carter Remembering Howard Clark Fri, 19 Dec 2014 22:59:20 +0000 April Carter 86168 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Russians resisting war and repression https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/elena-volkava-maciej-bartkowski/russians-resisting-war-and-repression <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">There are segments of the Russian population that, even in a politically inclement environment, bravely voice their open opposition to Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body">Organizing independent political action has never been easy in modern Russia. However, since the anti-government protests and the return to the presidency of Vladimir Putin in 2012, political organizing has faced even greater bureaucratic hurdles and harassment by security forces while activists are subjected to physical threats, intimidation, arrests and sometimes targeted killings. </p> <p>Having skillfully navigated anti-Ukrainian and anti-western propaganda, and benefiting from Russian hyper-nationalism over the past several months, Putin launched in early spring a territorial expansion and overt intervention campaign in Ukraine. By October 2014, amid national fervor, he was not shy about bragging, “<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/06/world/europe/on-unity-day-putin-divides-nationalists.html?_r=0">I am the biggest nationalist in Russia</a>,” presenting himself as the national flag pole that Russians could rally around. Putin has enjoyed significant public support — as much as <a href="http://www.levada.ru/29-10-2014/oktyabrskie-reitingi-odobreniya-i-doveriya">88 percent</a>, according to a recent survey by <a href="http://www.levada.ru/29-10-2014/oktyabrskie-reitingi-odobreniya-i-doveriya">Levada Center</a> (see also <a href="http://www.interfax.com/newsinf.asp?pg=3&amp;id=547588">this secondary source</a> in English). Roughly three-quarters of respondents <a href="http://www.levada.ru/eng/ukraine">expressed positive views</a> particularly of Putin’s policies in Ukraine. This nationalism-boosted unity has allowed Putin to shrink the civic space in Russia even further, under the pretext of fighting imaginary fifth columns and foreign agents. </p> <p class="Body">At a time when independent voices are being silenced, and polls are still indicating significant support across Russia for Putin’s policies, the international community perceives Russian society as either quiet and passive at best or devotedly loyal to the Kremlin leader at worst. Nonetheless, there are segments of the Russian population that, even in a politically inclement environment, bravely voice their open opposition to Russia’s military involvement in Ukraine. </p> <p class="Body">These diverse social groups and individuals have deployed numerous creative nonviolent actions to protest the war, break through Kremlin propaganda, and alter the public mentality about the international illegality of Russian armed involvement in its eastern neighbor’s territory. Although dispersed and seemingly limited or weak, these actions should not be overlooked by observers inasmuch as the Kremlin does not ignore them but rather uses state repression and propaganda against them. These small, often innovative acts of resistance offer lessons in civic organizing and solidarity that actors on the ground might use in future actions. This is the story of the potential harbingers of grassroots mobilization and civic opposition in Russia in the months to come.</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Russians marching for peace </strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Soon after “little green men” began appearing in Crimea at the end of February 2014 it became obvious to some Russians that Putin had launched an undeclared conflict with Ukraine. At the beginning of March, small anti-war rallies were held in <a href="http://www.worldaffairsjournal.org/blog/vladimir-kara-murza/thousands-russians-protest-putin%E2%80%99s-aggression-ukraine">Moscow</a> and <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2014/0302/Vladimir-Putin-sees-small-protests-mass-support-for-troops-in-Ukraine-video">St. Petersburg</a>. People expressed their opposition against Putin and his plans to turn them into “cannon fodder.” Between <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fhW95xKx-8">300 and 360 protesters were arrested </a>in the capital on March 2 as they demonstrated and sang the Ukrainian anthem. </p> <p class="Body">Two weeks later, the <a href="http://www.dw.de/tens-of-thousands-attend-moscow-peace-rally-as-russia-vetoes-un-resolution-on-crimea-referendum/a-17499145">March of Peace on March 15</a> and ‘Hands off Ukraine’ demonstrations took place, a day before the scheduled referendum in Crimea and its subsequent <a href="https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/peter-ackerman-maciej-bartkowski/challenging-annexation-in-crimea-referendum-that-wa">annexation</a> by Russia. The marches brought together approximately 50,000 people despite already noticeable nationalistic euphoria aroused by the return of Crimea to Russia. One month later, on April 13, yet another demonstration, the <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wXsrdsQyLM0">March for Truth</a> was organized in Moscow to protest, among other issues, war and xenophobic propaganda in the Russian media. The slogans that appeared in the protest included: “For fair and independent media,” “For open and free society,” “For the right to objective information,” “Against the lies on TV” and “Against xenophobic and misanthropic propaganda.” </p> <p>While the war in Donbas intensified over the summer, on August 24, in celebration of Ukrainian Independence Day, Russian activists <a href="http://ru.tsn.ua/ukrayina/v-moskve-zaderzhali-aktivistov-za-popytku-razvernut-ukrainskiy-flag-382969.html">unfurled a large Ukrainian flag</a> on a stone bridge near the Kremlin, an action which resulted in arrests. At the beginning of September small anti-war protests continued taking place in Moscow and other cities, including Nizhny Novgorod where a group of people stood with signs that said “No to War with Ukraine” and “Citizens, the Fatherland is in Danger! Our Tanks are on Foreign Land.”</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/10404498_618152591638031_2889806688048894284_n.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/10404498_618152591638031_2889806688048894284_n.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Source: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/stanislav.dmitrievskiy/posts/625156460934596">Facebook</a></span></p><p> <a href="https://news.pn/en/public/113469">On September 5</a><span>, people gathered as far away from the Russian capital as Tomsk, a Siberian city, albeit in smaller numbers (</span><a href="http://www.tomsk.ru/news/view/93561">more than 30 people</a><span>). Carrying posters and shouting slogans, the activists aimed to raise public awareness about Russian aggression.</span></p><p> The most recent and largest demonstration this autumn was the <a href="http://www.rferl.org/content/russia-antiwar-marches-ukraine/26597971.html">March for Peace on September 21</a>. The date was chosen strategically as it coincided with the UN International Day of Peace. In Moscow an estimated 26,000 people went out on the streets. Thousands demonstrated in St. Petersburg and other cities around Russia despite the fact that the authorities did not sanction the rallies. All major opposition parties joined the demonstrations. The main slogan of the marches was “Putin, enough lying and making war!” Other banners were “No Putin – No War!”, “Russia without Putin, World without War!”, and “If we are the Fifth Column then you are the Sixth Ward,” (see image) in reference to Chekhov’s famous story of “Ward No. 6” about a madhouse.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/Russians_resisting.jpg" alt="" width="350" /></p> <p class="Body">Smaller anti-war demonstrations have continued like the one on October 18, in Ekaterinburg, the fourth largest city in Russia, where <a href="http://www.trust.ua/news/101976-ekaterinburzhcy-zachem-nam-chuzhie-zemli-davajte-pahat-svoi.html">activists, </a>braving snowy weather, staged a demonstration on the main street with banners saying, “Why do we need foreign lands, let’s work on ours.”&nbsp;</p> <h2 class="Body">Lone antiwar pickets</h2> <p class="Body">Russian demonstrators must secure authorities’ permission to hold a protest, otherwise they risk arrest. In order to circumvent tight government control on street demonstrations, Russians have picketed individually against the aggression in Ukraine. It is often easier to avoid arrest and show that detention is illegal and unjustified, since a solitary picketer is not equivalent to a demonstration according to the law. At the end of August a number of lone protesters from the Russian&nbsp;<a href="http://censor.net.ua/photo_news/300500/voyina_protiv_ukrainy_pozor_i_prestuplenie_antivoennye_pikety_rossiyiskoyi_intelligentsii_v_moskve_zakonchilis" target="_blank">intelligentsia held a series of single pickets</a>&nbsp;on the streets of Moscow and Yekaterinburg to demonstrate their opposition against Putin’s war in Ukraine. Each of them took turns standing along Tverskaya Street, the main street in the center of Moscow holding posters. One of them was Victor Shenderovich, a popular Russian writer and satirist. He held a sign that said, “War with Ukraine is a shame and a crime” (see image).</p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/Russians_resisting2.png" alt="" width="350" /></p> <p class="Body">Protesters of diverse and politically unaffiliated groups engaged in lone picketing for peace all over Russia, including St. Petersburg, Tomsk, Kaluga, and Bryansk. In St. Petersburg, a <a href="http://grani.ru/Politics/Russia/activism/m.232734.html#media-232745">blindfolded young woman activist</a> took a walk dressed in colors of the Russian flag, with outstretched hands painted red to symbolize blood. Around her wrists were St. George ribbons, a Russian state symbol appropriated by the Russian and pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine. She&nbsp;<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zieq8qyQ_YY" target="_blank">screamed loudly</a>&nbsp;as she wandered along the Nevsky&nbsp;Prospect until the authorities called an ambulance, but not before she attracted a large crowd of onlookers, taking photos that they disseminated widely on social networks (see image).</p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/Russians_resisting_3.png" alt="" width="350" /> <br /><span class="image-caption">Photo by Vadim Lurie. <br />Source: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10202693883296767&amp;set=pcb.10202693891896982&amp;type=1&amp;theater">Facebook</a></span></p> <p class="Body">One of the initiators of the lone anti-war pickets — the chief editor of the online socio-political magazine <a href="http://www.ej.ru/"><em>Yezhednevny Zhurnal</em> </a>(Daily Magazine), Alexander Ryklin — &nbsp;explained the reason behind this defiance: “Russia began open aggression. Russia is waging a war against Ukraine, and it’s impossible to put up with this.” </p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Anti-war activism</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong><strong>on social media</strong></h2> <p class="Body">In 2013, the Pew Research Center’s <a href="http://www.pewglobal.org/2014/02/13/emerging-nations-embrace-internet-mobile-technology/">Global Attitudes Survey</a> had found that 66 percent of Russians use the internet occasionally or own smartphones, of which 77 percent access the internet on a daily basis. The Russian online communities of VKontakte and Facebook have become platforms for discussion and the exchange of information about anti-war activism and related announcements. For example, a VK group <a href="https://vk.com/protestactions">Protest Actions</a> has more than 8,700 members and the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/russianowar">Russians Against War</a> community on Facebook has collected more than 14,500 likes. </p> <p class="Body">Twitter is also used for communicating and gathering support for anti-war organizing and campaigns. Solidarity movement activist Dmitry Monakhov’s tweet (“I am a Russian citizen. Not cattle. Not a killer. And not an occupier. I am ashamed of my President Putin. At 9.00 I will go to Manezh in action against war”) was retweeted more than <a href="https://news.pn/ru/public/112764">3000 times</a> (see image). His subsequent arrest and jailing for 15 days backfired and led to an outpouring of popular support for his protest actions on social media.&nbsp;</p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/Tweets.png" alt="" width="350" /></p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Resisting Putin</strong><strong>’</strong><strong>s war through music and songs </strong></h2> <p class="Body">Some of the most popular Russian musicians have voiced in public their opposition to the invasion of Ukraine. A well-known rock band Bi-2 wrote a song “Taken to the army.” Its <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdh_TeuTXgU#t=148">video clip</a> on YouTube has had close to one million views since it was posted on September 24. The lyrics condemn the war between the “brotherly states,” Ukraine and Russia:&nbsp; </p> <blockquote><p class="Body"><em>“</em><em>I confess I did not think that it may be so,</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p class="Body"><em>Who was my friend yesterday - today is my enemy,</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p class="Body"><em>In our farewell embrace, we stand on the edge,</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p class="Body"><em>After shooting at each other ... We were taken into the army!</em><em>”</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote> <p class="Body">The song shames Russia for taking on a weaker opponent while people believe in the lies in state propaganda:</p> <blockquote><p><em>“</em><em>The bridge is in flames after an explosion over the river,</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>The victory over a weak one, is thrown at us, like a bone,</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>In a long search for truth we believe the lies</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p class="Body"><em>There is no need to think further ... We are taken into the army!</em><em>”</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p></blockquote> <p class="Body">The band members are dressed up in white suits that turn into red — soaked with blood — in the latter part of the video clip. The song ends by zooming out to expose an enormous red, puddle-like road in which the band stands.&nbsp;&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">Another Russian rock legend Andrei Makarevich has angered the Russian regime after performing in August in Ukraine in front of refugees, including children who fled the Donbas region. In response, his scheduled concerts were cancelled across Russia while some politicians and journalists labeled him a “friend of the junta,” a “Nazi collaborator,” and “a traitor,” and even called for exiling him and stripping him of his state awards. Makarevich then wrote <a href="http://snob.ru/profile/5134/blog/79772">a blog</a> post for the online magazine <a href="http://snob.ru/">Snob.ru</a> describing the dismal living conditions in Slavyansk under rebel control, humanitarian work done by the Ukrainian volunteers, and refugees’ suffering. </p> <p class="Body">In response to the ban on his concerts in Russia, Makarevich wrote a new <a href="http://snob.ru/profile/5134/blog/82766">song</a> about those who become inconvenient to others because they no longer want to be silent. The song was viewed more than 750,000 times on YouTube since October 24 when it was posted. </p> <p class="Body">Similarly, Diana Arbenina, a member of the rock band Night Snipers, had her concerts canceled in a number of Russian regions because of her public support for Ukraine. </p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/Russians_resisting_4.png" alt="Russians_resisting_4.png" width="306" /><br /> <span class="image-caption">Russian rock-star Andrei Makarevich wears a ribbon with the Ukrainian national colors. <br />Image from Wikimedia Commons. Some rights reserved.</span></p> <p class="Body">A number of Russian and Ukrainian musicians came together to write and perform a song “<a href="http://lifeinua.info/anti-war-video-ukrainian-russian-musicians/">Women are tired of giving birth to soldiers</a>” addressed to the mothers of Russian soldiers. The song brings attention to the immoral nature of war. The taped television screen in the video clip symbolizes Russian propaganda. The song is in both Russian and Ukrainian, performed by Russian bands Enotov Brothers and Ariel from the Urals; the Russian musician Gary Ananasov; the Ukrainian Revenko Band; and the Italian guitarist Rudy Rotta. The YouTube video has collected more than <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zRLMUCvdNW8">160,000 views</a> since it was posted. </p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Art activism against war</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Some Russian artists have used their artistic skills to bring greater awareness among the general public about the war and its one-sided political coverage in the Kremlin media.&nbsp; </p> <p class="Body">Graffiti (such as <a href="http://www.unian.net/multimedia/photo/1283-moskovskie-aktivistyi-okrujili-kreml-sine-jeltyimi-nadpisyami-kryim-eto-ukraina.html">“Crimea - is Ukraine”</a>) written in the Ukrainian national (blue and yellow) colors have appeared on sidewalks, entrances to subways and embankments in Moscow, together with graphic art of the Malaysian passenger flight shot down and the inscription “Made in Russia” (see images).</p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/Russian_resisting5.png" alt="" width="460" /><span class="image-caption">Source: <a href="http://uainfo.org/">http://uainfo.org/</a></span></p> <p class="Body">On the evening of <a href="http://euromaidanpress.com/2014/08/31/moscow-police-make-arrests-during-series-of-protests-against-war-in-ukraine/">August 31</a> near the railway station Kyiv in Moscow, <a href="http://www.belaruspartisan.org/politic/278427/">activists planned to light</a> around 3,000 candles commemorating the number of people killed in the Donbas region. Moscow police thwarted this attempt and arrested the participants, though some candles were still lit. </p> <p class="Body">Another artist from St. Petersburg, <a href="https://therussianreader.wordpress.com/tag/yelena-osipova/">Yelena Osipova</a>, known as the conscience of St. Petersburg, is a long-time activist who creates <a href="http://www.svoboda.org/media/video/26617020.html">political street posters criticizing the authorities</a>. This has resulted in fines and arrests on numerous occasions. On March 15 she stood outside Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg with an artistic poster stating, “Don’t believe in the justice of war.” </p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/Russiansresisting5.png" alt="" width="460" /><span class="image-caption">Photo by Sergey Chernov, <a href="https://therussianreader.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/dont-believe-in-the-justice-of-war/">https://therussianreader.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/dont-believe-in-the-justice-of-war/</a></span></p> <p class="Body">On October 7, Vladimir Putin’s birthday, activist Denis Bakholdin dedicated his <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KDJfRaKsAfc"><span>artistic performance</span> </a>to the Russian leader. He walked along Manezh Square, one of the main streets in Moscow, wearing a mask of Vladimir Putin and dressed in a striped uniform with a sign saying “war criminal” around his neck (see image). He attracted attention from passersby, who were enthusiastic about taking photos with the “criminal.” Bakholdin’s actions landed him in police detention.</p> <p><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/u537772/Russians_resisting6.png" alt="Russians_resisting6.png" width="460" /><span class="image-caption">Source: <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10204659909675191&amp;set=a.10200950173334101.1073741829.1159051405&amp;type=1">Facebook</a></span></p> <p class="Body">Finally, on October 19 in St. Petersburg, an attention-grabbing artist, Petr Pavlensky, cut off his ear lobe near the Serbsky psychiatric center known for ‘treating’ many political dissidents in the past. It was a standard practice during the Soviet times to send defiant dissidents to psychiatric wards for “reevaluation” and “treatment.” According to Pavlensky, Russia has revisited this infamous tradition and the Kremlin is “returning to the use of<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/oct/20/russian-artist-cuts-off-earlobe-protest-forced-psychiatric-treatment-dissidents"> psychiatry for political goals.</a>”</p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Cameras used against war and the Kremlin </strong></h2> <p>Since the Kremlin tightly controls Russian state media, some ordinary Russian citizens have begun to take news production into their own hands. An online TV channel Sotnik-TV, which has a YouTube channel, a <a href="https://www.facebook.com/sasha.sotnik?fref=nf">Facebook page</a>, a Twitter account, and a website, is run by a couple, reporter Sasha Sotnik and his wife Mariya Orlovskaya. The Sotniks are known for their outspoken criticism of Putin’s policies. They interview both well-known figures and people on the streets about their views on political issues. Their recent video campaign was in support of the Peace March on September 21. They have recorded a series of video appeals from famous Russians, including writer <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Alm1CL2FXxg">Lyudmila Ulitskaya</a>,&nbsp;theater and film director <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BaSFJpJrNA">Vladimir Mirzoev</a>, actor <a href="http://sotnik.tv/news/maksim-suxanov-o-marshe-mira.html">Maksim Sukhanov</a>, and poet Lev Rubinstein&nbsp;who encouraged people to join the march.</p> <h2><strong>Russian civic and professional groups against the war in Ukraine</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p class="Body">Some Russians have coalesced around various professional and civic anti-war groups. One of them is the Congress of the Intelligentsia, which is “against the war, against the isolation of Russia, against the restoration of totalitarianism.” The group published its first anti-war <a href="http://www.novayagazeta.ru/news/1679348.html">appeal</a> in <em>Novaya Gazeta</em> in March. Some of the individuals who signed the Congress appeals include writers from the Russian PEN Center and the Human Rights Council, which brings together leaders of human rights organizations, as well as filmmakers, scientists, environmentalists, and many others. An excerpt from one of the recent Congress <a href="http://www.novayagazeta.ru/news/1686648.html">appeals</a><em> </em>published in September reads: “The Congress of the Intelligentsia calls upon Russian citizens to support anti-war actions and initiatives and to unite in a broader anti-war movement.” The group also issued an <a href="https://nowarcongress.com/petitions/230/">open letter appeal</a> to Konstantin Ernst, the general director of the Channel One Russia, the largest broadcaster to protest harmful state propaganda about the events in Ukraine. </p> <p class="Body">Others from the Institute of Translation in Russia together with their international colleagues signed an <a href="http://www.colta.ru/news/4536">open letter</a> expressing their outrage about Russia’s involvement — “both militarily and propagandistically” — in Ukraine. And they expressed their strong opposition to “policies of the Russian leadership,” including “military intervention in Ukraine,” and “the propaganda of hatred that distorts reality and encourages people to use violence.” </p> <p class="Body">One of the local chapters of the civic group <a href="http://rus.newsru.ua/arch/world/09sep2014/rossafganc.html">veterans of the Afghan</a>&nbsp;war&nbsp;organized on September 5 in the city of Bryansk a demonstration against military intervention in eastern Ukraine. They were holding signs that read “No to war with Ukraine” and “We will not allow a second Afghanistan.” Vladimir Barabanov, the chapter head and a senior lieutenant in reserve who served in Afghanistan in 1986-88, explained the motivation behind holding the protest:&nbsp; </p><blockquote><p class="Body">“We are soldiers-internationalists, and remember well that this is how the war in Afghanistan started. […] Nobody wants to remember that history. We do not want those events to be repeated. We were promised that there will not be a second Afghanistan. […] A normal person should speak out against the war, for the end of the war, and against bombing the civilian population.” </p></blockquote> <p class="Body">Yet another civic organization whose roots go back to the last days of the Soviet Union — the Union of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia with more than 100 branches across Russia — took a public stance against Russia’s involvement in the war in Ukraine. In <a href="http://obozrevatel.com/crime/79356-soldatskie-materi-v-rossii-net-voennyih-zhelayuschih-voevat-v-ukraine.htm">an interview</a> with <em>Obozrevatel,</em> Lydia Sviridova, Chairman of the Union, Saratov branch, explained the group’s latest activities to break the informational blockade imposed by Kremlin-controlled media. Many Russian soldiers who were eventually sent to fight in Ukraine have been informed that their deployment is in connection with regular drills or exercises, not with the war. Therefore, according to Sviridova, her team tries to encourage mothers to call their sons who have already been deployed to find out their location. Afterwards their sons are asked to appeal to the unit commander on the grounds that they did not consent – which is required by military statutes – to serving on a foreign country’s territory. </p> <p class="Body">Svirdova also appealed for Russian and Ukrainian mothers of soldiers to show their solidarity and help one other put a halt to the war. The mothers of soldiers created a&nbsp;<a href="https://www.facebook.com/pages/%D0%9C%D0%B0%D1%82%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B8-%D0%9C%D0%98%D0%A0%D0%90-%D0%9F%D1%80%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%B2-%D0%92%D0%9E%D0%99%D0%9D%D0%AB/1456174657994168" target="_blank">Facebook campaign</a><span>,</span>&nbsp;“Mothers of Peace Against War,” to strengthen the information campaign. Finally, Sviridova added, “We need to awaken the consciousness of Russian society … Only after this will we be able to ask Russians to support mass protests. Because I do not see another way to rattle the Russian government except by going out and protesting on the streets.”&nbsp; </p> <h2 class="Body"><strong>Recognizing and helpin</strong><strong>g anti-war dissidence in Russia</strong></h2> <p class="Body">It is fair to conclude that Russian society is either not as intimidated by or supportive of the Kremlin and its policies in Ukraine as it might initially look. Different groups and individuals within Russian society took a public stance against military actions soon after Russian troops appeared on the streets of Crimean cities. Thousands of ordinary Russians, joined by filmmakers, writers, poets, artists, translators, journalists, and scholars acknowledge the risks of military action in Ukraine and the questionable morality of a war against a state with which the Russian people share history and culture.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p class="Body">Recognizing the existence and the important work of the Russian anti-war groups and activists should become a priority both for Ukrainian civil society as well as those in other countries. This would allow various groups to initiate a discussion about the way Ukrainian civic actors could help their Russian counterparts in strengthening both their legitimacy and the anti-war messages that they bring to the fore. </p> <p class="Body">It could also help engage civic groups on both sides of the border in broader and coordinated solidarity campaigns. Russian and Ukrainian mothers of soldiers have already begun to do this on a limited scale. Such solidarity actions might aim to educate the public in both countries about the value and effectiveness of nonviolent organizing and actions against violence, as well as pressuring their respective governments to withdraw their troops, cease gunfire and shelling and allow civic groups and associations to re-emerge in Donbas. </p> <p class="Body">Ukrainian civil society could also become the key interlocutor for Russian civic groups. It could help to assess and advise about the most effective means of organizing and mobilizing ordinary Russians to reclaim civic space from an entrenched Kremlin, which, through its repressive policies, shows that it is apprehensive about the power of the people.</p> <p><em>Permission was sought and obtained for all images used in this article.</em></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Russia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item even"> Internet </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Ukraine Russia Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics Internet civilResistance Maciej Bartkowski Elena Volkava Mon, 08 Dec 2014 10:08:27 +0000 Elena Volkava and Maciej Bartkowski 88540 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Physical space and ‘Occupy’ tactics: a new trend in civil resistance? https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/matt-mulberry/physical-space-and-%E2%80%98occupy%E2%80%99-tactics-new-trend-in-civil-resistance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Does the term ‘occupation’ delegitimize movements by casting participants as short-term guests, instead of representatives communicating grievances held by a wider society within a public forum that is theirs?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/15390051006_134630736c_z.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/500209/15390051006_134630736c_z.jpg" alt="Hong Kong’s umbrella revolution on September 30, 2014." title="" width="460" height="346" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Hong Kong’s umbrella revolution on September 30, 2014. Pasu Au Yeung/ Flickr.Some rights reserved.</span></span></span>The most recent protests in Hong Kong are indicative of a trend among people’s movements that use civil resistance – the increased emphasis placed on the taking and holding of physical space, which is to say, the tactic of occupation. Usually focused on a central square, as in the case of Egypt and Ukraine, or concentrated on a particular site emblematic of injustice, as in Occupy Wall Street, occupations as a tactic have been a media coverage-igniting feature of many of the most important protest campaigns occurring over the past few years. This stands out as a relatively new phenomenon when considered within the longer history of civil resistance movements, when the tactic or place of occupation seldom came to define the entire movement.&nbsp;</p> <p>Recent occupations appear to be defined by their openness, accessibility, and public visibility. This seems to be what makes them both robust but also vulnerable. This element allows them either to be magnets for participation both by ordinary civilians and those associated with the regime or other opponents who defect --&nbsp;or when repression occurs, the public symbol of a real or perceived loss of momentum. Occupied sites create a public theater for resistance, a focal point for the praise and global solidarity that comes via international media coverage, while also being subject to its whims, superficial attention span, lack of knowledge of the dynamics of civil resistance, and attraction to violence. Overall they represent something of a precarious, high-stakes game that organizers for now believe may be a winning&nbsp;approach.</p> <h2><strong>Winning approaches</strong></h2> <p>In the same way that the term “color revolutions” was used by opponents of nonviolent movements to define successful and unsuccessful attempts at overturning authoritarian governments, the global media are now eager to cover occupations. So does this mean we are entering the era of Occupy? What are the advantages and disadvantages of elevating this tactic (or allowing this tactic to be elevated)? And how might movements “occupy” more effectively?</p> <p>Like the term “color revolution” promoted by Vladimir Putin as a means to suggest that all of these movements were being fomented by outside forces,&nbsp;“occupy” or “occupation” could be recast as a pejorative term intended to pigeonhole and belittle movements. &nbsp;</p> <p>It could be argued that the so-called color revolutions in Serbia, Georgia, Lebanon and Iran, and particularly the electoral revolutions in post-communist Europe, unearthed a new approach to civil resistance that was effective, because it found a way to channel conventional political participation into nonviolent action at the right moment. </p> <p>During many of these electoral revolutions the critical movement-building phase occurred during and alongside the conventional campaigning process, as student-led groups like Serbia’s OTPOR, Georgia’s KMARA, and Ukraine’s PORA worked as a para-political force, spreading the movements’ strategies, rallying populations around the political&nbsp;candidates representing change, while also giving the general public an alternative means of participation if/when the elections were compromised.</p> <p>This worked as if it was&nbsp;a nonviolent insurance policy for elections, and because it was a legible and replicable type of strategy,&nbsp;it became transferable to other societies. The same could be occurring today with “Occupy,” whose pioneers, particularly in Egypt, discovered that new technology, especially in social media, in some cases enabled movements to achieve significant momentum relatively quickly. This momentum was then directed at a central point within a city, often chosen for its symbolic connection to principled grievances, and gave easy access and strategic importance to a core location. If the mass can sustain itself long enough, the center of occupation doubles as a catalyst/ venue for subsequent protests and participation, and if momentum increases, the movement is able to expand outward from the center,&nbsp;provide cover to security force defections, and impose economic costs on the government.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>The core of this is&nbsp;simple enough: the movement must establish and protect its nucleus and keep it open to additional participation so that it may expand and grow. But it starts to get tricky when one realizes that all of this is predicated on a movement’s ability to take and hold physical space.</p> <h2><strong>Firing on the non-violent</strong></h2> <p>Because these occupations are nonviolent, even the most brutal regimes often begin by deploying ‘non-lethal’ means of dispersing protesters before they become more repressive. But almost all non-democratic governing authorities seldom refrain from using lethal force once non-lethal means have reached the limits of their effectiveness. This was true in Bahrain, when the government not only decided to fire on the nonviolent protestors occupying Pearl Square, it robbed the movement of its symbolic <em>gravitas</em> by destroying the square itself.&nbsp;</p> <p>Additionally through the use of agent provocateurs and/ or hired thugs, security forces have often proved to be quite adept at provoking violence, or at least creating the perception of violence, and then using this to justify lethal force. We have consistently seen these counter-occupation tactics work for a period of time, or work to bring an end to protests, in nearly every movement that has experienced repression.&nbsp;</p> <p>Occupation-based movements seem to be particularly vulnerable to such provocations, incursions, and infiltrations, given the fact that the operational consequences of much of a movement’s strategizing happens out in the open, but also because occupations need to defend such space so it can be open to more participation. </p> <p>On top of all this, when any violence does occur, regardless of whether it is due&nbsp;to a breakdown in nonviolent discipline, regime provocations, and/ or radical flanks, it will almost always become the focal point of mainstream media coverage and potentially scare off potential participants and reduce the chance for defections. What occupations give, misdirected occupations can take away.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Ukraine</strong></h2> <p>This seemed to be true in Ukraine. Upon arriving in the Maidan&nbsp;in Kyiv last winter, just in time for the New Year’s celebrations, I was amazed by what had been achieved in only a matter of weeks. The space, both physical and political, that had been created and protected by the barricades and the occupied buildings contained a kind of micro-society that was an embodiment of the values that people from all across Ukraine sought to instill in a freer society. </p> <p>Everyone from the Euro-focused youth groups to the rightist Svoboda party engaged in&nbsp;all forms of political action and speech, on equal ground, in a civil environment, free from harassment, intimidation and fear. There were live lectures given by volunteer professors, perpetual stump-speaking, political theater, and pamphleteering. It had the feel of an art exhibition/ rock concert/winter barbecue. There was a no-alcohol policy enforced by volunteers, who also manned a series of small narrow entrances and exits to keep out thugs and hooligans and provide safe passage to students, intellectuals, workers, parents, grandparents, and their children.&nbsp;</p> <p>Quite contrary to the narrative peddled by the mainstream international media, I learned that the occupation of the Maidan&nbsp;began not as a pro-EU demonstration, but as a reaction to the regime’s harsh repression of a pro-EU student protest, and it was the forceful denial of the students’ right to free speech, not the desire to join the EU, that turned the Maidan from a protest into a national movement. Thus the creation of a space protecting free speech and assembly was visually defined by the use of civil resistance.</p> <p>This space was also well-managed and defended, although an informed observer might have had qualms about the mainstream opposition political parties who seemed intent on stealing the show with impressive stage lights and sound systems afforded to them by party budgets. The organizers were mostly volunteers from a smattering of local civil society groups, and having successfully created the nucleus, which at that time had swelled to envelop a number of key government buildings, they sought to maintain its growth. </p> <p>To my surprise, this endeavor had less to do at that point with the politics of nonviolent action and was mainly a question of logistics, i.e. how to effectively obtain and distribute food, water, and firewood, and provide medical care, portable toilets, electricity and waste disposal. Looming over it all was this question: “How do we continue to defend ourselves and the space we’ve created?”</p> <p>Shortly after I left Kyiv in mid-January, the Yanukovych government’s security forces launched a sustained offensive against the protesters, attempting to once again retake the square. Given the importance of protecting the movement’s nucleus, protesters were forced to defend the square by all means short of outright violence.&nbsp;</p> <p>Such security force tactics imposed on the movement the&nbsp;strategically ambivalent task of restricting themselves to what they could believe was an acceptable level of violence. From that point forward it seemed that the immediate fate of the struggle was resting on the dilemma of whether taking the necessary steps to defend the square - such as being armed with clubs and makeshift armor, launching stones and even Molotov cocktails at police, and burning tires and police vehicles - would lead to greater and more violent repression, more deaths, and fewer security force defections.&nbsp;</p> <p>In the long run, showy violence by some protesters did enable Yanukovych and later Putin to claim that the Maidan had been a violent revolt. But it’s likely that because the movement had been nonviolent for so many weeks, this did not compromise popular support. The choice to defend the square did lead to more intense repression, but it was maintained long enough to help&nbsp;invite key defections within the security forces, which were enough to send Yanukovych running and kick-start the process of creating a new government.&nbsp;</p> <p>Had Ukrainians by hook or crook gotten it right and found thematic balance in an occupation:&nbsp; just the right amount of force necessary to defend the core, but not enough to alienate the base and potential defectors? If so, then we should&nbsp;ask if this is&nbsp;what it takes to leverage success via occupation-based tactics.&nbsp;</p> <p>Before the regime’s attacks started, the Maidan organizers maintained a peaceful civic environment, but the majority of people dispersed once the tear gas canisters, bullets, and stones started flying. This meant that the security forces had put an end to the most important features of the movement simply by attacking the perimeter of the space. We can recall similar scenes in Tahrir Square in Egypt during the early days of that enormous demonstration, when the square was staunchly defended by protesters throwing stones and other projectiles, and many died by way of police sniper bullets.&nbsp;</p> <h2><strong>Hong Kong</strong></h2> <p>The protests in Hong Kong seemed to be a product of a simpler, less confrontational occupation-based strategy, relying on makeshift barricades put in place to protect the core space where most of the nonviolent action took form. Still, the city government&nbsp;capitalized on this by accusing the movement of obstructing normal life, commerce, and preventing people from going to work and even getting to the hospital. Several episodes showed that protestors were also divided on issues related to the taking and holding of physical space, the construction and deconstruction of barricades, and decisions related to blocking buildings, roads, and whether or not to cut off the island in its entirety. When the protest began to wane, the government left in place barricades previously constructed by the protestors so that they could continue to make the claim that the movement was subverting society.</p> <p>However the protesters in Hong Kong appeared to make some important innovations in their occupation, like countering regime accusations by opening certain barricades and allowing people to go to work. As in Ukraine they did not fall into the trap – as happened in Occupy Wall Street -- of allowing their nucleus to take on the appearance of a poorly managed protest camp, attracting hangers-on, and making everyday citizens skeptical about the movement’s seriousness. </p> <p>Yet something about the Hong Kong movement’s language also seemed to stick. In addition to the tactics and the term itself, new phrases such as ‘the 99%’ and the ‘one percent’ entered the lexicon and stuck around, becoming new frames for understanding the movement’s grievances. However something about the terms ‘occupy’ and ‘occupation’ seemed to evoke a sense of militant transience, a sense that the movement was commandeering a space that did not innately belong to them in the first place. Because the term ‘occupation’ does not connote ownership, of a space or of the larger society that it represents, it may serve to delegitimize movements symbolically by casting participants as “occupiers” – as if they were short-term guests instead of representatives communicating grievances held by a wider society within a public forum that is, or should be, legitimately open to their speech and presence. </p> <p>Occupation tactics akin to what we have seen in Ukraine, Egypt, Hong Kong, and various Occupy movements in North America and Europe, have also been used successfully in the past by other movements. Given the importance of broad, diverse, and sustained participation, it remains to be seen whether movements have been doing themselves a favor or a disservice by allowing themselves to be defined by the site of occupation or by the tactic itself, and not by political and social claims on behalf of &nbsp;those whom they represent.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> <div class="field-item even"> Egypt </div> <div class="field-item odd"> United States </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hong Kong </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Hong Kong United States Egypt Ukraine Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Internet Hong Kong matters civilResistance Matt Mulberry Mass or elite movements? Wed, 19 Nov 2014 09:16:40 +0000 Matt Mulberry 87947 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Popular action against corruption https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/brian-martin/popular-action-against-corruption <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Some of the biggest corrupt operations are run by governments themselves, and watchdog bodies often lack sufficient power to challenge entrenched problems. There’s another powerful approach: popular action, as documented in Shaazka Beyerle’s new book <em><a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1626370567/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&amp;camp=1634&amp;creative=19450&amp;creativeASIN=1626370567&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=opendemocra0e-21&amp;linkId=FLIIKNNPVNLJ6Z5T">Curtailing Corruption.</a> </em>Review.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/pastedImage_0.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/pastedImage_0.png" alt="" title="" width="450" height="300" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Citizens Alliance for the General Election (CAGE) 2000 - South Korea Source: Photograph provided by Taeho Lee.</span> Corruption occurs in every country. It includes bribery, insider deals, appointments of family and friends, cheating on contracts, stealing from customers and clients, and a host of other techniques. The essence of corruption is a violation of fairness, and often a violation of the law, though some laws are themselves unfair and protect corrupt conduct. </p> <p>Some of the most serious corruption occurs at high levels, for example when companies fix prices and sell shoddy products and when government leaders give favours to allies and steal billions of dollars to deposit in secret foreign bank accounts.</p> <p>So what should be done about corruption? The usual approaches are to implement stringent controls, policies and accountability measures. Auditing is a standard tool. Whistleblowers - employees who speak out in the public interest - are important in exposing corruption. There are many government agencies set up to address the problem, for example ombudsmen, auditors-general and anti-corruption bodies.</p> <p>The usual assumption is that better laws and procedures, plus government watchdog bodies, are the solution. They certainly can make a difference, but some of the biggest corrupt operations are run by governments themselves, and watchdog bodies often are underfunded and lack sufficient power to challenge entrenched problems. Furthermore, some agencies are captured by the industries they are supposed to regulate.</p> <p>There is another option: popular action. Consider, for example, the mafia in Sicily, one of the most well known and entrenched systems of corruption in the world. One detail of the mafia’s operation is the pizzo, a payment required by the mafia from commercial operations: if the payment is supplied, then the mafia “protect” the business. Pizzo is a form of extortion. </p> <p>On 29 June 2004, residents in the Sicilian city of Palermo discovered stickers pasted everywhere saying “An entire people who pays pizzo is a people without dignity”. Thus began a people’s campaign against a corrupt practice.</p> <p>The campaign developed momentum as people began talking with each other, overcoming the pervasive fear of mafia reprisals. The youth who had posted the stickers initially remained anonymous and took other actions, such as writing anti-mafia graffiti and displaying banners at sporting events. They started strategising and developed a plan. They collected a list of people who pledged to patronise businesses that refused to pay pizzo, and then, after thousands of people had signed, they went to businesses until 100 agreed not to pay pizzo. Thus began a snowballing process of citizens and businesses joining forces against mafia extortion.</p> <p>It was not easy or straightforward. The mafia torched a warehouse of a company that had taken the no-pizzo pledge. The campaigners rallied support from the community to provide money for the company’s workers and to obtain compensation from the government under anti-mafia compensation laws. The mafia’s attack backfired: it generated even more support for the movement.</p> <p>The story of the anti-pizzo movement is just one of many fascinating episodes in a new book by Shaazka Beyerle entitled <em>Curtailing Corruption: People Power for Accountability and Justice. </em>The book is the first major treatment of how popular nonviolent action can be a powerful approach for challenging corruption. </p> <p>I will refer to the author as Shaazka because I know her. I think her work is incredibly important but I’m very far from a neutral commentator: I provided support and comments while she was researching and writing the book. </p> <p>Most studies of nonviolent action focus on challenges to repressive governments or oppressive systems. Famous examples include the movement led by Gandhi for Indian independence and the US civil rights movement led by Martin Luther King, Jr. More recent examples include the toppling of dictators in countries such as the Philippines, Serbia and Egypt. The orientation in much of this work is on nonviolent action against arbitrary power that harms freedom and human rights. For some reason, corruption has been overlooked, perhaps because in western countries there are so many official bodies and processes that ostensibly deal with it.</p> <p>Shaazka is a senior adviser at the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, a privately funded body that supports research and training to provide insights and skills for nonviolent struggles. (The ICNC does not become directly involved in any campaigns, nor does it tell activists what they should do.) Most of the ICNC’s efforts are oriented to struggles against repressive governments - but Shaazka took the initiative to look at a different domain, corruption.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/image001.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/image001.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Monitoring of Qoryan Road, Zendajan District, Herat Province, Afghanistan, March 20, 2013. Source: Photograph provided by Integrity Watch. Afghanistan.</span></p> She investigated people’s anti-corruption campaigns in 16 countries and in her book reports on 12 of them, including ones in Korea, Brazil, Indonesia, India, Afghanistan and Uganda. Each case study is presented systematically, including contexts, campaign strategies and tactics, outcomes, analysis of the struggle and lessons learned. In gathering information about these campaigns, Shaazka drew on documents but especially on interviews with key campaigners. The result is a rich compendium of information about popular anti-corruption struggles, with ideas worth exploring and developing further:&nbsp; <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; In Brazil, the Ficha Limpa or clean-record movement pushed for legislation to prevent politicians from running for office if they had been convicted of certain crimes; the campaign also served to promote civic engagement. </p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; In Afghanistan, where reconstruction efforts were sabotaged by pervasive corruption, the local watchdog body Integrity Watch Afghanistan encouraged and supported community-led initiatives to monitor development projects in villages and build alliances to address problems in the projects. </p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; In Turkey, the Constant Light campaign took on a crime syndicate using creative methods such as simultaneously turning off lights for a minute as a symbolic protest, thereby overcoming people’s fear in confronting the syndicate, which had links with the government. </p> <p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; In India, the 5th Pillar movement uses a variety of tactics to counter demands for bribes, including producing a zero-rupee note, a pseudo-currency that can be offered whenever a bribe is solicited. The zero-rupee note signals the existence of an anti-bribery network as well as providing information about 5th Pillar.</p> <p>These are just a few titbits out of long and often complex struggles, all of which display the courage and creativity of citizen campaigners, given the right circumstances and opportunities.</p> <p>The most important message in <em>Curtailing Corruption </em>is that people power - organised collective action by citizens - can be a powerful force against corruption, often far more effective than formal processes run by government agencies and international bodies. This is especially true when governments themselves are deeply corrupt.</p> <p>One of the keys to success is being well organised. Campaigners need to overcome the fear that is often pervasive in communities. Being organised is not enough on its own, though. Campaigners need to understand what they are up against and develop creative and flexible strategies to oppose corrupt operations. Corruption is often deeply entrenched, so it seems natural and just a matter of habit. Furthermore, corrupt operators are skilled in divide-and-rule tactics, and often have allies in high places. So there is no guarantee that citizen action will be successful. Skills need to be developed.</p> <p>Shaazka searched for cases across the world. Most of those she discovered were in developing countries, and often involved poor people challenging exploitative practices, for example police intimidation and extortion. Her case studies show that the normal approach to development falls down when there is so much corruption that funds, for example from foreign aid, simply end up in the pockets of officials and stored in foreign bank accounts. </p> <p>Development assistance might better be targeted at spreading knowledge and skills in how communities can organise against corruption. And who best to spread knowledge and skills than activists with experience in anti-corruption campaigns?</p> <p><a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1626370567/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=1626370567&linkCode=as2&tag=opendemocra0e-21&linkId=FLIIKNNPVNLJ6Z5T"><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/Beyerle-Curtailing-RGB.jpg" alt="" hspace="5" width="230" align="right" /></a>There is also a message for citizens in richer countries, where corruption may not seem so obvious. Actually, various forms of insider dealing, pay-offs, favours and shoddy practice are present in nearly every country in the world. Official processes may give only the appearance of dealing with these problems. The lesson from <em>Curtailing Corruption </em>is that citizen action can be a powerful force anywhere. There is much to learn from this pioneering book.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Shaazka Beyerle, <em><a href="http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1626370567/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1634&creative=19450&creativeASIN=1626370567&linkCode=as2&tag=opendemocra0e-21&linkId=FLIIKNNPVNLJ6Z5T">Curtailing Corruption: People Power for Accountability and Justice</a> </em>(Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2014).</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> India </div> <div class="field-item even"> Brazil </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Afghanistan </div> <div class="field-item even"> Turkey </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Indonesia </div> <div class="field-item even"> Uganda </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Uganda Indonesia Turkey Afghanistan Brazil India Civil society Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics civilResistance Brian Martin Wed, 22 Oct 2014 12:52:02 +0000 Brian Martin 87048 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Hong Kong’s umbrella movement https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/doron-shultziner/hong-kong%E2%80%99s-umbrella-movement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The movement could benefit from encouraging splits within the seemingly unified voice of the elite, bound to have its internal conflicts. Then there are new challenges and new nonviolent opportunities, planned and unplanned.<strong></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/6031134.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="258" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Police face a wall of pro-democracy umbrellas on Nathan Road, October 17,2014. Tom Grundy/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></span></span>The dramatic Hong Kong democracy movement caught­ the world’s media by surprise, and even its student initiators did not expect the widespread participation that it has gathered. As the umbrella movement nears its one-month anniversary, it has already made several important achievements, but it also faces challenges inasmuch as the Chinese leadership appears unwilling to compromise and public protests take their toll on participants and their energies. Can the umbrella movement win and if so how? I try to answer this question as a scholar of social movements, following my trip to witness this historic movement during its second week (October 6-12).</p> <h2><strong>Achievements of the umbrella revolution – so far</strong></h2> <p>The umbrella movement has awakened many Hong Kong citizens to a new kind of political atmosphere and new ways of thinking about politics. Hong Kong enjoys a rather free press compared to mainland China, but as anywhere, most citizens were preoccupied with their personal lives, careers and obligations. Yet the umbrella movement changed political parlance in Hong Kong, has dominated the headlines, forced people to recognize that there is a challenge to authority, led them to think about basic political issues and to form an opinion, and generally it has brought a new level of political engagement into Hong Kong. <br /> <br /> Even those who disagree with the movement and dislike its “inconvenience” and “social disruption” agree that the movement has “made its point” and has been “clearly heard”. A change in political involvement of this magnitude is an important achievement with possible long-term implications. </p> <p>Second, the movement showed that support for democracy is not a concern confined to a few naïve students. The movement consists of a wide array of people: young and old; school students and university students; working and retired people; ordinary men and women and civil servants. Despite evidence of a generational gap in attitudes, people of all ages and all backgrounds have been involved in this movement, even if the hardcore participants who sleep overnight are younger in age. This shows that the movement achieved wide appeal in Hong Kong society, and support for democracy will not disappear simply by removing the students from the streets. </p> <p>Third, there was a high degree of street-level organization and inventiveness. At its height, the movement occupied four areas in the city: Admiralty, Causeway Bay, Mong Kok, and Tsim Sha Tsui. Of them, the first three still remain. Mong Kok was cleared over the nineteenth day but has been dramatically retaken by the protesters despite police efforts to clear the main Nathan Road. The ability to hold on to several sites, and block long segments of main roads for so long, with a rather small number of participants sleeping overnight is worth mentioning. It shows that both the police and the government were traumatized after tear-gassing the protestors at the end of September, and given the massive backlash demonstration, they did not dare challenge the movement for about two weeks. </p> <p>The movement makes imaginative use of nonviolent tactics, effective organization at protest sites (including cleaning and recycling operations), protest art (including varied ways of using the umbrella symbol), comic and cynical political cartoons, and original political posters and art-work – all of which makes bystanders and ordinary citizens reflect on and even rejoice in the movement’s goals and messages. </p> <h2><strong>Possible ways forward</strong></h2> <p>The umbrella movement also faces challenges as the police are under orders to remove street barricades, to limit protest areas, and to clear protesters from the main road in the highly vibrant protest site in Mong Kok. Also, the fatigue takes its toll on a limited group of brave protesters who need to guard the sites overnight. What could be the possible ways forward? </p> <p>The outcome of the movement is a political goal that must be somehow delivered or conceded by politicians. There are two main ways that political figures in similar situations have given in to popular pressures. First, they either felt that they have no other option because they were losing their authority, the law enforcement forces would not obey them any longer, or a third party (court or upper level of government) forced them to do so. These results seem less likely at this point in Hong Kong, although social movements are always filled with surprises of this kind. </p> <p>A second way that victories come is through splits within the ruling elite or other changes in the internal configurations of power. At times of pressure, hidden differences of opinion and personal rivalries between politicians rise to the surface. There are always politicians who may lose due to the movement, given its destabilizing effects. Sometimes these splits happen spontaneously and new political stances are suddenly heard from top officials. At other times they result from behind the scenes talks. The movement could benefit from finding moderate voices and encouraging splits within the seemingly unified voice of the elite, which is bound to have its internal differences and conflicts. The opening of the long-awaited negotiations between local government officials and protest representatives (on October 21) may signal the beginning of a political process that can create new opportunities for change. </p> <p>Another political solution would be to apply enough pressure on the pro-democracy members of the Hong Kong parliament that consists of 70 members. Although Beijing has many supporters in that parliament, it still needs a two-third majority to pass its proposed reform. The existing pro-democracy minority of 23 members can stop this bill from passing. The movement can bring pressure to bear on members of parliament and make sure they vote the right way. They may even win over some independent or moderate members of parliament to abstain from passing Beijing’s proposals. This alone will not bring democracy to Hong Kong, but it could reboot the process and open new opportunities to democratize the system in a new round. </p> <p>The participants who occupy the street during the small hours of the night are courageous and deserve every praise for their amazing resilience in face of challenges and personal sacrifices. Maintaining sits-ins and sleep-ins on roads for many months, and in harsh weather, will become increasingly difficult, and will not necessarily bring more pressure on power holders. The movement will need to find new nonviolent ways to escalate and dramatize. So far, police actions and counter-movement actions by thugs have provided those natural escalation points. Dramatic blows to the movement boomeranged and brought more people into the streets. </p> <p>Many movements have seen breakthroughs after dramatic or transformative events that increased protest motivation and brought new pressures on the ruling elite. Those breakthroughs can happen spontaneously or they can be planned and carefully executed like the famous US Civil Rights Movement confrontation with “Bull” Connor in Birmingham, AL. in 1963. The movement could benefit from another major event, like the tear-gas incident of the first week, to bring out more people to the streets and to speed up political processes. </p> <p>Of course the struggle for democracy in Hong Kong could also be long, with setbacks and new unexpected openings and successes. The umbrella movement has indicated a clear path forward. The government is helpless in face of a popular non-violent movement that is sufficiently resilient to maintain broad participation and thus popular legitimacy. If the movement wins over more hearts and minds, and manages to bring a critical mass of people to the right places at the right time, it could reach its ultimate goal. Whatever the outcome, it has already made history.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-city"> <div class="field-label">City:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hong Kong </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Hong Kong China Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Hong Kong matters civilResistance Doron Shultziner Wed, 22 Oct 2014 09:54:31 +0000 Doron Shultziner 87037 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Democratic decline in the Maldives: will the world wake up? https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/matt-mulberry/democratic-decline-in-maldives-will-world-wake-up <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="BodyA">When Gayoom the elder was president, the government sought to facilitate the entrance of Islamist groups into the Maldives. The resumption of this now may be another opportunity for proponents of genuine democracy to sharpen the concern of international observers.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p> Located about 500 miles south east of Sri Lanka, the Maldives is a nation of twenty-six major islands or atolls, known mostly for their tropical setting, white sandy beaches, and warm crystal clear waters. Every year, tourists from around the world come to the Maldives to bask in this idyllic setting. Most of these visitors don’t know that there are more than 340,000 people living on surrounding islands. But before taking a private charter to their selected resort, outsiders land at Ibrahim Nasir International Airport on an atoll across from the island capital city of Malé. Roughly two and a half (2.5) square kilometers and home to one-third of the nation’s population, this dense agglomeration of buildings, docks, boats, streets, motorbikes, and milling people rises out of the sea like a colorful cruise ship, with its bright facades in sharp contrast to the deep cool blue of the sky and sea.</p> <p class="BodyA">The ship metaphor is also useful for understanding the society as a whole. Dominated by an autocratic network of property-owning elites, unsettled by the encroachment of Muslim fundamentalists (a relatively new factor), and losing an ever increasing percentage of its land to sea level rise, the majority of Maldivians, traditionally secular, progressive, and outward looking, are quite literally struggling to remain afloat. Despite more than 30 years of political struggle, most Maldivians still yearn to establish firmly not only a democratically elected government but also a fundamental overhaul of the rickety, unresponsive institutions that have been keeping the nation from reaching its full potential. </p><p> <span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/1059679.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'> </span></span></span><span class="image-caption">Protesters urging fresh elections in Malé in 2013. Mohamed Muha/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p class="BodyA">Civil resistance has been one means by which many Maldivians have waged a struggle to establish and defend basic political, civic, and human rights. In 2008 a mass movement culminating in free and fair elections successfully ended the authoritarian presidency of Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who prior to his ouster had stayed in office for 30 years, long enough to become South Asia’s longest standing dictator. But this new period of democratic leadership was short-lived. In 2012 democratically elected president Mohamed Nasheed, was ousted in a coup so swift and bloodless that the international community could scarcely figure out what happened much less develop an appropriate response. Following the coup, lingering old regime influence over the nation’s judiciary allowed the dregs of the dictatorship to ‘legally’ affirm the transfer of power, and later to ensure that its presidential candidate, the former dictator’s younger brother Abdulla Yameen Gayoom, achieved victory in an irregular sequence of balloting that took place in November of last year. </p> <p class="BodyA">The old/new regime’s raison d'être has been to ensure that a generous share of the hundreds of millions of dollars generated annually through tourism revenues are diverted to the pockets of the elite. This was almost surely the driving force behind the putsch against Nasheed in 2012, and is likely behind several new disturbing developments that have occurred since the second coming of the Gayoom group. To apply those resources to the needs of the people is the chief rallying cry of democratic forces, which continue to adhere to nonviolent action to challenge the stunting of justice and promote a more transparent government. </p> <h2><strong>Diplomacy and sanctions</strong></h2> <p class="BodyA">One of the new developments was represented by the September 16 visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who along with 200 representatives of China’s top corporations, met with Maldivian officials to discuss infrastructure projects. Topping the list was a proposed plan to build a much needed bridge connecting the island capital city of Malé to the airport. It seems that for the moment China wants a strategic partnership with the Maldives before moving forward with its ‘New Silk Road’ trade initiative. This would support include new shipping lanes connecting China to Africa’s East Coast which pass through waters just south of the Maldives. The current regime welcomes Chinese investment but most of all desires secure access to more tourism dollars. </p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-large'><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_large/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/4860180.jpg" alt="Modi meets Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Gayoom in May, 2014" title="" width="400" height="484" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-large imagecache imagecache-article_large" style="" /> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Narendra Modi meets Maldives President Abdulla Yameen Gayoom in May, 2014. Amit Kumar/Demotix. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p> <p class="BodyA">Those who have campaigned for genuine democracy understand that getting the outside world to impose sanctions (such as travel restrictions) on the Maldives would impose immense economic costs for the regime. In 2012 a spokesperson for Nasheed’s MDP (Maldivian Democratic Party), the chief opposition party in the country, said that, “this is the most effective form of nonviolent pressure.” But acknowledging the wider economic effects on the public, he also noted: “This is a sign that the MDP has gotten very serious. This is the last resort.”</p><p class="BodyA"> However there are degrees to which this strategy could be used. Following the 2012 putsch the Maldivian Ministry of Tourism said that ‘political turmoil’ had scared off an estimated 40,000 tourists that year. This means that despite the coup, the resort owners lost substantial revenue and had to spend the equivalent of 4.5 million US dollars on an international public relations campaign, designed to offset the losses generated by the alarming news. </p> <h2><strong>Political turmoil</strong></h2> <p class="BodyA">‘Political turmoil’, in the form of protests, strikes, boycotts, and sit-ins that have been organized in the past against various regime abuses, are more likely to scare off western tourists, particularly those coming from Europe and the British Commonwealth. This seems not to be the case with the Chinese. During his September 16 visit, President Xi noted that “China has been the largest source of tourists for the Maldives for four years running. To the Chinese, especially the young people, the Maldives is an ideal holiday destination and a romantic retreat.” Indeed Chinese tourists now represent one third of the total number of tourists annually, which would rise in the wake of Silk Road deal. But more immediately, China represents a robust and reliable source of tourism dollars that would not be discouraged by the potential of protests or their repression.&nbsp; </p> <p class="BodyA">The second development has to do with the increasing erosion of freedom of speech and freedom of the press in the Maldives. The most recent and jarring manifestation of this was the disappearance of the prominent journalist Ahmed Rilwan Abdulla two months ago. There has been strong evidence that he was abducted. Several eyewitnesses report seeing Rilwan forced into a car at knifepoint outside his apartment at roughly 2 a.m. on August 8 after getting off a ferry to Hulhumalé atoll. Also CCTV footage from the ferry showed him being followed by suspicious persons just an hour before his disappearance. Police have also found the knife that the several eyewitnesses say was used to force him into a car.&nbsp; </p> <p class="BodyA">Rilwan’s disappearance is the first of its kind in recent years though there are records of dozens of people who disappeared during Gayoom’s 30-year dictatorship. Despite the evidence, Maldivian police and security forces were slow to investigate. In the weeks following his disappearance, a part of the public has now grown increasingly angry with the government’s response.</p> <h2><strong>Boycott</strong></h2> <p class="BodyA">As a consequence, the MDP planned to boycott the national census. The tactic will have a primarily symbolic effect that may nevertheless serve to raise awareness both domestically and internationally. The vice president of the MDP stated, “I do want to note the importance of a census. But when we do not know what happens to Maldivians, when citizens have been disappeared, I do not believe we should proceed with a census.” <strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p class="BodyA">Rilwan’s family and friends have petitioned the government with 5,000 signatures demanding justice for the missing journalist. These and other actions have cascaded into a world-wide social media campaign, a website set up by Rilwan’s colleagues to help document developments in the case, an online petition on Avaaz rallies led by Rilwan’s family and friends in Male, and the Maldives Exodus Caravan show currently in New York where the former editor of Minivan News spoke of Rilwan’s disappearance.</p> <h2><strong>Journalists receive death threats</strong></h2> <p class="BodyA">These efforts were successful in getting the attention of the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights who, in an August 18 statement, mentioned that the disappearance was particularly worrying, "given that 15 journalists have reported receiving death threats through anonymous text messages just in the first week of August." The International Federation of Journalists also issued a statement urging a more thorough government investigation, as well as concerns over the possibility that Rilwan’s disappearance could be related to his work as a journalist.&nbsp; </p> <p class="BodyA">New legislation has also made it harder for journalists to do their jobs. On December 25, 2012, the new government passed a bill that outlaws the act of public protest as well as the act of documenting such protests. Under this new law, all journalists, both foreign and domestic, must be licensed by a government-appointed committee before they can cover a public protest. This is on top of the fact that international journalists already have to go through the arduous process of obtaining a special visa just to come to the Maldives.</p> <p class="BodyA">Most recently, on September 9, 2014, the government gazetted new regulations on the publication of literature, mandating prior approval of all writing, poetry, verses, jingles and ringtones by the Censorship Bureau before publication and distribution in any form including the internet. A major uproar occurred on social media, with Twitter and Facebook exploding with verses ridiculing the regulation, prompting the government to make an announcement the next day excluding “social media”. Blogs are still covered.</p> <p class="BodyA">Efforts to publicize these impositions and injustices have been effective in spurring a limited degree of international attention to these new threats to an open society. Since the coup the Maldives has fallen sharply in the Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index, especially in 2013. The Maldives is now ranked 103 out of 179 countries, which marks a return to pre-2008 levels. The country’s ranking had improved from 144th in 2006 and 127th in 2007 to 51st and 52nd in the years following the first multi-party elections in 2008. The rapid decrease was explained this way: “The events that led to the resignation of President Mohamed Nasheed in February 2012 led to violence and threats against journalists in state television and private media outlets regarded as pro-Nasheed by the coup leaders.” They also noted that “attacks on press freedom have increased since then. Many journalists have been arrested, assaulted and threatened during anti-government protests.”</p> <h2><strong>International observers</strong></h2> <p class="BodyA">The attention of international observers underscores the particular importance of foreign support in this conflict, especially given the special geographic, economic, and demographic conditions in the Maldives. In 2008 the democratic movement’s ability to cultivate foreign support for democratic elections, along with support for local civil society groups, was perhaps the key factor that helped usher in the short-lived period of democratic governance under Nasheed. This is why the democratic opposition now takes so seriously initiatives to protect freedom of speech and freedom of the press. </p> <p class="BodyA">When the world’s attention turned away, elements within and behind the former regime seized the opportunity and effectively retook power. Now they look to foreign support, in the form of their accustomed slice of tourism revenue, new infrastructure deals with the Chinese, and also funding from autocratic Gulf states. When Gayoom was president, the government sought to facilitate the entrance of Islamist groups into the Maldives, not because the regime is particularly religious, but because such forces are often not bothered when freedom of speech and of the press are interdicted. The resumption of this now may be another opportunity for proponents of genuine democracy to sharpen the concern of international observers and democratic governments elsewhere. </p> <p class="BodyA">Pointedly, former president Nasheed, in an interview with <em>The Independent</em>, argued that some of the consequences stemming from the government’s close relationship with Islamist elements might explain Rilwan’s disappearance -- and that an estimated 200 Maldivians have recently joined the ranks of ISIS. “President Yameen feels he can deal with the Islamist threat later,” Nasheed said, “but first he wants to consolidate power.” He seemed to suggest that the US State Department, which had returned to its default mode of paying no attention to the state of governance in the Maldives, should take note of the consequences for Maldivian democracy of rising Chinese and Islamist influence. </p> <p class="BodyA">The Maldives should be seen as a microcosm of many aspects of struggles taking place throughout the world: long-standing elites exert a retrograde influence on rights, democracy and social freedoms, and by doing so they help themselves to profit from corruption, cronyism, and the enervation or breakdown of democratic institutions. Accordingly, civil resistance becomes the necessary mechanism for people to try to save democratic practices and individual rights.</p><p class="BodyA"> This same dynamic played out in South Africa during the long struggle against apartheid, in the Philippines in the 1980s, and during the Arab Spring. Within all these struggles, the concern and action of other governments, especially those in the democratic world, had a serious impact. Here the stakes are just as large, albeit in a remote island nation. The international community has the opportunity to defend a set of democratic ideals to which it has long paid lip service, at a very low cost, and by doing so affect the lives and fortunes of a nation’s people. </p> <p class="BodyA">The question right now is simple:&nbsp; Will international actors who believe in genuine democracy be consistent in defending it, regardless of the stakes and the context?</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/moh%C3%A1csi/is-islamic-state-cover-for-government-policy-in-maldives">Is Islamic State a cover for government policy in the Maldives?</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/civilresistance/stephen-zunes/maldives-serial-coup-in-progress">The Maldives: a serial coup in progress?</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Maldives </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Maldives Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics civilResistance Matt Mulberry Mon, 13 Oct 2014 08:49:15 +0000 Matt Mulberry 86748 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Resistance, repression, and the cycle of violence in the Uyghur Struggle https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/michael-caster/resistance-repression-and-cycle-of-violence-in-uyghur-struggle <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Is the state actively engaged in decreasing participation in nonviolent resistance and delegitimizing Uyghur grievances by highlighting escalating violence?</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/379235.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/379235.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="309" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">100 members of the Uyghur community in Oslo, Norway, marched the streets to commemorate the one year anniversary of the 5 July 2009 massacre in Urumqi. Olav Ljone Skogaas/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></p> On Tuesday, September 26, 2014 a Chinese court convicted Ilham Tohti, a Uyghur economics professor, to a life sentence on charges of separatism in a disgracefully political trial. Amnesty International’s China researcher William Nee <a href="http://www.amnesty.org.nz/news/china-deplorable-life-sentence-uighur-academic">wrote</a>, “This shameful judgment has no basis in reality. Ilham Tohti worked to peacefully build bridges between ethnic communities and for that he has been punished…” <p>Ilham Tohti’s conviction should be seen as a symbol sent by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to other Uyghurs and a reprisal against Mr. Tohti specifically for his outspoken activism for Uyghur rights. He has been adamant that central government policies have been abusive toward Uyghurs and have fueled conflict. However, he has been steady in his commitment to nonviolent action as the necessary path for Uyghur rights in China, always advocating autonomy never independence, despite contrary claims by the government. </p> <p>Admittedly, over the past few years, there has been a tragic increase in violent episodes attributed to Uyghur discontent in China. Uyghurs are the ethnically Turkic, predominantly Muslim minority who claim ancient homeland in what is today the northwest Chinese province of Xinjiang, a Chinese word that literally translates as ‘new territory.’ </p> <h2><strong>Restive and repressive</strong></h2> <p>Chinese and Uyghur <a href="http://michaelcaster.com/2014/07/08/xinjiang-or-east-turkestan-contending-historical-narratives-and-the-politics-of-representation-in-china/">historical narratives</a> have been a source of contention. Uyghurs have suffered from state repression on the basis of cultural, linguistic, and religious rights and been disadvantaged by a number of prejudicial economic policies that favor the majority Han. While Uyghur grievances have sparked unrest in the past, the recent increase of violence is startling. </p> <p>While the Chinese government has been quick to blame this spate of violence on Islamic radicalization and incitement by foreign forces, which has been used to justify greater securitization, most international human rights organizations point to a systematic assault on Uyghur rights and increasing militarization by the state as causes of escalating instability in Xinjiang.</p> <p>Commonly reported on are the large-scale outbursts of violence such as the <a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/terror-03022014182515.html">Kunming train station massacre</a> in March 2014 or the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/23/world/asia/deadly-attack-in-western-china.html">Urumqi vegetable market bombing</a> in May the same year, but more common are the countless episodes of everyday resistance and unrest directed at perceived targets of state repression. Many public manifestations begin as small groups of Uyghurs peacefully protest grievances of <a href="http://www.hrw.org/reports/2005/04/11/devastating-blows">religious or cultural abuse</a> or in solidarity with a detained friend or relative. <a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/sentences-07252014182346.html">This was the case</a> following the questionable death of 17-year old Abdulbasit Ablimit when 17 Uyghur protesters were sentenced to between six months and seven years in prison. </p> <p>Nonviolent demonstrators are attacked or arrested by security forces, which sometimes leads to radical flanks <a href="http://www.aljazeera.com/news/asia-pacific/2013/11/deaths-assault-china-police-station-2013111751217662711.html">storming police or government buildings</a> armed with knives and axes, many of whom are then gunned down by security forces and labeled as <a href="http://www.dw.de/uighur-separatists-blamed-for-assault-on-xinjiang-police-station-in-northwestern-china/a-17232710">separatists and terrorists</a> for their outburst. This tends to engender greater resistance to police violence. A similar situation triggered severe unrest <a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/reports-07292014102851.html">in Yarkand</a> in June 2014 that by <a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/news/uyghur/yarkand-08052014150547.html">one account</a> resulted in the death of some 2,000 Uyghurs, although this has not been confirmed. </p> <p>In such clashes police and government officials as well as civilians have admittedly been killed and no doubt some violent outbursts have been driven by religious fundamentalism, but the uniformity of central government depictions of the cause of violence and the categorical repression of Uyghur dissent challenge the validity of such narratives and fail to address the core instability. </p> <p>The increase in violent resistance, the ongoing and perhaps escalating crackdown on Uyghur rights advocates, and zero-tolerance for all Uyghur dissent pose two pressing questions. </p> <p>Firstly, why haven’t we seen more nonviolent resistance by Uyghurs? While Uyghur experts Gardner Bovingdon, James Millward and others have documented nonviolent resistance, it is less frequent than one might expect considering the litany of abuses and grievances generally acknowledged by international organizations. </p> <p>The silencing of high profile Uyghur rights defenders who advocate for nonviolent resistance has arguably ceded some strategic and intellectual territory to more radicalized forces. The Chinese state seldom discriminates between peaceful and violent dissent among Uyghurs, treating virtually all expressions of grievance as connected to separatist ideology fomented by ‘foreign forces’ and calling for strike-hard campaigns against violent and nonviolent dissent alike. <strong></strong></p> <p>Secondly, what is the root cause of the rise in violent manifestations in Xinjiang, and how does regime intolerance toward nonviolent resistance impact this? The late social scientist Charles Tilly wrote in <em>Regimes and Repertoires</em> that a government that narrows the openness for tolerated nonviolent civil resistance, such as demonstrations, petitioning or open letters, significantly increases both the likelihood of violent resistance and encourages further violent repression from the state — a cycle of violence.</p> <h2><strong>Acts of dissent, acts of terror</strong></h2> <p>Bovingdon explains in <em>The Uyghurs: Strangers in Their Own Land</em> that in the face of severe repression Uyghurs have for a long time engaged in both nonviolent collective action and everyday resistance, often taking the form of strengthening Uyghur distinctions from Han China and its political order. </p> <p>Nonviolent civil resistance is more successful in achieving political change than violent insurgencies, explain Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan in <em>Why Civil Resistance Works,</em> in large part due to mass participation. Nonviolent movements have fewer barriers to participation, while violent movements have more. As such, state repression aims to increase the costs of participation; repression either constrains resistance or radicalizes tactics toward violence, as movement actors feel they have no opportunity for nonviolent dissent and nothing to lose.</p> <p>Chinese government rhetoric continues to deny accusations of structural inequality and Uyghur grievances. Ironically, as Millward <a href="https://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/chinas-two-problems-uyghurs">notes</a>, while “the PRC claims that the Uyghur terrorist problem is foreign in origin, much of China’s effort to combat terrorism is directed domestically at Uyghur cultural expression, thus worsening the Uyghur civil rights problem.” </p> <p>By claiming that inequality does not exist, delegitimizing Uyghur claims, and circumscribing the available nonviolent channels for Uyghurs to express grievances, CCP policy in Xinjiang continues to engender unrest. The unrest is then labeled as the influence of foreign forces because the government refuses to acknowledge the possible existence of legitimate domestic grievances. </p> <p>Virtually all Uyghur participation in nonviolent resistance may be labeled as inciting separatism and treated with severe repression, even in the case of those who merely participate in scholarship.</p> <p>Resistance campaigns begin with cognitive liberation, which is fostered by dissident scholars and inspirational counter-culture figures. They too have been silenced and disappeared, unquestionably affecting the tactics of resistance. </p> <h2><strong>Silencing the Uyghur who speaks</strong></h2> <p>In 1989, Uyghur poet and historian Turghun Almas published a 6,000 year Uyghur history. His scholarship positioned an empowering narrative that contradicted the official Chinese history designed to bolster Beijing’s claims to ancient dominance and to legitimize the Communist trope of emancipating enslaved minorities. The book was blacklisted and Almas was placed under house arrest until his death in 2001. In March 2002, authorities burned countless copies of his book along with thousands of others during raids on bookstalls in Xinjiang.</p> <p>Two years later, in 2004, Nurmuhemmet Yasin was arrested, found guilty of inciting separatism, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. In 2013, a year before he was scheduled for release, authorities announced that he had died in prison in 2011. His crime had been writing a short story called ‘<a href="http://www.rfa.org/english/uyghur/wild_pigeon-20050627.html">Wild Pigeon</a>,’ an allegory for Uyghur captivity and abuse in Han-dominated China, an act of symbolic resistance. The magazine editor that published the story received three years in prison. </p> <p>Abduweli Ayup studied in Turkey and completed his MA in linguistics through a Ford Foundation fellowship at the University of Kansas in 2011. Afterward he returned to Xinjiang and campaigned for Uyghur cultural and linguistic rights. He had a vision to establish Uyghur language kindergartens as a way to resist growing perceptions of assimilationist language policies. He documented his interactions with belligerent officials ‘to let people know how China was treating the status of the Uyghur language,’ <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/12/world/asia/a-devotion-to-language-proves-risky.html?_r=0">said</a> Mamatjan Juma of Radio Free Asia. In August 2013, Ayup was detained and later arrested on spurious charges of ‘illegal fund-raising,’ for selling honey and T-shirts to raise money for his language centers.</p> <p>Ilham Tohti, with whom we began, was first <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/30/china-uighur-scholar-ilham-tohti-charged">charged with separatism</a> in July 2014, after months of incommunicado detention. Despite being first detained on January 15, 2014, and constant pleas from his lawyers, he wasn’t allowed legal visitation until June and soon after that meeting one of his lawyers, Wang Yu, was forced out of the case after her law firm was intimidated by the government. </p> <p>When I first met Mr. Tohti in 2011 he was clear in his discussion of Uyghur rights abuses and unwavering in his commitment to nonviolent resistance as the only strategy for promoting and protecting Uyghur rights. Speaking shortly after the announcement of the charges in July, Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/31/world/asia/china-ilham-tohti-uighurs-xinjiang.html?emc=edit_tnt_20140731&amp;nlid=58812808&amp;tntemail0=y&amp;_r=2">told</a> <em>The New York Times</em> that charging Mr. Tohti with separatism “signifies that China is burning all bridges with moderate voices.” Similarly, William Nee of Amnesty International <a href="http://www.amnesty.org/en/for-media/press-releases/china-secret-trial-prominent-uighur-academic-makes-mockery-justice-2014-06-">noted</a>, “with violence on the rise in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, it’s difficult to grasp why the authorities would target a prominent Uyghur intellectual known for his commitment to nonviolence and dialogue between ethnic groups.” </p> <h2><strong>Ending the cycle of violence</strong></h2> <p>The Chinese government could do two things to address Uyghur grievances and decrease violent resistance. It could put an immediate end to its categorical repression of all performances of Uyghur resistance, i.e. no longer treating violent and nonviolent dissent alike, and it could immediately release individuals such as Tohti and Ayup who are clear prisoners of conscience. </p> <p>Detaining and disappearing inspirational figures that advocate nonviolent resistance and moderate rights defense sends a signal to all would-be resisters that no amount of dissent will be tolerated. The state’s refusal either to acknowledge the legitimacy of ongoing grievances or to make structural adjustments, as well as its abusive policies and zero-tolerance toward dissent, will not encourage submission to Beijing’s rule. It will likely radicalize more severe resistance tactics in the vacuum of avenues for nonviolent action and the presence of moderate voices offering cognitive liberation. </p> <p>The escalating repression of all acts of Uyghur claim-making might portend a deeper feeling of insecurity toward the power or validity of Uyghur grievances by policymakers in Beijing. Gene Sharp has observed that “repression is an acknowledgment by the opponents of the seriousness of the challenge posed by the resistance.” In that sense, one might interpret the brutality of state repression as a response to the Uyghur struggle: the state is actively engaged in decreasing participation in nonviolent resistance and delegitimizing Uyghur grievances by highlighting escalating violence.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance China Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Ideas International politics civilResistance Michael Caster Fri, 10 Oct 2014 17:03:16 +0000 Michael Caster 86722 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Civil resistance in North America: themes from the James Lawson Institute https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/matt-mulberry/civil-resistance-in-north-america-themes-from-james-lawson-institute <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Martin Luther King once said, “sometimes it’s necessary to dramatize an issue”. Struggles within democracies may actually be harder to organize than struggles against highly unpopular and corrupt authoritarian regimes. It helps to get together.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/Civil_rights_demonstration_in_front_of_a_segregated_theater_Tallahassee,_Florida_(6847006931).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/548777/Civil_rights_demonstration_in_front_of_a_segregated_theater_Tallahassee,_Florida_(6847006931).jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="370" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Civil rights demonstration in front of a segregated theatre in Tallahassee, Florida. Wikipedia. Public domain.</span></span></span></p><p>More than fifty years after organizing the Nashville sit-ins, along with other successful campaigns of nonviolent direct action that advanced the US civil rights movement, the Reverend Dr. James Lawson returned to Nashville last month to help educate North American activists on the dynamics of nonviolent action for the second annual James Lawson Institute, presented in conjunction with the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.</p> <p>For eight intensive days, almost fifty North American activists and organizers learned from veterans of successful campaigns in the US and Canada and from leading scholars of civil resistance. &nbsp;Facilitators included experienced organizers of campaigns such as United We Dream, the nation’s largest youth-led movement for immigrant rights; 99Rise, a nationwide movement fighting to curb undue influence of private wealth and corporate privilege in the US political system; ATL Raise Up, a fast food workers’ organizing campaign for $15 hourly wages and the right to form a union without retaliation; and <a href="http://350.org">350.org</a> an emerging framework for the global climate justice movement.&nbsp;</p> <p>Also participating were organizers and activists working on behalf of campaigns and movements for fossil fuel divestment, police accountability, land rights, mass de-incarceration, alleviating racially driven poverty and racism, stopping hydraulic fracturing, promoting ethical and sustainable water use, and widening the social and professional inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities – to name just a few of the causes represented. Included in this mix were veterans of Training for Change, a nonviolence training group that uses experimental educational methods to train activists and organizers, and the Children's Defense Fund, an organization working to shape young activists and organizers into successful community leaders by teaching the ways and means but also the history of nonviolent action.&nbsp;</p> <p>The touchstone of the institute was the civil rights movement as James Lawson had helped to lead it, examined in part through Dr. Erica Chenoweth’s historical model of successful movements, which argues that the effectiveness of nonviolent struggle is contingent on its ability to inspire and mobilize diverse participation. Civil rights movement leaders like Rev. Lawson and Dr. Mary King explained how they were able to elevate public awareness, ignite solidarity, and eventually broaden participation in the movement, within a society where the majority did not feel they were affected by injustice and segregation. This may suggest that struggles within democracies such as the civil rights movement may actually be harder to organize than struggles against highly unpopular and corrupt authoritarian regimes. Many of the struggles represented at this year’s JLI face the same challenges as the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, which may be why many participants came from all over the continent to learn from Rev. Lawson and his colleagues. </p> <p>Having observed the full institute and talked to many of its presenters and participants, I noted that two principal challenges were often under discussion, related to waging nonviolent struggle in North America today. The first challenge is developing creative ways to strengthen a movement’s narrative and message -- such as storytelling, the strategic use of language, persistent engagement with the media, and the use of tactics that communicate clearly to a wider audience. At one point Rev. Lawson said, surprisingly that, “throughout the entirety of the civil rights movement, I never heard anyone speak about our struggle as a struggle for ‘civil rights’. We referred to our movement as a struggle for dignity, humanity, and equality.” He explained that by defining the movement as a struggle to reinstate core values shared by blacks and by the wider society, civil rights organizers enabled the struggle to resonate far beyond the African-American community.</p> <p>Mary King went into extensive detail about movement communications and media in the civil rights struggle, starting with her experience as press liaison for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which was really the driving force behind strategic and tactical planning during the movement. She stressed the importance of a disciplined and structured approach to engaging with the media, based on establishing trust and sincerity -- which in turn allowed them to counter the hate-fueled rhetoric of segregationists while still driving home the movement’s real objectives.</p> <p>Further solidifying the importance of language and storytelling was Carolina Canizales, one of the founding members of the San Antonio Immigrant Youth Movement, a group that led a 31-day hunger strike to help ensure the successful passing of the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DREAM_Act">DREAM Act</a> in 2010. She now leads deportation defense work for United We Dream. At this year’s institute she explained how the slogan of the movement ‘Undocumented and Unafraid’ helped build solidarity within the undocumented community, which in turn reduced fear, and gave people the confidence needed to come forth and tell their stories.</p> <p>Carolina explained how “the movement’s first challenge was uplifting our existence, because we’ve always been invisible to a large portion of the country, and we were able to do this by telling our stories over the last ten years.” This was done through large ‘coming out‘ actions, and a Youtube campaign, through which individuals would identify themselves as undocumented and then tell their stories. This form of participation reached its zenith in 2009 which generated the momentum needed for the passing of the DREAM Act in 2010. “No one believed that we’d get it to a vote but we did, just by telling our stories. Our stories are what changed the dynamics within the American public because for the very first time we were being viewed as people who existed in this country. We were invisible before we came out. Like the LGBT community came out of the closet, we came out of the shadows.”</p> <p>The movement for civil rights had begun with a campaign to desegregate downtown Nashville, for which lunch counter sit-ins were the best tactic. Citing this and other examples, such as Gandhi’s Salt March, Rev Lawson was able to highlight the importance of fighting one battle at a time, and tailoring one’s strategies and tactics to the objectives of that battle. The DREAM Movement’s use of storytelling was in many ways a good example of that. But it was also an important example of how storytelling as a tactic dramatized and thus humanized the issue in a way that struck a chord with the public and did justice to the gravity of their grievances. When challenged by the host of the TV program “Meet the Press” in 1961 about his use of civil disobedience, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. explained that “sometimes it’s necessary to dramatize an issue.”</p> <p>Kai Newkirk, one of the founding organizers of 99Rise, and back for his second Lawson Institute explained how his organization seeks to ‘get big money out of politics’ by inspiring popular mobilization in the name of constitutional and legislative reforms on the issue. New initiatives such as 99Rise have built on the popular narrative originated by the Occupy movement but have also sought to broaden its appeal and give it a cutting edge to advance social and political change. Kai explained that in order to create a mass movement, 99Rise is striving to find language that can activate the vast pool of Americans who are disgusted with conventional politics. This means reclaiming the struggle to get big money out of politics from the stale language of campaign finance reform. “It’s not a moral language” Kai mentioned. “We’ve explicitly abandoned that language; it’s very technical, it’s abstract. We feel like what we’re talking about is a question of our freedom, rights, and of who we are as a people, and a question of whether we’re going to be governing ourselves equally or not, and about the fact that we’re not doing that right now. So we’re trying to frame the issue as one of political equality.”&nbsp;</p> <p>As the week progressed it became clear that organizational structure was also a second challenge for groups wanting to wage nonviolent struggle in the North American context. The theory that most movements reside somewhere on a spectrum between ‘momentum driven’ and ‘structure driven’ organizational traditions was presented at this year’s JLI by activists and trainers Carlos Saavedra and Paul Engler. They explained that their extensive work in structure-driven activism -- an organizational tradition reliant on one-on-one meetings – had been aimed at cultivating committed activists for deep leadership development. But then they had an epiphany when they met Ivan Marovic, one of the founding members of Otpor, the Serbian resistance group, after Ivan explained to them how he, initially with only a few friends, and ultimately through a campaign of mass civil disobedience, brought down Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Carlos and Paul characterized Ivan’s style as ‘momentum driven’, given its more decentralized organizational structure, lack of relational commitments, and emphasis on public action.&nbsp;They had a sinking feeling that maybe they had been doing it all wrong. <del datetime="2014-09-08T23:39" cite="mailto:Jack%20DuVall%20-%20ICNC"></del></p> <p>The story behind their new structure or model could be viewed as a testament to the ways in which the development potential of civil resistance is enhanced by assembling a variety of theoretical and experiential knowledge on the subject (either through participation in movements or through gatherings such as this institute). But most striking was their ultimate conclusion that effective movements seem to embody both of these elements and thus lie somewhere within the middle of the ‘structure spectrum’. </p> <p>This seems to make sense in practice. Taking James Lawson’s experiences organizing sit-ins in Nashville as an example, it’s obvious that beginning with a more structure-oriented approach allowed him to cultivate serious participants and potential leaders, conduct extensive trainings, cultivate nonviolent discipline, and strategize effectively. Then, having effectively created the DNA for a successful mass movement, a more momentum-driven approach allowed the actions in Nashville to have a cascading effect across the rest of the South, eventually culminating in the systemic change that the movement was striving for. </p> <p>Perhaps it helps to begin with structure, define your movement, perfect the human core, and then open it up for mass participation. We also learned that 99Rise has already incorporated into its structure insights gleaned from this relatively new framework of analysis, and thus seeks to experiment with actions aimed at galvanizing larger public participation. &nbsp;</p> <p>Also advising this summer’s<ins datetime="2014-09-08T23:39" cite="mailto:Jack%20DuVall%20-%20ICNC"> </ins>participants were longtime scholars and activists Tom Hastings and Stephen Zunes. Tom spoke about how he applied the civil rights movement’s lessons successfully to local struggles for Native American tribal rights in Wisconsin, and later to Ploughshares actions against the development of nuclear weapons infrastructure across North America. Stephen’s talk underlined the significance of organizational structure, citing the unique structure pioneered by the Clamshell Alliance, which allowed the group to raise the cost and prevent the building of several nuclear reactors in the northeastern United States starting in the mid-70s -- and how that novel structure became the basis of the “anti-nuke” movement nationally.&nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/5594026.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/5594026.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style=""/></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">A man holds his hands up demonstrating the rallying cry "Hands Up Don't Shoot" during a protest in front of the Ferguson Missouri Police Headquarters. Charles Easterling/Demotix. All rights reserved.</span></p> <p>As the past came forward to inform the future, the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri loomed over this year’s institute, reminding everyone of the shamefully limited progress that had been made in rolling back racial injustice in the US since the civil rights movement, and thus of the need for collective defiance and strategic nonviolent action to address what has now become a question of life and death for many African American communities. One evening a spontaneous working group was convened, to share thoughts on these issues, to listen, and to offer mutual guidance and support. It was clear to all that deep-seated social and economic transformation would have to be part of uprooting racially driven violence and repression.</p><p><span style="font-size: 13px; line-height: 1.5;">Yet these dire moments also somehow served to illuminate the interconnected nature of all the struggles represented at the James Lawson Institute and thus the great potential for cross-campaign collaboration or perhaps even the eventual formation of a general mass movement. At what point can a struggle against the criminalization of black youth, a struggle for immigrant rights, a struggle for fair elections, and a struggle for action on climate change merge to become one movement for justice, democracy, equality, and safety for all Americans, blazoned on the public mind with a new urgency?</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Civil society Conflict Democracy and government Equality Ideas International politics civilResistance Matt Mulberry Tue, 09 Sep 2014 07:46:34 +0000 Matt Mulberry 85806 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Ukrainian soccer ultras: allies of the resistance https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/elena-volkava-maciej-bartkowski/ukrainian-soccer-ultras-allies-of-resistance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“Three years ago diverse groups of Ukrainian ultras did not have good relations, to put it mildly. Now we have reached a nationwide truce. This was the first time in the Ukrainian fan movement. In many other countries, this has never happened!"</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Though little discussed, the Ukrainian soccer ultras have been an important force behind civil resistance in Ukraine. This might come as a surprise. Ultras are generally associated more with violence and hooliganism in and out of stadiums than with nonviolent resistance. </p> <p>Though little discussed, the Ukrainian soccer ultras have been an important force behind civil resistance in Ukraine. This might come as a surprise. Ultras are generally associated more with violence and hooliganism in and out of stadiums than with nonviolent resistance. </p><p>Admittedly, the rise of ultras, as a purposeful political agent actively involved in defense of a popular revolution, has not been an entirely new phenomenon. The most recent example included the 2011 Egyptian revolution where soccer ultras played a crucial role in defending Tahrir Square, particularly during the Battle of the Camels. They fended off the government thugs that attacked them on camels. In contrast, the Ukrainian soccer ultras supported the nonviolent Maidan in Kyiv and did not join in violent clashes with the police when they occurred on a few days of the revolution. </p><p>Instead, the Ukrainian ultras declared their nonviolent credo, set aside club rivalries and engaged in various civic campaigns. Their political organizing became even more spirited after the Maidan revolution and the invasion and annexation of Crimea by Russia. Ultras built up their unity and in a patriotic call for action began organizing for a “united Ukraine.”</p> <h2>Ukrainian ultras: a well-organized and politicized agent</h2> <p>Ultras in Ukraine are easily mobilized for the games. They hold an active online presence (the Ukrainian ultras’ <a href="http://vk.com/ukrultras">Vkontakte group</a> has around 50,000 followers); organize transportation and lodging; prepare banners, fan gear, and pyrotechnics; as well as making songs and chants for upcoming matches. Some ultra members would never miss an away game and will follow their teams to different countries if they can afford it. “Being an ultra is a way of life, a way of thinking. It’s when soccer is a lot more than just a hobby — it's your life!” explains the Ukrainian ultras <a href="http://ultras.org.ua/about/">website</a>. </p><p>Before the UEFA European Soccer Championship in 2012, which was held in Ukraine and Poland, Ukrainian ultras made great efforts to distance themselves from violence and hoodlums. They produced a film, “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9SA4ASNiX4&amp;feature=kp">The Last Argument</a>,” which, among other things, promoted a culture of “appropriate conduct” among the Ukrainian soccer fans and no alcohol ads during the soccer matches. “Youth need to be taught a healthy lifestyle and non-consumption of alcohol,” explained <a href="http://www.dw.de/%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F-%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F-%5F%5F%5F%5F-%5F%5F-%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F-%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F%5F/a-15262141">Yevgen Shchelkunov, one of the film directors</a>, and an ultra.<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span>Ukrainian ultras have been an anti-establishment group, not affiliated with any political party, including the opposition. They became politically mobilized after 2011 when they launched nonviolent campaigns in support of Pavlychenki – a father and his 19-year-old son who were found </span><a href="http://www.pravda.com.ua/articles/2013/01/21/6981873/">guilty of murder of the Kyiv judge Sergii Zubkov in March 2011</a><span>. Both were allegedly avenging their eviction ordered by the same judge a year earlier. Despite lack of compelling evidence and conflicting witness accounts, the father was sentenced to life imprisonment and his son to 13 years in prison. The latter, Sergii, belonged to ultras from the Kyiv soccer club “Dynamo.” United by their solidarity motto “One for all and all for one,” the ultras from several soccer clubs launched a coordinated campaign calling for their release.</span></p> <p><span>Hundreds of ultras gathered regularly to protest during bimonthly court hearings and organized marches, including the demonstration in Kyiv on</span><a href="http://ipress.ua/ljlive/marsh_na_pidtrymku_pavlichenkiv_yak_tse_bulo_foto_video_11946.html"> November 25, 2012 with an estimated 5,000</a><span> protesters. Ultras would also bring “Free Pavlychenki” banners to soccer matches, and they would cover Kyiv with graffiti reminding passersby about the ongoing protest for Pavlychenki’s freedom. Ultras from other clubs would come to the capital to join the protests with their banners “Today Pavlichenki. Tomorrow you” and “Together — until the end!”&nbsp;The campaign continued until after the Maidan Revolution when the father and son were eventually freed from jail. By that time, ultras had gained more than two years of experience in activism, organizing nonviolent campaigns and building solidarity among their members around the country. These skills were used and also enhanced during the Maidan Revolution.</span></p> <h2>Ultras and the Maidan</h2> <p>When the Maidan Revolution widened after a violent dispersal of the peaceful student sit-in by the special police Berkut on November 30, 2014, ultras from different clubs declared their support for and solidarity with the protesters in Kyiv and other regions. According to ultras fan Oleg from the Simferopol soccer club “Tavria,” people from different regions came to Kyiv because they felt strong solidarity with the peaceful protesters who were brutally attacked. The Yanukovych regime became the ultras’ main opponent going forward. “We, <a href="http://life.pravda.com.ua/society/2014/05/19/168875/">the Ukrainian patriots</a>, understood who was guilty in the country. We strongly objected when students were beaten. Especially, since ultras themselves had experienced police repression,” said Oleg.</p> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/DuvallPic2.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/DuvallPic2.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="257" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Dnypropetrovsk, May 2014. Image: <a href="http://slovovolyni.com/ukr/ukraine/20670/">http://slovovolyni.com/ukr/ukraine/20670/</a></span></p> <p>On December 12, 2013, ultras from Kyiv’s “Dynamo” displayed a banner, <a href="http://prosport-ru.tsn.ua/sport/ultras-dinamo-podderzhali-evromaydan-i-nazvali-berkut-urodami-339246.html">“We need a European spring,”</a> during a match with the Austrian soccer team “Rapid” in Kyiv. In some cities, ultras protected local Maidans from&nbsp;<em>titushki</em>, paid government thugs, and prevented attacks by the police. In Kyiv, “Dynamo” ultras formed mobile <a href="http://football24.ua/home/showSingleNews.do?ultras_dinamo_budut_zahishhati_kiyiv_vid_titushok&amp;objectId=190700">night watch teams</a> to patrol the city by cars to thwart potential attacks. On the Ukrainian ultras’ Vkontakte page, followed by thousands, the announcement read: </p> <blockquote><p><a href="http://news.liga.net/news/politics/963773-ultras_dinamo_formiruyut_otryady_samooborony_protiv_titushek.htm">We are appealing to</a> all who have not yet joined to defend Kyiv from hired thugs. Gather defense teams with cars for the night. You should coordinate with one another where you will meet, in case of emergencies and what escape routes you will use, if suddenly mobile communication and the Internet will be disconnected . . . Dress in such a way that will offer most security and safety. Each car should have a first aid kit.</p></blockquote> <p>In Crimea and Donbas (Donetsk and Lugansk region), government-hired <a href="http://uainfo.org/yandex/print:page,1,290690-pro-fanatv-bez-fanatizmu.html">titushki&nbsp;organized a "hunt" for ultras</a>. That did not deter the soccer fans that continued guarding the squares. In the second half of January, after the worst attacks by the authorities since Ukraine’s independence that saw four protesters killed, the soccer fans from Donetsk, Poltava, Odessa, Lviv, Lugansk, and other cities were galvanized. They issued open letters of support for the Maidan protesters in Kyiv and condemned the actions of authorities. In addition to expressing their support for Maidan, ultras of the <a href="http://ua.tribuna.com/football/1010219177.html">Donetsk soccer club “Shakhtar”</a> called for a boycott of the soccer events organized by their club. This was because its owner was the richest Ukrainian oligarch Renat Akhmetov, who was close to President Victor Yanukovych and his ruling party.</p> <h2><strong>All ultras unite</strong><strong> </strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p class="Default">Historically, there has always been animosity between soccer clubs in Ukraine. Specifically, fans of Kyiv’s “Dynamo” along with the ultras of Lviv <a href="http://sport.lb.ua/football/2014/01/22/252697_fani_chernomortsa_edut.html">“Karpaty" and&nbsp;Dnipropetrovsk “Dnypro”</a> were involved in a running fight against fans from Odessa’s “Chornomorets” allied with ultras from Donetsk’s “Shakhtar" and Kharkiv’s “Metalist.” The solidarity among different ultras clubs to take on the Yanukovych regime developed spontaneously in the first weeks of the revolution, but it become formalized on February 13, 2014 when the ultras issued a joint statement announcing a formal <a href="http://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2014/02/13/7013774/">“truce” among all soccer fan clubs.</a> “We believe that to continue any confrontation between each other is a crime that will play out against ourselves and will eventually only worsen the current situation in the society,” read the ultras statement. </p><p class="Default">It further reminded everyone that, “The relationship between us should be based on the principle that we all are in the first place Ukrainians.” <a href="http://ultras.org.ua/01372.html">Provisions of non-aggression</a> were also included, such as banning the street fights inside and outside the stadium, taking or burning banners, scarves and other attributes of the fans from the opposing teams, display of offensive banners and statements against each other or about the cities the fans were from. </p><p class="Default">Furthermore, ultras emphasized that there would be strict enforcement of the non-aggression policies. “From Lugansk to the Carpathian Mountains — one fan to another is a friend and a brother" became <a href="http://www.pravda.com.ua/rus/news/2014/02/13/7013774/">a popular unity statement</a>. &nbsp;It was printed on the stickers distributed in public spaces in different cities across Ukraine and showed the extent to which ultras had managed to overcome their internal divisions to face the threat of an autocrat, and later of a foreign-inspired aggression. </p><p class="Default">Commenting on this remarkable unity, one of the ultras organizers from Kharkiv’s “Metalist,” <a href="http://life.pravda.com.ua/society/2014/05/19/168875/">Maxim “Cowboy,” </a>said, “Three years ago diverse groups of Ukrainian ultras did not have good relations, to put it mildly. Now we have reached a nationwide truce. This was the first time in the Ukrainian fan movement. In many other countries, this has never happened! When there is a threat, as it exists now, when the integrity of the country is questioned, this is something bigger than a feud between the clubs.”<span>&nbsp;</span></p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/DuvallPic1.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/DuvallPic1.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">"Together we can do anything"! (May 18, 2014, Dnypro-Metalurg-Premier League). Image:&nbsp;<a href="http://ultras.org.ua/01384.html">http://ultras.org.ua/01384.html</a></span></p><h2><span class="image-caption"><a href="http://ultras.org.ua/01384.html"></a></span><span>Ultras organize against Russia’s aggression</span><strong>&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p>A week after Yanukovich fled Kyiv on February 21, 2014, a new threat, fuelled by external power, began to emerge, first with the annexation of Crimea and later with the unrest in eastern Ukraine. Ultras responded in an organized and disciplined fashion. Marches of unity that brought together various soccer clubs occurred frequently. The arch-enemies, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ct6fSlLQ-PA">ultras of Dnipropetrovsk’s “Dnypro” and Kharkiv’s “Metalist”</a><span> </span>came together on the tribunes to express solidarity and call for the unity of Ukraine. About <a href="http://www.dynamomania.com/news/241808-ultras-dnepra-i-sevastopolya-proveli-v-dnepropetrovske-marsh-protiv-otdeleniya-kryma">1,500 ultras from Sevastopol</a> marched together with ultras of “Dnypro” under the banner “Crimea is Ukraine.” </p><p>Humor (sometimes expletive) has been on display during ultras’ public performances. The chants <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_Rl_idM0eI">“Putin hu*lo.-lalalalalalalala”</a> (Putin d***head) and calls for Russian President Vladimir Putin to keep his “hands off” Ukraine were heard from ultras of “Metalist” and “Shakhtar” and fans of other clubs during soccer games and unity <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9G6bMheayBQ">marches.</a> A song by the Belarusian political dissident band, Lyapis Trubetskoy, “Voiny Sveta” (Warriors of Light) was performed frequently during soccer matches and became an unofficial anthem of the Ukrainian fans. The song’s <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8HqRH5cHPo#t=18">YouTube video</a> with the images from the Maidan attracted 2.6 million views. &nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Duvall4.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Duvall4.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">A banner reading Putin PNH - an abbreviation that stands for "Putin, go f*ck yourself. Image: <a href="http://prosport.tsn.ua/sport/voiny-sveta-chervona-ruta-i-putin-h-ylo-naykraschi-pisni-u-vikonanni-ukrayinskih-fanativ-348383.html">prosport.tn.ua</a></span></p> <p>On May 2, 2014 “Chornomorets” from Odessa was playing Kharkiv’s “Metalist.” Before the game, ultras from both clubs organized a <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-27275383">march for Unity of Ukraine</a> in the center of Odessa. They were unarmed, wearing their team colors and holding flags. The march was attacked by <a href="http://zn.ua/UKRAINE/v-odesse-storonniki-rf-napali-na-uchastnikov-marsha-za-ukrainu-pogib-kak-minimum-odin-chelovekobnovleno-desyatki-ranenyh-144333_.html">hundreds of masked thugs with bats, knives and small arms.</a> Eventually, the sheer number of protesters pushed away provocateurs who fled to the local trade union building. As a result of a fire in the building, 40 pro-Russian separatists died. </p><p>Although the circumstances of the fire are still being investigated, no one disputes the fact that violence broke out after a peaceful ultras’ march was attacked by armed groups. Two weeks after the tragedy in Odessa, on May 18, ten soccer clubs organized an <a href="http://tyzhden.ua/Gallery/110127">initiative for&nbsp;“United Ukraine”</a> that included a march on the Pedestrian Bridge in Kyiv, attended by approximately <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVsA-pku3wA">3,000 soccer fans</a>. A fire show with pyrotechnics and folk songs followed. Meanwhile, in Dnipropetrovsk in eastern Ukraine, local ultras along with other activists painted the outside of the 16-story hotel “Parus” in the national colors that had the shape of <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vz5vmwI-Oo8">the 20-meter-high (66 feet) Ukrainian emblem “Tryzub.”</a> People donated paint and money, and those who could not offer either were asked to contribute their time to paint. With the efforts of around <a href="http://www.day.kiev.ua/ru/news/040514-ultras-ukrasili-dnepropetrovsk-gigantskim-gerbom-ukrainy">50 people, the project was done in</a><span> eight hours,</span> leaving the huge imprint of Ukrainian identity on the city skyline. The ultras’ graffiti, such as “United Ukraine” and “Glory to Ukraine,” spread across cities in Ukraine.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none 0'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Duvall3.png" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Duvall3.png" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload 0 imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Fire Show, Kyiv, May 18, 2014. Image:&nbsp;<a href="http://ultras.org.ua/01384.html">http://ultras.org.ua/01384.html</a></span></p> <h2>Ultras as a force of a remarkable restraint and organizing</h2> <p class="BodyA">Ultras in Ukraine are more than just soccer fans. Beside a strong devotion to their teams (though not to the management of the soccer clubs that are owned by oligarchs), ultras across the country have mobilized for multiple national causes. Aggravated by the unfair justice system in Ukraine, they launched various civic, nonviolent actions when one of their own was put in jail. Thousands joined the pickets in front of city courts and participated in marches. Nonviolent tactics employed were marches, slogans, display of banners and graffiti — all bright and visible, in order to gain media attention and to not let the Pavlychenki case be forgotten.</p> <p class="BodyA">The Maidan Revolution brought mobilization of ultras to yet another level. Triggered by violence perpetrated by Berkut, ultras used their previous experience of organizing to launch campaigns to protect demonstrators against government thugs. Unity, solidarity and discipline helped Ukrainian fans to field effective campaigns around the country. Later, ultras became a vocal and visible force for a united Ukraine, organizing regular marches, protests, popularizing revolutionary songs, and deploying graffiti, banners, and stickers to advance their messages.</p> <p class="BodyA">Ukrainian ultras showed a remarkable degree of self-restraint and nonviolent discipline throughout the Maidan revolution and at the onset of the troubles in southern and eastern Ukraine. Although there are some worrying signs that more radical ultras will join newly created volunteer battalions to fight separatists and foreign militia in eastern Ukraine, ultras are likely to maintain their affirmative presence in pro-Ukrainian organizing in the months to come.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Ukraine Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics civilResistance Maciej Bartkowski Elena Volkava Thu, 26 Jun 2014 10:47:24 +0000 Elena Volkava and Maciej Bartkowski 84039 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The contentious politics of China’s New Citizens Movement https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/michael-caster/contentious-politics-of-china%E2%80%99s-new-citizens-movement <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Despite their many efforts to stave off greater mobilization inspired by the ideals of the New Citizens Movement, the Party must know that eventually the force of popular mobilization will be too great to disregard by mere omission.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/2841561.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/2841561.jpg" alt="" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">On this 64th Chinese National Day, Hong Kong marched for improving human rights and the release of dissidents in China, including Xu Zhiyong, founder of the New Citizens' Movement. Demotix/P H Yang. All rights reserved.</span></p><p><span>Corruption has been among the grievances that have inspired civil resistance and toppled empires, even in some of the most authoritarian regimes. In China, from indignation over the corrupt Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) that helped mobilize the 1911 Xinhai Revolution, ending the nation&rsquo;s more than 2,000 years of imperial rule, to anger toward Chiang Kai-Shek&rsquo;s increasingly venal Guomingdang (Chinese Nationalist Party) that contributed to its overthrow and exile to Taiwan in 1949, corruption has been focal to domestic instability.</span></p> <p>More recently, the 1989 student protests that culminated in the Tiananmen Square massacre, which marks its 25th anniversary this June 4, began with posters demanding an end to official nepotism and corruption. Responding to this history of overthrow and unrest, influenced by resentment toward perceptions of corruption, heeding George Santayana&rsquo;s often quoted warning that those who fail to remember history are doomed to repeat it, the fight against corruption has become a hallmark of Xi Jinping&rsquo;s administration, at least rhetorically. </p> <p>When Xi Jinping assumed power as China&rsquo;s new president, 14 March 2013, he announced a general crackdown on corruption, to considerable applause, at first even from among China&rsquo;s activist community who had so hoped for a liberal reformer. Xi Jinping&rsquo;s call for government transparency and an investigation into official corruption encouraged veteran rights defenders to take to the streets in support. </p> <p>But those who have engaged under the banner of a New Citizens Movement &mdash; a designation the government has strategically avoided using even in its patently targeted crackdown on its members &mdash; have been rounded up and prosecuted on spurious charges. </p> <p>Admittedly, the New Citizens Movement is more a loose network of like-minded activists and human-rights defenders than a nationwide social movement. It is both a self-imposed mantle and an implicit charge of dissent from above applied to individuals engaged in myriad actions directed at multiple issues from demanding greater government transparency to championing the rights of migrant workers&rsquo; children. </p> <p>But perhaps because of the common thread that has earned the movement its anti-corruption spirit, at times directly quoting Xi Jinping, authorities have implied the crackdown is targeting not the message but the methods of the movement. </p> <p>The first years under Xi Jinping have heralded an innovation in regime repression, the manipulation of criminal law to persecute activists and rights defenders, the worst in years. Despite increasing repression of civil society, activists and rights defenders have continued their charge.</p> <h2>Meet China&rsquo;s New Citizens</h2> <p>Shortly after Xi Jinping declared war on corruption, on 31 March 2013 several Beijing activists unfurled banners and made anti-corruption speeches in the crowded Xidan shopping area. Among them were Ding Jiaxi, a veteran democracy activist and human rights lawyer. He was detained on 17 April and formally arrested for disturbing public order on 24 May 2013. His trial began in late January 2014. As was the case for several other trials linked to the New Citizens Movement, Ding Jiaxi&rsquo;s proceedings were postponed after he tactically dismissed his lawyer, earning extra time to draw more public attention to his case. </p> <p>Ding Jiaxi&rsquo;s retrial began on 8 April 2014. Fellow human rights lawyer Wang Quanping, after driving the nearly 1,400 miles from his hometown in South China to the Beijing Courthouse where Ding Jiaxi and several others were standing retrial, was blocked from the trial and taken away by unidentified men. </p> <p>He remained incommunicado for two days until the police notified his wife that he had been criminally detained for &lsquo;causing a disturbance.&rsquo; For his crime, Wang had pasted decals on his car to read, &ldquo;The people are welcome to disclose their assets; public servants are exempted.&rdquo; Ten days later, Ding Jiaxi was sentenced to three and a half years in prison for the charge of disturbing public order. On the same day, fellow activist, Li Wei was sentenced to two years on the same charge.<br /> Outlined in Chapter VI Section I of China&rsquo;s Criminal Law, the crime of disturbing public order has become a blanket charge applied to civil society activists. </p> <p>A year ago, following the April 2013 detention of activists involved in the Xidan demonstration, others cautioned that repression would engender further civil resistance and on 21 April 2013 Liu Ping, Wei Zhongping, and Li Sihua, along with nine others protested in Southern Jiangxi Province. </p> <p>They uploaded photos online of themselves holding posters in solidarity with the recently detained Beijing activists, among them Ding Jiaxi. They also denounced government corruption. The organizers &mdash; who would come to be known as the Jiangxi Three &mdash; were arrested on charges of disturbing public order. While they were the first to be tried in relation to the New Citizens Movement (on 3 December 2013, although they have still not been sentenced), they are far from new to civil resistance. </p> <p>Still, like other activists around the country, they were emboldened by the idea of the New Citizens Movement &ndash;and eventually persecuted for finding this inspiration in an essay authored by veteran rights defender Xu Zhiyong.</p> <h2>The radicalism of Xu Zhiyong</h2> <p>Xu Zhiyong was detained on 16 July 2013, formally arrested a little more than a month later, and tried on 22 January 2014. He was found guilty of &ldquo;gathering a crowd to disturb public order&rdquo; and sentenced to four years in prison.</p> <p>No stranger to rights defense and civil action, after graduating with a Ph.D. in law from Beijing University, Xu Zhiyong quickly made a name for himself. In 2003, along with his classmate Teng Biao, the two waged a comprehensive campaign against arbitrary detention, launching legal appeals, organizing direct action, engaging with domestic media, publishing open letters, and encouraging international advocacy. That same year the two founded <em>Gongmeng</em> (Open Constitution Initiative), a nonprofit focused on rule of law reform and legal aid. </p> <p>In 2009, he appeared on the cover of <em>Chinese Esquire</em>. China Dream was the issue&rsquo;s theme. His dream for China was a country that could be free, where no citizen needed to go against her own conscience. But even as he was being profiled on the cover, he was under detention on charges of tax evasion for his nonprofit <em>Gongmeng</em>, which came suspiciously soon after the organization sponsored research on the deadly March 2008 Lhasa riots. <em>Gongmeng</em> was shuttered but his resolve was not diminished.</p> <p>One of his clients <a href="http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/china/10597707/Who-is-Xu-Zhiyong.html">remembers</a>, "My impression of Mr Xu is that he is a moderate and prudent man.&rdquo; Xu Zhiyong is often depicted as the equanimous proponent of moderate reform. However, Eva Pils, law professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and Joshua Rosenzweig, a human rights researcher, <a href="http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303553204579344160684807586">argue</a> that the China envisioned by Xu Zhiyong is in fact a very radical vision in the one-party state. </p> <p>To think of him as a moderate does a great disservice to Xu Zhiyong and the &ldquo;force of popular resistance he and others have successfully coordinated.&rdquo; The only thing moderate about Xu Zhiyong, they write, &ldquo;is his unwavering advocacy of nonviolence.&rdquo; It is this unwavering commitment to strategic nonviolence that encapsulates the New Citizens Movement.</p> <h2>What is the New Citizens Movement?</h2> <p>On 29 May 2012, Xu Zhiyong published an <a href="http://seeingredinchina.com/2012/07/11/china-needs-a-new-citizens-movement-xu-zhiyongs-%E8%AE%B8%E5%BF%97%E6%B0%B8-controversial-essay/">essay</a> beginning as follows:</p> <blockquote><p>China needs a new citizens&rsquo; movement.&nbsp;This movement is a political movement in which this ancient nation bids utter farewell to authoritarianism and completes the civilized transformation to constitutional governance; it is a social movement to completely destroy the privileges of corruption, the abuse of power, the gap between rich and poor, and to construct a new order of fairness and justice; it is a cultural movement to bid farewell to the culture of autocrats and subjects and instead create a new nationalist spirit;&nbsp;it is the peaceful progressive movement to herald humanity&rsquo;s process of civilizing. </p><p>&nbsp;</p></blockquote> <p>The New Citizens Movement is &ldquo;the lawful defense of citizens&rsquo; rights, citizens&rsquo; nonviolent non-cooperation, and peaceful democracy, all under a new system of ideas and discourse,&rdquo; a discourse that does not &lsquo;overthrow&rsquo; but &lsquo;establish.&rsquo;&nbsp;</p> <p>In his <a href="http://chinachange.org/2014/01/23/for-freedom-justice-and-love-my-closing-statement-to-the-court/">closing statement</a> at his trial, which he was only allowed to read for 10 minutes before being cut off by the judge, Xu Zhiyong reiterated:</p> <p>What the New Citizens Movement advocates is for each and every Chinese national to act and behave as a citizen, to accept our roles as citizens and masters of our country&mdash;and not to act as feudal subjects, remain complacent, accept mob rule or a position as an underclass. To take seriously the rights which come with citizenship, those written into the <em>Universal Declaration of Human Rights</em> and China&rsquo;s Constitution: to treat these sacred rights&mdash;to vote, to freedom of speech and religion&mdash;as more than an everlasting IOU.</p> <p>In his 2012 essay he outlined the tactics to be employed to bring about this goal:</p> <blockquote><p>Repost messages, file lawsuits, photograph everyday injustices, wear t-shirts with slogans, witness everyday events [specifically referring to the phenomenon of standing in a circle around someone causing a scene to witness it], participate or openly refuse to participate in elections, transcribe [things that you see happen], hold gatherings or marches or demonstrations, do performance art, and use other methods in order to jointly promote citizens&rsquo; rights movements and citizens&rsquo; non-cooperation campaigns&mdash;such as assets reporting, openness of information, opposition to corruption, opposition to housing registration stratification, freedom of beliefs, freedom of speech, and the right of election. Practice the New Citizen Spirit in action. Citizens&rsquo; power grows in the citizens&rsquo; movement.</p></blockquote> <p>It is for advocating such methods &mdash; for seizing the reins of Xi Jinping&rsquo;s own claims against corruption, and mobilizing accordingly &mdash; that Xu Zhiyong was found guilty. He was turned into a criminal, <a href="http://chinachange.org/2014/01/20/the-trial-of-xu-zhiyong-and-china-political-reality/">states</a> Chinese writer Yaxue Cao, &ldquo;not under the Chinese law but by the Chinese Communist Party that fears and crushes any sign of social organizing for change.&rdquo;</p> <h2>Anti-corruption: the &lsquo;Master Frame&rsquo;</h2> <p>This position on &ldquo;social organizing for change&rdquo; indicates a perceived threat to the Party posed by popular mobilization. Indeed, it was an acknowledgement of public opinion, measured against managing the needs of the Party that resulted in Xi Jinping&rsquo;s announced crackdown on corruption, which became central to the vocabulary of both official and civil society frameworks. </p> <p>Recognizing corruption as a long-time and exigent problem, as a significant source of civil unrest and inefficiencies between the central and local governments, Xi Jinping no doubt responded to the perception of threat posed by a failure to acknowledge the issue. Coincidentally, the anti-corruption drive also became a convenient way to legitimize a <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21585004-cracking-down-corrupt-officials-xi-jinping-must-not-forget-fundamental-reforms-hunting">power struggle</a> between rival factions within the CCP, such as the much-broadcast trial of former Chongqing Party Secretary Bo Xilai and the mounting investigation against former security Tsar Zhou Yongkang. Growing perceptions of regime vulnerability to popular unrest and attempts to both <a href="http://www.jamestown.org/programs/chinabrief/single/?tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=41934&amp;tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=758&amp;no_cache=1#.Ux8qlF5RGy0">respond to and control public opinion</a> mark a regime arguably aware of its vulnerabilities and desperate to maintain its grasp on power.</p> <p>How does this inform an understanding of the New Citizens Movement? The late social scientist Charles Tilly speaks in terms of &lsquo;political opportunity structures&rsquo;. He points to, among others, the availability of influential supporters within the regime and the extent to which the regime constrains or facilitates popular claim-making. Evolving from here, sociologist Doug McAdam speaks of &lsquo;cultural opportunity structures&rsquo;, most relevant of which are the dramatization of a system&rsquo;s illegitimacy or vulnerability and the availability of a &lsquo;master frame.&rsquo; </p> <p>When we combine these elements, we see that Chinese civil society initially perceived Xi Jinping as an influential ally in supporting concerns over official malfeasance. Belief in his resolve to stamp out corruption emboldened collective claim-making by activists who probably expected facilitation in their support of official policy. </p> <p>At the same time, in making corruption a hallmark of his administration, Xi Jinping&rsquo;s rhetoric not only echoed existing civil society grievances over corruption but also dramatized perceptions of Party illegitimacy by appearing to yield to public opinion. Finally, despite a diversity of pressing grievances, anti-corruption became a convincing &lsquo;master frame.&rsquo; While Xu Zhiyong&rsquo;s essay spoke of diverse grievances and active citizenship, the above opportunity structure analysis, especially the anti-corruption &lsquo;master frame,&rsquo; provided the New Citizens Movement with the force to mobilize activists and for the government to categorically target them. </p> <p>The New Citizens Movement is based on the principal of organizing without organization, a loose network for mobilizing civil resistance and rights defense in response to a history of repressing formal civil organization. </p> <p>While the activities of the New Citizens Movement activists have been essentially no different from those of the past, the presence of the corruption &lsquo;master frame&rsquo; encouraged a spirit of greater connectivity among activists and perception of threat from authorities. However, despite the discussion of a &lsquo;New Citizens Movement&rsquo; by activists and third-party supporters, during the course of its crackdown and trials the authorities made sure never to mention it by name, out of concern for further emboldening and acknowledging a movement. </p> <p>But, despite their many efforts to stave off greater mobilization inspired by the ideals of the New Citizens Movement, the Party must know that eventually the force of popular mobilization will be too great to disregard by mere omission. As Xu Zhiyong wrote in his <a href="http://chinachange.org/2014/01/23/for-freedom-justice-and-love-my-closing-statement-to-the-court/">closing statement</a>, &ldquo;The day will come when the 1.3 billion Chinese will stand up from their submissive state and grow to be proud and responsible citizens.&rdquo;</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/yaqiu-wang/tiananmen-at-25-fate-of-mass-demonstration-in-china">Tiananmen at 25: the fate of mass demonstration in China</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/wei-jingsheng/tiananmen-and-chinas-change">Tiananmen, and China&#039;s change</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/opensecurity/jonathan-fenby/tiananmen-square-official-silence-public-restiveness">Tiananmen Square: official silence, public restiveness</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/civilresistance/michael-caster/sea-of-dissent-nonviolent-waves-in-china">A sea of dissent: nonviolent waves in China</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance China Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics civilResistance Michael Caster Fri, 06 Jun 2014 17:55:10 +0000 Michael Caster 83516 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Challenging annexation: in Crimea, the referendum that wasn’t https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/peter-ackerman-maciej-bartkowski/challenging-annexation-in-crimea-referendum-that-wa <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The time has come – unfortunately in the midst of another political and human crisis – for the international community to develop a rapid assistance framework for nonviolent activists and dissidents who risk their lives to preserve their right to self-rule. Yesterday it was Ukraine. Today it is Crimea.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/546137/Crimea 05.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/546137/Crimea 05.jpg" alt=""Putin, I'm Russian- you don't need to save me. Get your troops out of Crimea!” " title="" width="460" height="345" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>"Putin, I'm Russian- you don't need to save me. Get your troops out of Crimea!” </span></span></span></p><p><span>In its </span><a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/19/opinion/post-crimea-relations-with-the-west.html?hp&amp;rref=opinion&amp;_r=0">editorial</a><span> entitled </span><em>Post-Crimea Relations with the West,</em><span> published on March 18, </span><em>The New York Times</em><span> took issue with the legality of the referendum in Crimea that supposedly allowed the people of that Ukrainian province to approve the transfer of its sovereignty to Russia. But it also speculated that the &ldquo;overwhelming majority of&hellip;Crimeans seemed to regard [the annexation of Crimea by Russia] as the righting of a historical anomaly,&rdquo; without citing any evidence. Indeed, because the western media are treating Vladimir Putin&rsquo;s physical take-over of Crimea as a </span><em>fait accompli</em><span>, they seem to regard the referendum as an ancillary procedure &ndash; whether or not it fairly ascertained the views of the majority of Crimeans.</span></p> <p>If the referendum did not mirror the wishes of Crimean voters, and if conditions in Crimea deteriorate as they did in Abkhazia and South Ossetia &ndash; two former pieces of the Soviet Union that Vladimir Putin chose to retrieve from Georgia - then perhaps, in the next six months or a year, the annexation might look less attractive not only for the majority of Ukrainians and Tatars living in Crimea but for ethnic Russians as well. This is even more likely to happen if an attractive arrangement is penned between Ukraine and the EU; then Crimeans&rsquo; regret may intensify if, as expected, the new local elite begins driving luxurious cars, building extravagant residences and otherwise mimicking the lifestyle that Moscow&rsquo;s favoured ruling partners such as Victor Yanukovych have found irresistible. </p> <p>Ukrainians freed themselves from a corrupt and increasingly autocratic president through a campaign of civil resistance sustained over three months that was quite similar to the Orange Revolution in 2004. In both cases highly disruptive but nonviolent tactics including protests, sit-ins, and boycotts led to defections in the military and among other key Yanukovych political supporters. Assuming Putin does not seek to cleanse Crimea of its non-ethnic Russians, what would the west do if the current Crimean population began a campaign of civil resistance to reverse the referendum?</p> <p>Typically, authoritarian rulers reject the idea that outsiders have the right to interfere, based on the doctrine of sovereign immunity. However in this case, sovereignty is hardly settled and the typical claim that the West is seeking &ldquo;regime change&rdquo; rings hollow, since there has been less concern about Russia&rsquo;s role in Crimea than about the way it was achieved. But if the West is concerned with Russia&rsquo;s invasion of a neighboring country, why should it not be directly involved in facilitating the ability of the Crimean people to choose their rulers under fair, open and democratic conditions?</p> <h2>What happened in Crimea?</h2> <p>Within a day after the invasion of Crimea on February 28, in a closed session of the Crimean parliament and under Russian military &lsquo;protection,&rsquo; Sergey Aksyonov was annointed as the head of the new government. Yet just four years before, his pro-Russian party &lsquo;Russian Unity&rsquo; had won only 4% of the votes in Crimean parliamentary elections. To cover this with the fig leaf of political sanction, a popular referendum was hurriedly staged only 18 days after Putin&rsquo;s penetration of the province. It was as close a resemblance to a political &ldquo;shot-gun marriage&rdquo; as recent history offers &ndash; and as the following evidence reflects.</p><p>Although Putin&rsquo;s referendum implicitly acknowledged that the legitimacy of a government rests on the people&rsquo;s consent, was the procedure legal and was the people&rsquo;s consent really given? In regard to legality, Article 73 of the Ukrainian Constitution - which international law would recognize - required that &ldquo;alterations to the territory of Ukraine shall be resolved exclusively by an all-Ukrainian referendum,&rdquo; not one limited to a single province. Moreover, in 1994, both Russia and Ukraine signed an international agreement that guaranteed Ukraine&rsquo;s territorial integrity in exchange for its surrender of the nuclear weapons in its possession. Russia&rsquo;s act of invading Crimea, when incontestably it was Ukrainian territory, violated that agreement, which arguably contaminated the motives and arrangements for a referendum overseen by Russian occupiers.</p> <p>Despite its dubious provenance, was the referendum nonetheless a genuine expression by Crimeans of consent to have their homeland become part of Russia? Let&rsquo;s look first at the wording of the two questions with which Crimean voters were presented:</p> <ol><li>&ldquo;Are you in favour of the reunification of Crimea with Russia as part of the Russian Federation?&rdquo;</li><li>&ldquo;Are you in favour of restoring the 1992 Constitution and the status of Crimea as part of Ukraine?&rdquo;</li></ol><p>Both questions meant in practice the violation of Ukrainian territorial integrity. For example, the 1992 constitution (cited in question #2) was originally adopted that year by a Crimean parliament that had declared independence from both Russia and Ukraine. But it was supplanted by another constitution in 1995, which was frequently amended until 1999, when the primacy of the Ukrainian parliament over the Crimean constitution was firmly established. In other words, question #2 - reverting to a defunct constitution - did not offer Crimean voters a clear option to affirm Ukrainian sovereignty. </p> <p>Although the referendum was widely boycotted by most of the province&rsquo;s native Tatar population and by pro-Ukraine voters, according to many reports, the reported outcome of the referendum was that 96.8% of ballots had been cast for the first question, with voter turn-out declared to be 83%. This approaches the famous level of support achieved by Saddam Hussein when he first stood for election as president of Iraq in 1995; a reported 99.96% of voters embraced him. But to be fair, is there any empirical, contextualizing evidence that makes the Crimea referendum outcome plausible, or does such evidence cast doubt on the credibility of the reported result?</p> <p>According to the 2001 official Crimean census, the population consisted of 58% ethnic Russians, 24% Ukrainians, 12% Tatars, and 6% others (Jews, Armenians, Greeks, Belarusians, etc.), and there were no major changes in demographic composition in the ensuing 10 years. For the supposed referendum result&shy;&shy; in both the percentage of the winning vote and total turn-out to have been accurate, all ethnic Russians would have had to vote in favour of question #1, plus virtually the entire Ukrainian minority in Crimea, despite the likelihood that a substantial number of Ukrainians would have voted to remain with Ukraine. &nbsp;</p> <p>There is more evidence. An <a href="http://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pnaec705.pdf">opinion survey</a><span> </span>conducted in Crimea in spring 2013 (by The Gallup Organization, Baltic Surveys and IRI, with USAID support) showed that in May 2013, 53% of those polled supported Crimean autonomy within Ukraine (compared to 49% in 2011) and only 29% supported secession and joining Russia (compared to 33% in 2011). </p> <p>According to the same polling, only 15% of the Crimeans had a negative attitude towards the EU, while most people in Crimea (70%) had a neutral stance towards the EU. The Yanukovych regime&rsquo;s talks to become associated with the EU lasted more than a year before an abrupt government U-turn in November 2013. If 96% of Crimeans had actually been yearning to turn to Russia instead of the EU, one might have expected protests against the lengthy flirtation of Ukraine with the EU, but nothing of the sort happened. &nbsp;</p> <p>In fact, an opinion poll conducted by the <a href="http://www.slovoidilo.ua/news/1310/2014-03-04/obedinyatsya-v-odno-gosudarstvo-ne-hotyat-ni-ukraincy-ni-rossiyane.html">Kyiv International Institute of Sociology</a> between February 8 to 18, 2014 (during the peak of the Maidan revolution in Ukraine) showed that in Crimea, public support for joining Russia was 41%. And this was after months of Russian propaganda in the media (most Crimeans watch Russian or the Ukrainian pro-government TV channels) about scary Ukrainian neo-fascists and ultra-nationalists in Kyiv. It is likely that Crimean support for joining Russia increased after Yanukovych&rsquo;s departure on February 21, but it would have been highly implausible to have exceeded 50%.&nbsp; Similarly, no Crimeans rushed onto the streets to call for secession and annexation by Russia after Yanukovych lost his bid for the presidency in 2005, which was a direct result of the first Maidan uprising, the Orange Revolution. </p> <p>Finally, there were reported irregularities during the holding of the referendum, including bussing in voters from mainland Russia to increase both the turnout and the pro-Russia vote. In Sevastopol (according to a <a href="http://www.stopfake.org/en/124-of-residents-of-sevastopol-voted-for-crimea-to-join-russia/">website</a> that addresses misinformation about the conflict in Ukraine), to achieve the turnout announced at the end of voting, 124% of the residents of Sevastopol would have had to take part in the referendum, most of them naturally voting to join Russia. </p> <p>In the face of this evidence, it is reasonable to believe that had a free and internationally monitored referendum been organized in Crimea, without the ambiance of a Russian military occupation, but with all sides having equal access to the media, the results would have been different. Moreover, had four clear choices been presented &ndash; Russian annexation, independence, greater autonomy within Ukraine, or the status quo &ndash; it is improbable that annexation by Moscow would have gained even a majority of Crimean voters. Neither demographic arithmetic nor the widely perceived array of political opinions within Crimea before the Russian invasion support that thesis.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/546137/4218019 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/546137/4218019 (1).jpg" alt="Crimean police heavily guard all entryways into Simferopol's city centre in an attempt to avoid clashes with pro-Ukrainians" title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Crimean police/pro-Russian paramilitaries shut Simferopol to limit pro-Ukraine protests, 17 March 2014, Demotix/Amador Guallar</span></span></span></p> <h2>Crimea resists</h2> <p>The Ukrainian people had managed to create another type of &ldquo;boots on the ground&rdquo; to frame the implosion of Viktor Yanukovych&rsquo;s presidency in February:&nbsp; the participation by millions of Ukrainian citizens in a three-month, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/peter-ackerman-maciej-bartkowski-jack-duvall/ukraine-explained-nonviolent-victory">predominantly nonviolent movement</a> to demand a new presidential election and then ultimately the president&rsquo;s resignation. </p> <p>There have been over 100 such nonviolent movements in the past 100 years, and over half have been successful in achieving historic political changes. Civil resistance to assert citizens&rsquo; rights is no longer unusual or rare.&nbsp; Indeed, it was on display in Crimea in the period before and during the Russian invasion:</p><ul><li>&bull; <a href="http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1394308395">Protests of 15,000 women and children all over Crimea</a> against the Russian military intervention occurred on a holiday popular&nbsp;both in Ukraine and Russia, International Women's Day on March 8 (see the <a href="http://www.radiosvoboda.org/content/article/25290040.html">videos</a>). Protesters created a human chain to object to Russian military intervention on the peninsula.&nbsp;</li> </ul><ul><li>&bull; In the Crimean town, Yevpatoria, on March 3 <a href="http://censor.net.ua/video_news/274007/jiteli_evpatorii_trebuyut_ot_rossiyiskih_soldat_pokinut_gorod_ot_kogo_vy_nas_zaschischaete_poryadok">local residents demanded that the Russian soldiers leave</a> and insisted that they did not need their protection.</li> </ul><ul><li>&bull; Despite intimidation, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5sVwIEOEjk&amp;feature=youtu.be">Crimean intellectuals, including ethnic Russians, Ukrainians and Tatars, released a video</a> a day before the referendum showing that they rejected Russian propaganda about conflict between Russians, Tatars and Ukrainians. They called for a united Ukraine and expressed their opposition to the separation of Crimea from Ukraine.</li> </ul><ul><li>&bull; Crimean activists organized a <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Efn_reKteKM&amp;feature=youtu.be">symbolic funeral of the freedom of speech</a> in Crimea on the eve of the referendum.</li> </ul><ul><li>&bull; On March 13, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fsTBzFGJtCU">a flash mob in Simferopol was organized to protest the referendum</a> with activists sealing their mouths shut - a telling symbol of how the authorities tried to silence people to ensure victory for the pro-Russian camp.</li> </ul><ul><li>&bull; Some Crimean politicians, including the <a href="http://15minut.org/article/glava-bahchisarajskogo-rajona-prizval-podchinennyh-bojkotirovat-referendum-2014">head of the Bahchisaraysky region</a>, called for a boycott of the referendum.&nbsp;Some who went to the polling station <a href="https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=731469030206796&amp;set=pcb.731469346873431&amp;type=1&amp;theater">protested by deliberately casting spoiled ballots.</a></li></ul><ul><li>&bull; Social networking platforms, primarily Facebook, were also helpful in coordinating fundraising and aid efforts for the Ukrainian soldiers stationed in Crimea and Crimean activists. The Facebook page <a href="https://www.facebook.com/KRYM.SOS">Crimea SOS</a> has, at the time of this writing, more than 45,000 followers and close to 60,000 people who are talking about it on other Facebook pages, thus reaching hundreds of thousands of users.&nbsp;</li></ul><ul><li>&bull; Although activists in Crimea who are opposed to Russian control have been intimidated, beaten up, kidnapped or fled the peninsula, dissent is still present. The head of the Maidan protests in Sevastopol, <a href="http://www.vice.com/read/activist-forced-to-flee-crimea-my-life-was-in-danger">Viktor Neganov</a>, who was severely beaten by pro-Russian thugs in the city and fled for his life after the invasion, is back in the city and in hiding. He recognizes the risks of civic organizing in the coming months, but he also notes &ldquo;we have much more people supporting Maidan ideas [in Crimea]&rdquo; though &ldquo;they are scared.&rdquo;&nbsp;</li></ul><h2>What can the international community do?&nbsp;</h2> <p>It will be up to activists like Neganov to develop effective strategies and tactics for civil resistance in Crimea by those who refuse to capitulate to a Russian future. The last century is studded with examples of successful civilian-based movements against military occupiers with local client regimes. But is there anything that the international community could do, to carry forward its own objection to military invasion as a form of claiming sovereignty over other lands and to support those whose rights have been diminished &ndash; and to do so in a way that is consistent with international law?</p> <p>There is a new initiative developing within the international community to set guidelines for external assistance for nonviolent activists and movements and to avert the hijacking of civil resistance campaigns by armed factions as happened so tragically in Syria. </p> <p>An interesting opportunity might arise should the Crimeans scramble for a low-risk way to demand a &ldquo;do over&rdquo; of the referendum many believe was fraudulent. The international community could help Ukrainian activists - through material assistance and know-how - to prepare an alternative citizens&rsquo; referendum in Crimea. It could leverage the underground network of dissidents and also existing civic structures, such as local universities, student groups, and the help of various minorities, together with the active involvement of ethnic Russians known to be lukewarm about the annexation of Crimea by its eastern neighbour.</p> <p>Such a signature drive would be akin to the ones <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-23131953">led by the Tamarod</a> movement in Egypt in May 2013 <a href="https://tavaana.org/en/content/one-million-signatures-battle-gender-equality-iran">and the million signature campaign </a>&nbsp;organized by Iranian women in 2009. In both cases, given the limits on public gatherings and repressive policies, the campaigns allowed people to visualize &ndash; through mass signatures &ndash; widespread public discontent with existing political and social conditions, and to discover the scale of true preference in their societies for major political change. This exercise in &ldquo;preference discovery&rdquo;, in turn, led to even greater civic mobilization and bolder demonstrations. It made people braver &ndash; to borrow a line from one of the Polish Solidarity leaders commenting on the impact of the visit of the Polish pope in 1978 to his native country that had suffered under communist dictatorship. &nbsp;</p> <p>With sufficient will the international community could also take other concrete steps. It could disseminate on a large scale educational toolkits highlighting successful cases and best practices of civic organizing under repression and occupation. It could provide Crimean activists (without the usual bureaucratic red-tape) with communication equipment, including laptops and satellite phones. It could help Ukrainians set up radio and TV broadcasts beaming uncensored information to the Crimean population, and assist the independent Tatar TV ATR to maintain its broadcasts despite increasing curbs and bureaucratic hurdles. It could work with the independent media to run effective information campaigns which would be helpful if, for example, a second referendum or signature gathering were to be organized. It could distribute&nbsp;hundreds of thousands of small handheld radios or even TV devices so Crimeans can receive the broadcasts and thus break through the effective blackout by regime-controlled media.</p> <p>The international community could construct a hotline created for activists to share information and coordinate tactics, including small and larger acts of civil resistance, cultural resistance and building underground civic institutions. &nbsp;Outsiders can also provide a safe venue for activists reaching out to those &lsquo;latent double thinkers&rsquo; in different public institutions on the peninsula who will not express their views until someone else speaks up and creates new civic space via effective disruption.&nbsp;</p> <p class="Normal1">Such external assistance cannot be a substitute for an authentic grassroots movement. But the international community must do its own homework on how it can effectively help activists and dissidents that now live under the Russian flag via illegal and illegitimate occupations, not only in Crimea. The time has come &ndash; unfortunately in the midst of another political and human crisis &ndash; for the international community to develop a rapid assistance framework for nonviolent activists and dissidents who risk their lives to preserve their right to self-rule. Yesterday it was Ukraine. Today it is Crimea. Will those who are wringing their hands after the first military invasion in Europe in 46 years be ready to help the people who face the next threat to freedom?</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> <div class="field-item even"> Russia </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Russia Ukraine United States EU Conflict Democracy and government International politics civilResistance Maciej Bartkowski Peter Ackerman Sat, 22 Mar 2014 08:41:41 +0000 Peter Ackerman and Maciej Bartkowski 80571 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ukraine: a nonviolent victory https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/peter-ackerman-maciej-bartkowski-jack-duvall/ukraine-nonviolent-victory <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Dramatic words or violent acts were not how the Ukrainian people ousted an authoritarian leader and his cronies. Civil resistance shredded the legitimacy of a repressive and corrupt government. The nonviolent movement dissolved the consent of the people and the loyalty of regime defenders on which Victor Yanukovych depended.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On February 25, <em>Reuters News</em> declared that &ldquo;a 26-year-old who learned combat skills in the army cadets may be recorded as the man who made up Viktor Yanukovich's mind to cut and run.&rdquo; The young man had taken the microphone at a rally in Kyiv, denounced Ukrainian politicians for shaking hands &ldquo;with this killer,&rdquo; when they signed a deal with Yanukovych earlier that day, and demanded that &ldquo;tomorrow, by 10 o&rsquo;clock, he has to be gone&rdquo; - which some took to be a death threat.</p> <p>As always, the news media were engorged with scenes of barricades and burning tyres. But while violence was eye candy for the television networks, it was the exception and not the rule in the 88-day struggle that placed Ukraine back on the road to genuine democracy. From the start of the protests in Kyiv on November 24, 2013 until the day Yanukovych fled the capital on February 21, 2014, Ukrainians were continually using an impressive array of nonviolent tactics that brought the government to its knees. &nbsp;</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/3512162 (1).jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/3512162 (1).jpg" alt="Protesters discuss current affairs near the fire at the Independence Square, Kiev." title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protesters discuss current affairs in the Maidan, Kiev. Demotix/Maxim Golubchikov. All rights reserved. </span></span></span></p> <h2>The Maidan</h2> <p>Three days after the government announced on November 21 that it was cancelling a pending agreement for the nation to become affiliated to the European Union &ndash; provoking a huge public backlash &ndash; 100,000 Ukrainians marched across Kyiv carrying European flags, and a mass occupation of &ldquo;the Maidan,&rdquo; the central square in the capital city, commenced.</p><p> The &ldquo;maidan,&rdquo; as the nonstop protest was itself called, consisted of several thousand regular campers and tens and then hundreds of thousands of standing and sitting civilians who joined it for major demonstrations or on the weekends. During three months of resistance, Ukrainians created a genuinely deliberative and self-organized political community in the open winter air. </p> <p>The Open University of Maidan offered hundreds of lectures and discussion forums throughout the occupation in order to inform and educate people. Lawyers launched the initiative &ldquo;Euromaidan SOS&rdquo; that extended legal and financial aid to detained activists. Many people came and offered money, food, clothes, blankets and tents. Medical facilities - some with equipment that local hospitals could envy - and food kitchens with hundreds of volunteers sprang up across the site.</p><p> Music was heard often on the Maidan. One of the songs &ldquo;<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=foFcVKZ1OCA">Vitya Ciao</a>&rdquo; (or Goodbye Victor, a clear reference to Victor Yanukovych) was posted on YouTube at the beginning of December, went viral and gathered close to one million views.&nbsp; <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t95CP_2KKJ8#t=10">In Kyiv hundreds of people would stop</a> to sing the national anthem, which was also repeatedly heard on the Maidan. Handicapped protesters went on the streets and online with signs that read, &ldquo;Are you going to shoot us too?&rdquo; in reference to the police violence that led to the death of activists in January.</p><p><span>Maidan was a beacon, but its light was reflected by many others elsewhere in the country. By the end of January, the protests had appeared in a number of cities even in the eastern part of the country. They attracted students, intellectuals, professionals, working class people, atheists, Catholics, Orthodox Christians, and Jews.</span></p> <blockquote><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; In Odessa in the south (the city that was considered a Yanukovych stronghold), there were a number of demonstrations, including one in which thousands of people carried a flag of Ukraine that was half a kilometre long.&nbsp;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; According to the BBC, &ldquo;In the north-eastern city of&nbsp;Sumy, protesters occupied the city's council building and an MP for the opposition Fatherland party&hellip;assumed the leadership of the council.&rdquo;</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>-&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The &ldquo;falling Lenin&rdquo; campaign, which symbolized the end of an outdated ruler, spanned the entire country. </p></blockquote> <p>As the occupation became a fact of daily life and the centre of reference for opposition to a president who had plainly lost public faith, resisters further broadened their tactics. A <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AmqntPCJMUondGFMLWRoVktVZm5FRmxyTm95Tml4c3c&amp;single=true&amp;gid=0&amp;output=html">boycott was begun of products and companies</a> owned by or known to have close business ties to the oligarchs who supported Yanukovych and members of the parliament from his political party. The organizers targeted more than 200 businesses all over Ukraine including banks, restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, car dealerships, online and print media, alcohol products, and dairy companies. Some companies repackaged their products without brand names, to try to lure back buyers. The main <a href="https://www.facebook.com/BoycotteInUkraine">boycott&rsquo;s Facebook group</a> had more than 57,000 members.</p> <p>The struggle quickly transcended the original issue &ndash; Yanukovych&rsquo;s rejection of Europe &ndash; that had initially angered the public. It was not primarily framed by rivalry between the east and west of the country, but by whether Ukraine would be open and progressive, or a relatively closed and corrupt domain run for the benefit of a self-serving elite. In fact, the initial goal of the protesters to pressure Yanukovych into signing the association agreement with the EU represented a profound rejection of a future in which the country seemed headed for stagnation. It is not uncommon for mass nonviolent movements to provoke the public to re-examine their very identity, and it happened this winter in Ukraine.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Maidanprotest.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/Maidanprotest.jpg" alt="Protestors in the Maidan." title="" width="460" height="307" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>Protestors in the Maidan. Photo: Alex Kozachenko. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p> <h2>Repression and backfire</h2> <p>In the early morning of November 30, police officers swinging truncheons and spraying tear gas cleared out the Maidan. Furious at the brutality, thousands more poured into the square calling for Yanukovych&rsquo;s resignation. In broaching the use of violence, the government soon found that that would only quicken the movement, because ordinary people were disturbed by seeing people just like themselves being beaten up without having posed any physical threat. The state&rsquo;s violence was automatically disproportionate to anything they faced, so long as the people&rsquo;s tactics were always nonviolent.</p> <p>The muscle of the developing movement became obvious on December 14 when two large but different masses of people occupied public squares less than a quarter of a mile apart in Kyiv. One was the mammoth anti-government assembly that had staked its ground the month before, and the other was a smaller rally in support of the embattled president. One was becoming a movement, and the other was not.</p> <p>On January 16, the government dug its eventual grave a little deeper. The Ukraine parliament passed sweeping anti-protest laws, which included heavy fines on those who set up tents, stages or amplifiers on public property. Three days later, with confrontations between protesters and police becoming more frequent, the first Molotov cocktails were thrown and a police truck was set on fire. Some of the perpetrators were young radical activists from the Right Sector. Three days after that, the first protesters died from the use of live ammunition. Becoming uneasy about how all this would end, the parliament repealed the anti-protest laws, and Yanukovych dismissed his prime minister. But only three days later, a protest leader was kidnapped and tortured. Self-generated violence was coming from groups on both sides.</p> <p>While the rising violence diminished civilian participation in protests &ndash; a common occurrence in predominantly nonviolent struggles &ndash; it still generated &ldquo;backfire&rdquo; against the Yanukovych regime. Highly mechanized divisions of interior security troops going against radical-flank activists equipped with medieval-era weaponry were still seen as using excessive force. In fact, most if not all the protesters who were shot and killed or beaten to death during the conflict in Ukraine had no lethal weapons. The number of casualties in the movement was more than ten times higher than that of the police. Civilians&rsquo; use of social media ensured that videos were widely seen, showing the killings of protesters who were equipped only with shields easily pierced by live ammunition. Public outrage about shootings of unarmed demonstrators grew with each incident. </p> <p>Remarkably, in the midst of this turmoil, nonviolent resistance became more imaginative. On February 20-21, people placed themselves on railway tracks and blocked a train with 500 interior security troops headed to Kyiv. The troops were forced to disembark and forced to return to the barracks, never reaching their original destination. People in other cities and towns along the major highway in Ukraine set up blockades and stopped buses carrying government-paid thugs (<em>titushki</em>), preventing hundreds of them from reaching the capital. Some taxi drivers in Kyiv were known to offer a pick-up for unsuspecting groups of thugs that came from outside of Kyiv only to find themselves driven right into the center of the Maidan and handed over to the civil resisters. Residents also set up neighbourhood watch groups in order to neutralize and contain the thugs. </p> <p>With a militant spirit in the air, protesters resorted to more disruptive but still nonviolent actions by seizing and occupying government buildings in Kyiv and elsewhere in the regions. This tactic proved to be troublesome for the authorities because it was difficult to recapture the buildings that became well-barricaded without committing significant manpower. At the same time, the occupation of central government buildings by activists was sending a powerful message that the government was losing control. Perceptions can sometimes precipitate reality.</p> <p>The <em>automaidan</em> or the Ukrainian car movement that at its peak consisted of more than 1,000 cars, aided communications, violence prevention and de-radicalization.&nbsp; It often served as the ears and eyes of the Maidan, to learn about the movement of security forces and government thugs. It was used a number of times to block the entrances to the sites of the interior security forces that hindered the latter&rsquo;s deployment. It led the blockade of the presidential residence in Mezhyhirya, just outside of Kyiv which greatly upset Yanukovych. It also protected hospitals where wounded activists were taken for treatment against police and thugs. And it patrolled the capital and other cities to block marauding <em>titushka</em>, bringing them to the Maidan where they were publically re-educated, shamed and eventually released with the promise that they would return home &ndash; which most of them did. </p> <p>These disruptive nonviolent tactics were so effective that the regime came down hard on the <em>automaidan</em>, whose members were regularly stopped by the police, having their cars burned, vandalized or confiscated. </p> <h2>Radical flanks, radical restraint</h2> <p>If violence by the regime and the <em>titushka</em> backfired on the government, violence by armed opponents of the regime &ndash; a phenomenon in civil resistance called &ldquo;radical flanks&rdquo; &ndash; did not, on balance, significantly hurt it. </p> <p>Although a small radical flank - represented by some self-defense units and the Right Sector on the Maidan - might have played a tactical role in defending the square on one occasion, these groups were not necessarily effective in shielding the Maidan from regime <em>provocateurs</em>. For example, the march on Verkhovna Rada on February 18 led by some radical elements in the movement was considered a strategic mistake that left the Maidan vulnerable to police attacks.</p> <p>When the regime agreed to engage in negotiations in the second half of January after violence flared up on both sides of the barricades, this was hailed by some activists as a clear victory for radicals. But it is now known that Yanukovych did not negotiate in good faith and used the truce to prepare for a violent crackdown in February. </p> <p>Ironically, the heroic moment of maidan radicals in the eyes of the public may have been a function of their restraint, not their violence. There was a significant degree of discipline on the part of radicals, whose maidan self-defense units often guarded policemen and thugs who had been captured. They were shamed by parading them in public, but at the end of the day their safety had been assured. </p> <p>Likewise, in some crucial moments during the struggle in Kyiv, even the leader of the Right Sector, Dmytro Yarosh, showed a sense of limits. He issued one of the most important declarations on February 9 where he called for decisive action against the regime that had failed to release all political prisoners as promised and drop their criminal charges. This meant the end of an informal truce between the government and the opposition that had been in effect since the end of January. In the declaration one looks in vain for a call to arms or threats of physical violence. &nbsp;Instead, the most radical action enjoined was to&hellip;&nbsp; block government buildings. </p> <p>The larger irony about violence in Ukraine was not supplied by riotous movement hitchhikers but by the hyperbolic media coverage devoted to them. It raised unplanned but frightening street fights to the apparent level of grand strategy, which they were not. On January 24, <em>Fox News</em> breathlessly reported that, &ldquo;huge fireballs lit up the night sky in central Kiev and plumes of thick black smoke rose from burning tires at giant barricades erected by protesters&hellip;Clashes resumed at the barricades, which are just yards from lines of riot police and&hellip;angry demonstrators hurled firebombs, rocks and fireworks at officers.&rdquo; All of this happened, but none of it determined the conflict&rsquo;s outcome.&nbsp;</p> <p>In most instances, violent radicals in Ukraine were less impressive than the armed wings of other movements, such as the African National Congress (ANC) in its resistance in the 1980s to the apartheid regime in South Africa. But in that conflict as well as in Ukraine, the radical flank mainly used an &ldquo;iconography of violence&rdquo; (a term coined by ANC veteran <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/howard-barrell/civil-resistance-space-oddity">Howard Barrell</a>) to boost morale and enhance the heroism of radicals, more than it resorted to serious military planning or armed engagements.</p> <p>Eventually, what politically wounded Yanukovych was not the physical blows of radicals throwing Molotov cocktails, but 88 days of painstaking civilian mobilizing that persistently kept the regime off balance. The movement ensured backfire every time the state resorted to serious repression. &nbsp;It enlarged its public base, put the regime in positions to delegitimize itself, and ultimately spurred defections of the regime&rsquo;s enforcers and supporters. This happened not as a result of limited violence used by some protesters, but because the movement made it impossible for the government to demonstrate that it retained the consent of the people.</p><p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/3512137.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/3512137.jpg" alt="A overview on the protesters in the Maidan." title="" width="460" height="306" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'><span class='image_title'>A overview on the protesters in the Maidan. Demotix/Maxim Golubchikov. All rights reserved.</span></span></span></p><h2>Defections</h2> <p>Defections from the Yanukovych administration, including the diplomatic corps, as well as from the police and from his ruling party, began after the regime used brutal force against the peaceful students on November 30. Yanukovych&rsquo;s own chief of staff submitted his resignation immediately after that attack (a resignation that was not accepted) and then resigned again after his boss signed the anti-democratic laws on January 17. A number of mayors and governors all over Ukraine voluntarily resigned or were forced to resign by the people. </p> <p>Repeatedly protesters called on local security forces and the army to declare in public whether they were with the people. In December, retired Berkut officers and veterans called on their serving colleagues to act according to the Constitution and not use violence against demonstrators. Some Berkut police &ndash; particularly from western Ukraine &ndash; refused to follow the orders of their superiors at the interior ministry. Others in Kyiv came out carrying signs that Yanukovych was no longer their president. In one publicized instance, a young man who served in Berkut defected because, as he explained, he did not want to shoot his father who was on <em>maidan</em>. Local business leaders refused to pay taxes to the government arguing that their money should not be used to pay for thugs or police repression. Even in the stronghold of the Party of Regions &ndash; Dnipropetrovsk &ndash; two businessmen rebelled and allowed the uncensored news of their defection to be broadcast on local TV stations.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>In the final days of Yanukovych in Kyiv, thirty-six members of his ruling Party of Regions (a number that grew to seventy) decided to defect and join the parliamentary opposition in Verkhovna Rada, to vote for the law that ordered the withdrawal of security forces from the streets of Kyiv and their return to garrisons. Yanukovych could no longer rely on an obedient majority in parliament. On the same day, Yanukovych&rsquo;s main henchman, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, the minister of interior fled to Belarus, and was joined by Yanukovych&rsquo;s personal banker, Sergey Kurchenko.&nbsp; </p> <p>Their departures seem to have been hastened by a more serious defection: that of the Ukrainian army. During three months of civil resistance, Yanukovych had tried desperately to ensure the loyalty of the armed forces. He reportedly asked Ukrainian army officers to sign loyalty oaths to him, and anyone who refused was fired or reassigned. But in the end, loyalty oaths were not worth the paper they were written on.</p> <p>When generals refused to carry out Yanukovych&rsquo;s orders, he demoted and reassigned the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff on February 19 and&nbsp;appointed a new chairman&nbsp;&ndash;&nbsp;a navy general - considered to be loyal to the regime. On February 20, the admiral ordered an immediate mobilization of four elite army brigades (two airborne and two navy) &ndash; all in all 2,500-3,000 soldiers stationed in the southeastern parts of Ukraine, and their immediate dispatch to Kyiv. On the same day the&nbsp;orders were issued, the deputy chairman of the joint chief of staff resigned in protest against the regime&rsquo;s attempts to get the armed forces involved in the domestic conflict.&nbsp;</p> <p>Eventually, only one brigade of 500 troops left&nbsp;their&nbsp;location in Dnipropetrovsk on the day the orders came but the train that carried them was stopped by activists. They later blocked the roads to fend off another attempt to transport the same troops, this time by buses.&nbsp;Other brigades remained in&nbsp;their barracks. Once the parliament enacted the law to withdraw interior security forces from Kyiv in the late&nbsp;evening&nbsp;of February 20, the officers commanding the brigades used it to justify their decisions not to move&nbsp;their&nbsp;troops to Kyiv.&nbsp;It became obvious that Yanukovych had lost the means to put down the movement.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Collapse</h2> <p>Between February 18 and 20, almost 100 protesters were killed on the Maidan in Kyiv.&nbsp; With mayhem ensuing on February 19 as Berkut police and other interior security forces swarmed the capital, the government declared an all-out &ldquo;anti-terrorist&rdquo; operation against the demonstrators. The next day, however, the government began to crumble with increasing defections, and in the evening of February 21, Yanukovych fled Kyiv. </p> <p>In terms of the fundamental dynamic of how civil resistance can shred the legitimacy of an abusive government and then induce defections from its own enforcers and supporters, there is no serious discrepancy between the narrative of the collapse of the power of Victor Yanukoyvch in 2014 and the fall of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines in 1986, Gen. Augusto Pinochet in Chile in 1988, the communist politburo in Czechoslovakia in 1989, Suharto in Indonesia in 1998, Milosevic in Serbia in 2000, or Mubarak in Egypt in 2011. </p> <p>These regimes were very different, much less the societies in which successful civil resistance was organized and mobilized. But the forces that took the form of nonviolent movements in these countries and the action they took were similar: an eclectic but united political coalition, growing and persistent numbers of ordinary people participating in coordinated tactics, challenging the regime&rsquo;s legitimacy, capitalizing on the backfire from repression to accelerate the momentum of events, and spurring defections from the military and other leaders, even among those who were loyal almost to the end. </p> <p>In most successful nonviolent struggles, three kinds of violence at the tactical level can complicate the plans of the movement: free rider violence by bands of bellicose sympathizers, street violence by self-mobilized radicals, or organized radical flanks trying to embellish the narrative of a revolution they could then claim to have partly led. Two dangers are posed by undisciplined violent groups: violence in public space diminishes participation by the broader public and can therefore sap the force of a movement, and violence targeting regime defenders can annul the possibility of defections, without which few movements succeed against repressive governments. </p> <p>These effects were averted in Ukraine, because the claim of the movement that had taken shape in the Maidan last November - that it represented the authentic will of the Ukrainian people - could not be forgotten or dismissed by most onlookers. With that credibility and its resilience intact, the movement in Ukraine was not undermined by violent intruders before it succeeded in its primary mission: dissolving the consent of the people and the loyalty of regime defenders on which the authority and capacity of Victor Yanukovych to remain in power depended.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ukraine </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Ukraine Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics civilResistance Jack DuVall Maciej Bartkowski Peter Ackerman Mon, 03 Mar 2014 08:48:47 +0000 Peter Ackerman, Maciej Bartkowski and Jack DuVall 79827 at https://www.opendemocracy.net How to discredit your democratic opponents in Egypt https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/stephen-zunes/how-to-discredit-your-democratic-opponents-in-egypt <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>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.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><span class='wysiwyg_imageupload image imgupl_floating_none caption-xlarge'><a href="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/wysiwyg_imageupload_lightbox_preset/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/3635061.jpg" rel="lightbox[wysiwyg_imageupload_inline]" title=""><img src="//cdn.opendemocracy.net/files/imagecache/article_xlarge/wysiwyg_imageupload/537772/3635061.jpg" alt="Clashes in Egypt ahead of Morsi trial" title="" width="460" height="325" class="imagecache wysiwyg_imageupload caption-xlarge imagecache imagecache-article_xlarge" style="" /></a> <span class='image_meta'></span></span><span class="image-caption">Security arrested dozens of Muslim Brotherhood student supporters after demonstrations. Demotix/Haisam Mahgoub. All rights reserved.</span></p><p>The brutal crackdown on both Islamist and secular oppositionists by the US-backed Egyptian military junta has taken on a bizarre twist: using government-controlled media to promote long-discredited conspiracy theories originally put forward by ultra-left fringe groups.</p> <p>Articles and broadcasts have falsely accused leading critics of the military regime&mdash;including progressive activist Ahmad Salah, the anti-authoritarian April 6th Movement, liberal intellectual Saad Eddine Ibrahim, former opposition candidate Ayman Nour, and Egyptian-American pro-democracy advocate Sherif Mansour&mdash;of having worked with Americans on a &ldquo;new Middle East plan&rdquo; for US domination. </p> <p>In reality, these pro-democracy advocates were leading critics of the US-backed Mubarak regime and of US policies in the Middle East. Under such headlines as &ldquo;April 6th behind an American plan to empower Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt,&rdquo; the apparent goal of the regime is to discredit the nonviolent resistance tactics utilized by Egyptians in 2011 that brought down the Mubarak dictatorship and which has subsequently challenged military rule by insinuating that it was planned, instigated, and funded by the United States and other external actors.</p> <p>What makes such charges so ludicrous is that the youthful oppositionists of the April 6th movement &ndash;who played a critical role in launching the uprising against Mubarak three years ago&mdash;not only strenuously opposed the Muslim Brotherhood during their year in power and were among the leaders of the anti-Morsi protests last summer which prompted the coup, but are decidedly leftist and anti-imperialist in orientation.&nbsp; Indeed, both April 6th and <a href="http://www.lrb.co.uk/v35/n17/hugh-roberts/the-revolution-that-wasnt">Kefaya</a> can trace their origins to student groups organized in opposition to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. </p> <p>This is indicative of a growing paranoia by a government which, in recent weeks, has arrested and charged foreign journalists for supporting terrorists by allegedly falsifying videotapes of government repression, detained a stork which had been fitted by an ornithologist with a tracking device, apparently suspecting it was being used for spying, and investigated a hand puppet from a popular children&rsquo;s television show on suspicion that it was sending coded messages for oppositionists.&nbsp; <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/egypts-latest-terror-suspect-the-popular-felt-and-yarn-puppet-abla-fahita/2014/01/02/ced0def6-73c3-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_story.html">Ziad Akl</a>, a political analyst at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, noted that such behavior reflects&rdquo; a sentiment of fascist nationalism that you either subscribe to, or face being labeled a traitor.&rdquo;</p> <p>During the Cold War, right-wing governments in various countries would routinely accuse progressive democratic oppositionists of being willing tools of Moscow with the aim of establishing Soviet-style communism. With no Soviet Union and very little communism to worry about, today&rsquo;s autocrats are forced to put the blame on the United States, the world&rsquo;s only remaining superpower, even when they themselves depend on American aid. &nbsp;While there are legitimate criticisms of certain US policies in the Middle East, the Obama administration has unjustly found itself being simultaneously accused by the military regime and its supporters for bringing the Muslim Brotherhood to power and by the Muslim Brotherhood and its supporters for being behind the military coup that ousted them. </p> <h2><strong>Charges relating to Egypt</strong></h2> <p>Essentially, the Egyptian military is trying to have it both ways: accepting $1.5 billion in annual assistance from the US government while playing the pseudo-nationalist card for the Egyptian masses.&nbsp; </p> <p>The regime, somehow hoping that Egyptians will forget the decades of unconditional US support for Mubarak&rsquo;s dictatorship and backing its repression of Islamist dissidents, is now attempting to make the case that the United States actually conspired to overthrow Mubarak to bring the Muslim Brotherhood to power. Indeed, dismissing the indigenous origins of Islamist movements throughout the region, an article in the semi-official newspaper <em>Al-Ahram</em> goes so far as to claim that former President Jimmy Carter&rsquo;s national security advisor was &ldquo;the mastermind behind the establishment of Al-Qaida and Hamas.&rdquo; </p> <p>As part of this effort to blame the United States for homegrown movements, pro-military writer and political analyst <a href="http://dostor.org/%D8%AA%D9%88%D9%83-%D8%B4%D9%88/338593-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AD%D8%AB-%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A-6-%D8%A3%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%84-%D9%88%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A7%D8%B4%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%83%D9%8A%D9%8A%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AB%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A">Amro Amer</a> asserts in <em>Al-Dostoor</em> that the Egyptian 2011 pro-democracy protests were part of a US government plot &ldquo;to dismantle the strongest Arabic armies&rdquo; which began with the invasion of Iraq, and later shifted to &ldquo;nonviolent wars.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p> <p>Amer also claims that &ldquo;the main instruments to wage those wars are the books and publications of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/opensecurity/even-nord-rydningen/gene-out-of-bottle-interview-with-dr-gene-sharp-author-of-from-dict">Gene Sharp</a> and <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Ackerman">Peter Ackerman</a>,&rdquo; that &ldquo;Gene Sharp&rsquo;s book is a book to overthrow Egypt,&rdquo; and &ldquo;those political activists in Egypt are following the book of Gene Sharp and trying to create chaos and break the rules.&rdquo; </p> <p>In reality, neither author has ever written about nor been part of any plot to &ldquo;create chaos,&rdquo; &ldquo;overthrow Egypt,&rdquo; or &ldquo;dismantle the strongest Arabic armies,&rdquo; nor has either advocated &ldquo;nonviolent wars&rdquo; on behalf of US hegemonic interests. Neither has ever been part of the US government. Their largely academic writings have primarily analyzed the history of <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilian-based nonviolent movements</a> around the world in support of human rights, social justice, and democracy. What the Egyptian junta may actually fear is that such movements have often been successful at placing militaries under civilian control. Some individual Egyptian activists had likely read some of the works of Gene Sharp&mdash;as they presumably had read some writings of Antonio Gramsci, Herbert Marcuse, Sun Tzu and other thinkers&mdash; but it was they themselves who developed the strategies and tactics applicable to the Egyptian situation.&nbsp; </p> <p>In another<a href="http://dostor.org/%D8%AA%D9%88%D9%83-%D8%B4%D9%88/350675-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D8%AD%D8%AB-%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%A7%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A8%D8%B1%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%B9%D9%8A-%D9%886-%D8%A3%D8%A8%D8%B1%D9%8A%D9%84-%D8%A3%D8%B3%D8%A7%D8%B3-%D9%85%D8%AE%D8%B7%D8%B7-%D8%25"> <em>Al-Dostoor</em> article</a>, military regime advocate Salma Hashim claims that &ldquo;Ackerman founded the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict in the United States which trained several members of the April 6th movement including Ahmad Salah.&rdquo; In reality<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/jack-duvall/new-world-of-power-source-and-scope-of-civil-resistance">, ICNC</a> never &ldquo;trained&rdquo; anyone belonging to that or any other movement. Ahmad Salah was one of 40 civil society leaders from over 30 countries admitted to the 2010 Fletcher Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Nonviolent Conflict, a post-graduate course at Tufts University which ICNC helped to organize. It was an academic course which did not include anything resembling &ldquo;training&rdquo; nor was there any material covered in the institute directly relating to Egypt. (I was among the faculty for that course, along with such other left-leaning scholars as <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/howard-barrell/civil-resistance-space-oddity">Howard Barrell</a>, <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/cynthia-boaz/what-can-be-done-about-vote-counting-fraud-in-us-elections">Cynthia Boaz</a>, Janet Cherry, and <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/stellan-vinthagen/people-power-and-new-global-ferment">Stellan Vinthagen</a>, as well as the Rev. James Lawson and journalist <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/al-giordano/authentic-journalism-weapon-of-people">Al Giordano</a>, all of whom have been outspoken critics of US intervention in the Middle East and elsewhere.)</p> <h2><strong>Claims of being part of a broader conspiracy</strong></h2> <p>To bolster its false claims against Egyptian pro-democracy activists, the right-wing military regime has apparently borrowed from the script of various conspiracy theorists from around the Internet&mdash;many of whom, ironically, identify with the far left&mdash;to make the case that virtually all popular civil society movements against dictatorial regimes in recent years are part of a US plot. </p> <p>Asserting that a shadowy group of American advocates of nonviolent resistance were responsible for the popular uprising against Serbian strongman Slobodon Milosevic in 2000, pro-regime analyst Amro Sombol was interviewed on a major television talk show and quoted in <em>Al-Dostoor</em> claiming that &ldquo;Peter Ackerman&hellip;was one of the main supporters of the organization &lsquo;Otpor&rsquo;&hellip;and was one of its biggest funders.&rdquo; In reality, Ackerman&rsquo;s only interaction with Otpor was appearing in a public forum with former members of the group two years <em>after</em> Milosevic&rsquo;s ouster, and he never provided financial or other support for the movement.&nbsp; Sombol goes on to claim that Otpor then &ldquo;guided and facilitated the establishment of the April 6th movement,&rdquo; despite the fact that <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/ivan-marovic/in-defense-of-otpor">Otpor</a> folded in 2003 and the April 6th movement wasn&rsquo;t established until 2008. </p> <p>Indeed, just as the US government during the Cold War claimed that the various popular leftist uprisings around the world were actually engineered from Moscow as part of a <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/1981/0507/050753.html">Soviet &ldquo;hit list,&rdquo;</a> the semi-official <a href="http://www.ahram.org.eg/NewsPrint/242637.aspx"><em>Al-Ahram</em></a> newspaper dismisses the idea that &ldquo;dictators can be overthrown from inside their own countries&rdquo; since, &ldquo;the CIA and the American media are the ones who can determine if this dictator is worth being overthrown.&rdquo; For example, Ackerman is described as &ldquo;the master planner of the soft wars and the engineer behind civil resistance and the Orange, Rose or Purple revolutions, or any other colors yet to come!&rdquo; </p> <p>Like other autocrats and their apologists, the Egyptian military cannot seem to fathom the possibility of local human agency in creating political change.&nbsp; For those raised in a hierarchical authoritarian mentality, popular uprisings could not simply be a result of unjust social conditions or a determination by an oppressed population to free themselves from corrupt despotic rule, but a conspiracy by foreign powers.</p> <p>Even when corrupt and repressive regimes are removed from power by the ballot box, according to the Egyptian military&rsquo;s supporters, it is somehow also the fault of a sinister foreign conspiracy.&nbsp; For example, a recent article in <a href="http://www.ahram.org.eg/NewsPrint/242637.aspx"><em>Al-Ahram</em></a> claimed that the popular protests against massive fraud in the 2005 Ukrainian presidential election which forced authorities to call a new election that led to the defeat of the semi-autocratic incumbent party was not a reflection of popular will. Instead, according to the article, it was because the United States supposedly &ldquo;paid voters and provided transportation to take them to voting centers or to support rallies&rdquo; and was somehow able to provide government supporters with &ldquo;invisible pens&rdquo; which would cause their marked ballots to disappear and thereby make possible an opposition victory.</p> <p>It was just these kinds of tactics, according to <a href="http://www.ahram.org.eg/NewsPrint/242637.aspx"><em>Al-Ahram</em>,</a> that led to Morsi&rsquo;s 2012 election victory in Egypt, which &ldquo;gave these external powers the chance to meddle in our issues to preserve their interests, not ours.&rdquo; What is so convenient for the Egyptian military is that such claims can then be used to give them tight control over the electoral process and prevent international observers from monitoring elections.</p> <h2><strong>The nature of nonviolent struggle</strong></h2> <p>For millions of Egyptians and others, the &ldquo;Arab Spring&rdquo; in Egypt challenged the sense of fatalism that had permeated generations of Arabs, many of whom had long resigned themselves to simply being the pawns of foreign powers and their own autocratic rulers. Popular nonviolent civil insurrections, such as those that brought down Hosni Mubarak in 2011, dramatically challenge this sense of victimhood, exposing how the state only has power as long as people agree to obey. When a significant proportion of the population refuses to cooperate, it exposes the weakness of the regime and its forces of repression and reveals the ultimate power of the people. &nbsp;</p> <p>Foreign intrigues can certainly make regime change possible through military invasions, coup d&rsquo;&eacute;tats, and other kinds of violent seizures of power that install an undemocratic minority. In contrast, mass nonviolent movements, such as those which ousted Mubarak&mdash;along with scores of other dictators in recent decades&mdash; make regime change possible through empowering pro-democratic majorities. Indeed, the very nature of nonviolent movements&mdash;at least those which become large enough to threaten the survival of an autocratic regime&mdash;requires that they have mass popular support, build alliances from a broad cross-section of civil society, and employ massive noncooperation and other tactics that can only come from the people themselves. </p> <p>The military regime&rsquo;s efforts to discredit grassroots civil society groups which, after many years of struggle, successfully organized and launched the popular uprising which ousted Mubarak, appears to be part of an effort to rewrite history to instead depict themselves as the legitimate heirs of the 2011 revolution. </p> <p>The fact remains, however, that it was the military that kept Mubarak, himself a top-ranking military officer, in power for nearly three decades and their decision to remove him from office that February was more of a <em>coup de grace</em> than a <em>coup d&rsquo;&eacute;tat</em>. They recognized that if they did not push Mubarak aside, they themselves would be challenged by the millions of Egyptians on the streets. </p> <p>As a result, fearing that such activists could potentially pose a threat to their renewed grip on power, the military regime is now engaged in a desperate ploy to depict pro-democracy activists as being hirelings of foreign agents who somehow planned, instigated, and funded the 2011 revolution. While some congressionally funded institutions, like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), have provided support for certain opposition groups in Egypt and a number of countries, NED and similar groups have tended to work with elite oppositionists and focus on institutional reform, not those engaged in strategic nonviolent action and other grassroots efforts which directly challenge autocratic regimes.&nbsp; </p> <p>Sometimes elite oppositionists overlap with popular movements, but not usually.&nbsp; Indeed, while some opposition groups have accepted some US assistance, the mass movements in Egypt which spearheaded the democratic revolutions &ndash; such as Kefaya and April 6th &ndash; rejected such aid on principle. </p> <p>It is ironic that a right-wing military dictatorship with such close ties to the US government would feel so inclined to put forward conspiracy theories which so closely parallel those of various far-left bloggers who identify as &ldquo;anti-imperialists.&rdquo; Indeed, it is very much of an imperialist mindset to assume that Arabs and other non-western peoples are somehow incapable of effectively organizing themselves into an effective social movement and could only do so if masterminded by a handful of Americans. </p> <p>Whether such efforts to discredit popular democratic struggles comes from Marxist-Leninists or right-wing military officers, however, only those with an authoritarian mindset could depict the millions of Egyptians who put their bodies on the line for their freedom three years ago and have subsequently challenged both the Muslim Brotherhood and the military as simply pawns of foreign interests.</p> <p>The Egyptian military clearly has the upper hand at this time, but their hold on power will ultimately prove fragile. The younger generation of Egyptians will not likely be satisfied with military rule any more than they were with Mubarak or Morsi. And they have witnessed the power of strategic nonviolent action in bringing down an entrenched repressive regime. It is doubtful, then, that government propagation of convoluted conspiracy theories apparently borrowed from the fringes of the internet will be enough to keep them quiet for long.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-sidebox"> <div class="field-label"> Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/civilresistance/sherif-joseph-rizk/egyptian-revolution-beyond-false-choices">The Egyptian revolution: beyond false choices</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/civilresistance/ivan-marovic/in-defense-of-otpor">In defense of Otpor</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Egypt </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> civilResistance North-Africa West-Asia civilResistance Egypt Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics Internet civilResistance Stephen Zunes Mon, 17 Feb 2014 14:19:30 +0000 Stephen Zunes 79397 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Mandela’s utilitarianism and the struggle for liberation https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/stephen-zunes/mandela%E2%80%99s-utilitarianism-and-struggle-for-liberation <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>“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!’”</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In the time since his death at age 95, Nelson Mandela&rsquo;s thinking on the strategic direction of the liberation struggle in South Africa has been oversimplified by proponents of nonviolent and armed resistance alike. &nbsp;His leadership in the relatively peaceful end to the brutal apartheid system was indeed critical, as was his leadership three decades earlier in the shift from nonviolent to armed resistance by the African National Congress (ANC).&nbsp; Yet many analysts have largely ignored the critical events in South Africa which took place in between, during his nearly three decades in prison.</p> <p>While, on principle, Mandela refused to renounce violence from his prison cell as long as the far more violent apartheid regime refused to do the same, he also recognized the limits of guerrilla warfare in a country where the regime had all the advantages when it came to armed conflict. However morally justifiable armed struggle may have been in the face of such brutality, it simply was not working. Indeed, in the final years of his imprisonment, he - like other ANC leaders - recognized that it was the growing waves of strikes and boycotts, the establishment of parallel institutions, &nbsp;and other forms of unarmed resistance by the United Democratic Front (UDF) and the ANC&rsquo;s political wing, that would eventually free South Africa from white minority rule.</p> <p>While many western governments argued that the supposedly benevolent influence of western capital would lead to liberalization and an eventual end to South Africa's apartheid system, and many on the left argued that liberation would come only through armed revolution, in fact it was largely unarmed resistance by the black majority and its supporters, both within South Africa and abroad, which proved decisive.</p> <p>The resistance of the 1980s was centered on massive noncooperation. Less than six months prior to Mandela&rsquo;s release from prison in February 1990, an editorial in the <em>Weekly Argus </em>observed, &ldquo;The intimidatory powers of the state have waned; the veneration of the law has diminished with the erosion of the rule of law. Inevitably that meek acquiescence of yesteryear has evaporated and SA is now witnessing an open, deliberate and organised campaign of defiance.&rdquo;</p> <p>Though it is easy to think of apartheid South African in terms of radical polarization, a model that would tend to support armed struggle as a means of change, the high degree of interdependence &ndash; albeit on unfair terms imposed by the ruling white minority &ndash; allowed greater latitude for nonviolent movements than is normally possible in most polarized societies. About half of the country's Africans lived in areas allocated to South Africa's whites, including all the ports, major cities, industry, mines, and optimal agricultural land, as did virtually all of the Coloureds and Asians. The white minority existed from day to day with a high level of dependence on the black majority, not just for their high standard of living, but for their very survival. Massive noncooperation, therefore, constituted a more direct challenge to the system of apartheid than did violence.</p> <p>The black South Africans' overwhelming numerical majority made the use of massive noncooperation particularly effective when they started to mobilize in large numbers in the mid-1980s. Nonviolent action, despite its requirements of discipline and bravery in the face of repression, allowed participation by a far greater percentage of the population than the ANC&rsquo;s exiled guerilla army, whose armed cadres could rarely even penetrate the country&rsquo;s heavily-guarded borders.</p> <p>By contrast, essentially conservative and religious Africans tended to respond negatively or not at all to revolutionary violence.&nbsp; For example, sociologist <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heribert_Adam">Heribert Adam</a> once noted how the early ANC bombing campaigns "which aimed at frightening whites into making concessions, instead resulted in a strengthening of the repressive machinery and general discouragement of African militancy closer to general resignative despair than determination to actively resist white domination."&nbsp; </p> <p>Likewise, the use of guerrilla warfare by the ANC&rsquo;s armed wing and other acts of violence solidified even liberal white opinion in support of repressive actions by the white minority government. An escalation of the armed struggle, in the eyes of the white minority, would have confirmed their worst stereotypes of the Africans as "violent savages" and encouraged whites to resist bitterly and engage in even more brutal repression. </p> <p>By contrast, nonviolent action allowed far greater potential for creating cleavages among the white elites, such as how to best respond to the resistance, how long to resist the inevitable changes demanded by the revolutionaries, and at what costs. The shift back to a mostly nonviolent struggle in the 1980s lured white opinion away from those seeking continued white domination.&nbsp; Though the prospect of giving up their privileges was not particularly welcomed by most whites, the use of largely nonviolent methods by the black majority was seen as indicative of a movement less likely to engage in reprisals against the white minority upon obtaining power, thereby making possible a greater willingness to accept majority rule.</p> <p>The advantages of nonviolent action in winning allies went far beyond the potentially enlightened sectors of South Africa's white minority, in that it also extended to the world community. International opinion was of crucial importance. Despite verbal condemnation of its racial policies, the western industrialized world gave South Africa consistent support over the years in the form of trade, industrial development, technological assistance, infusion of capital, and arms. South Africa would not have become the economic and military power it was without the massive aid it received from the west during the more than forty years of apartheid rule.</p> <p>Prior to the imposition of sanctions in the mid-1980s, there was over $13 billion worth of annual trade between South Africa and the west, which - combined with $30 billion in foreign investment - supplied the country with the vast majority of such basic commodities as transportation equipment, electrical equipment and machinery, nuclear technology, telecommunications facilities and services, computer technology, chemicals and related products, paper and manufactures, and other goods essential to the maintenance of South Africa as a modern industrialized state. In addition, the west supported the South African regime through outstanding bank loans and credits totaling $6.5 billion, much of which went to government entities with no restrictions.</p> <p>When the United Nations Security Council threatened sanctions and other punitive measures against South Africa, three members - the United States, Great Britain, and France (due to their important economic and political interests) - cast vetoes.&nbsp; Armed resistance by the ANC gave some western nations an excuse to label the ANC a &ldquo;terrorist organization&rdquo; and block the imposition of targeted sanctions against the apartheid regime. By the mid to late 1980s, however, thanks to massive nonviolent protests in these countries by anti-apartheid activists, most industrialized nations imposed sanctions on the apartheid regime. Labor unions, church groups, students, and leftist organizations in solidarity with the resistance movement in South Africa&rsquo;s townships made business as usual with the apartheid government impossible. &nbsp;Scenes broadcast in the international media of nonviolent black protesters being shot and brutally beaten by government forces galvanized popular opinion in the west in support of divestment and sanctions, which played a major role in forcing the white minority government to the negotiating table.&nbsp; By contrast, had the primary mode of resistance been armed struggle, it is unlikely that the same level of sympathy and the resulting mass mobilization would have been enough to make the sanctions movement so successful.</p> <p>In his final years in prison, Mandela recognized that younger community activists like Mkhuseli Jack - a UDF leader who led the strikes, boycotts, and public protests in the Port Elizabeth area - were far more significant in the success of the struggle than his former comrades from the ANC&rsquo;s armed wing.&nbsp; It was no accident that Mandela asked Jack, and not anyone from the old guard who had been involved in the armed resistance, to organize his first public rally upon his release from prison.</p> <p>Mandela&rsquo;s approach to violence and nonviolence was not ideological, but pragmatic. Rev. Allan Boesak, a former anti-apartheid leader, noted that while Mandela did not lead the movement away from armed resistance, &ldquo;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, &lsquo;Do it my way!&rsquo;&rdquo;</p> <p>While the South African struggle was more protracted, more complex, and not exclusively nonviolent as some other pro-democracy struggles were during this era, it was one of the most significant. It demonstrated that even in a situation where so many had given up on nonviolent action, key figures in the resistance movement - including Nelson Mandela - would recognize its power in the successful liberation of their people.</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/chantelle-de-nobrega/nelson-mandela-who-tells-story">Nelson Mandela: Who tells the story? </a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/elleke-boehmer/mandela-icon">Mandela, icon</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/5050/ch%C3%A9-ramsden/mandela-towards-non-sexist-south-africa">Mandela: towards a non-sexist South Africa</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/peter-mccoll/nelson-mandela-see-movement-he-personified-as-well-as-man">Nelson Mandela: see the movement he personified as well as the man</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/transformation/adam-kahane/nelson-mandela-knew-when-to-talk-and-when-to-fight">Nelson Mandela knew when to talk and when to fight</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/opensecurity/robin-wilson/mandela-explaining-magnetism">Mandela: explaining the magnetism</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/visualizing-impact/mandela-visual-memorial">Mandela: a visual memorial</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> South Africa </div> </div> </div> civilResistance South Africa Mandela: free at last civilResistance Stephen Zunes Fri, 13 Dec 2013 07:25:14 +0000 Stephen Zunes 77806 at https://www.opendemocracy.net In defense of Otpor https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/ivan-marovic/in-defense-of-otpor <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p class="Body">When they claim that Otpor was an American operation to unseat Milosevic, they do not bother to explain why all these other organizations were fighting Milosevic, some for years before Otpor joined the fight. Were they all American puppets? </p> </div> </div> </div> <p class="Body">A spectre is haunting the Internet it seems &ndash; the spectre of Otpor. Many powers of the blogosphere have entered into a holy alliance to exorcise this specter: <a href="http://rt.com/usa/revolution-activists-world-people-297/">Putin&rsquo;s media outlets</a>, <a href="http://www.infowars.com/occupy-wall-street-affiliated-with-professional-revolutionary-organization-otpor-cia/">crackpot conspiracy theorists</a>, even some people on the left (very disturbing to me). They&rsquo;ve spent the last decade deconstructing a movement that hasn&rsquo;t existed since 2004. It is easy to butcher a corpse because it cannot fight back. But I feel an obligation to defend Otpor; it was <a href="http://www.retiredrevolutionary.com">a movement I belonged to</a>, so let me deconstruct this &ldquo;deconstruction.&rdquo;</p> <p class="Body">A few facts about Otpor. It was a movement that existed in Serbia between late 1998 and early 2004. It played an important role in the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000; it was a laboratory out of which came some new and original organizing concepts and it has inspired social movements worldwide ever since. It doesn&rsquo;t exist as an organization anymore, but still influences the world. And with every passing year, the criticism of Otpor and its legacy seems to be growing &ndash; not just in Serbia, but around the world.</p> <p class="Body">There are different critics of Otpor and the motivations behind their criticism are not the same. Media outlets sponsored by different autocrats want to discredit Otpor because they are afraid of their own populations; they worry their people may use civil resistance against them. Discrediting popular movements as not genuine, as imported, seems like a good idea to them. But in the end it never works. Blaming foreigners for you internal troubles is like blaming your mother-in-law for your marital problems. It does not save the marriage.</p> <p class="Body">The motivation of conspiracy theorists is not very clear. Maybe it is safest to say that there is a global conspiracy of conspiracy theorists to discourage dissent by persuading everyone that any rebellion is part of a conspiracy. Let&rsquo;s just leave it at that.</p> <p class="Body">The motivation of critics on the left is to expose the American Empire and its role in the world. So, if they see US involvement, however small, in a country experiencing unrest &ndash; they totally disregard the local context and put it in the American context. Now that&rsquo;s what I call an imperialist state of mind.</p> <p class="Body">There are a number of formal problems with such critiques of Otpor I wish to address before I get to the essence of my deconstruction. Critics often conflate former Otpor members with Otpor itself; so you will often find criticism of &lsquo;Otpor&rsquo; mixed with criticism of individuals who were once part of that movement. </p> <p class="Body">The most popular target, back in vogue thanks to a <a href="http://www.occupy.com/article/exposed-globally-renowned-activist-collaborated-intelligence-firm-stratfor">recent expose</a> by Carl Gibson and Steven Horn, is Srdja Popovic and his organization CANVAS (Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies). Otpor and CANVAS are two different entities &ndash; Otpor was a mass movement, its goal was to bring down Milosevic; CANVAS is a small NGO with a mission to disseminate knowledge about nonviolent action. CANVAS was founded only a year after Otpor had ceased to exist, and Srdja himself left Otpor years before launching this organization. </p> <p class="Body">But I don&rsquo;t want to defend Srdja and CANVAS here &ndash; they are more than capable of countering criticisms on their own. I want to defend Otpor because Otpor, being long dead, cannot fight back; not just Otpor, I wish to defend the struggle of the Serbian people against Milosevic.</p> <p class="Body">Herein lies another formal problem: it was not just Otpor. Critics ignore the fact that Otpor was but one part of a much larger front fighting against Milosevic and his regime &ndash; an alliance of political parties, trade unions, independent media and NGOs. When they claim that Otpor was an American operation to unseat Milosevic, they do not bother to explain why all these other organizations were fighting Milosevic, some for years before Otpor joined the fight. Were they all American puppets? </p> <p class="Body">Even Vojislav Kostunica, the politician who defeated Milosevic in the 2000 presidential elections &ndash; elections Milosevic attempted to falsify, provoking nationwide civil disobedience and the general strike which brought him down &ndash; was he too an American puppet? Kostunica is well known for his anti-American views, as well as his <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vojislav_Kostunica#On_the_European_Union">opposition to NATO and the EU</a>; some even claim (though personally, I find it unlikely) that he was responsible for setting the American Embassy on fire during the riots which shook Belgrade after Kosovo declared independence in 2004. Some puppet.</p> <p class="Body">Even those members of Otpor who were veterans of the 1996-97 student protest which lasted for four months without any western support? Back then Milosevic was called a &lsquo;factor of stability&rsquo; in the Balkans and a guarantor of the Dayton accords which ended the Bosnian War a year earlier. Otpor was founded by these students and operated without any external assistance during its formative phase. We didn&rsquo;t have an office for the first year &ndash; and when we got one, it wasn&rsquo;t Bill Clinton who offered us a small apartment, but an activist&rsquo;s mother. </p> <p class="Body">Otpor did receive foreign support in the end, from the US, but also from Europeans and others. In fact we asked for it. It was a tough choice, but important choices are never easy. <em>These countries bombed us</em> &ndash; talking to the representatives of their governments and heads of their foundations was not without discomfort. But the decision to look for support abroad was informed by the understanding that the only people who had money in Serbia at that time were war profiteers and war criminals. All money in the country was bloody. Confronted by that reality, foreign support seemed the lesser evil. Looking back, this turned out to be the correct decision.</p> <p class="Body">Now let me get to the point and I&rsquo;ll put it bluntly: you can&rsquo;t criticize Otpor without endorsing Milosevic and his fascist regime. If you are brave enough to say Otpor&rsquo;s role was negative then you should be bold enough to say Milosevic&rsquo;s role was positive. And while you&rsquo;re at it, maybe you should also say a word or two about Srebrenica. <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/srebrenica_massacre">Eight thousand people were killed there</a>, you know. You can&rsquo;t have it both ways. </p> <p class="Body">Of course, critics of Otpor already know this &ndash; that&rsquo;s why they dodge it over and over again whenever it is brought up. They don&rsquo;t put things into context; they just mention US support to Otpor while never talking about what kind of regime Otpor was up against. Talking about US support to Otpor without mentioning Milosevic is like saying Stalin and Churchill were allies without mentioning Hitler. Without Hitler, this alliance would be the most sinister of pacts, both from the Tory and Bolshevik point of view. But mention Hitler and it all makes sense.</p> <p class="Body">The same goes for US support for our struggle against Milosevic, a fight which had been going on for nearly a decade before western countries finally decided to step in and help. And they deserve credit for that aid as much as they deserve criticism for treating Milosevic as a partner for the majority of his reign. The most important thing then, as now, is what Otpor was fighting against.</p> <p class="Body">Of course, ten years later many things didn&rsquo;t turn out the way we envisioned. What we fought to achieve is not what we got in the end. In other words, we didn&rsquo;t fight for <em>this</em>, we fought against <em>that</em>, and we always should. And should we be disappointed? We should be disappointed in ourselves &ndash; in what we are or are not doing today, not in what we did back in the nineties. The fight against Milosevic was a good fight, and I dare any critic of Otpor to come out and say it wasn&rsquo;t.</p> <p class="Normal1"><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Serbia </div> <div class="field-item even"> United States </div> <div class="field-item odd"> EU </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Internet </div> </div> </div> civilResistance Can Europe make it? civilResistance EU United States Serbia Civil society Democracy and government Ideas International politics Internet civilResistance Ivan Marovic Fri, 06 Dec 2013 18:22:45 +0000 Ivan Marovic 77624 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Internationalizing rights-based resistance in China: the UN Human Rights Council and the citizen https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/michael-caster/internationalizing-rights-based-resistance-in-china-un-human-rights-c <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Chinese activists are gradually strengthening the framing of domestic grievances with the vocabulary of international human rights, marking a departure from locality-specific episodes of contention.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>On the morning of 22 October, special envoy Wu Hailong led Beijing&rsquo;s delegation in Geneva as China began its once every four year Universal Periodic Review (UPR) under the UN Human Rights Council (HRC). On 12 November the UN General Assembly voted to fill 14 vacancies on the Human Rights Council and China was elected to a third three-year term on the council. The country served two consecutive terms from 2006 to 2012 but was ineligible to run again until this year. After Jordan announced the withdrawal of its candidacy, the four vacant seats for the Asia Pacific region left Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, The Maldives, and China uncontested. But many analysts have remarked with frustration that even before Jordan&rsquo;s surprising withdrawal, China&rsquo;s bid had little chance of defeat due in large part to its permanent status on the Security Council - despite strong objections from rights groups. Considering the egregious record of these four countries, their entry to the rights body could mark an atavistic turn for the council. </p> <p>Leading up to the Universal Periodic Review and China&rsquo;s UN Human Rights Council election, one source of testimony has been conspicuously absent from China&rsquo;s official reporting. Despite efforts by certain NGOs and international organizations, and shallow consultation by the Chinese government, input and participation by Chinese civil society in these important mechanisms for monitoring and upholding their country&rsquo;s human rights obligations has been withheld. The Chinese government has acted to block civil society participation and engaged in reprisals against civil resistance geared to these international human rights mechanisms. It appears that when Wu Hailong&rsquo;s delegation <a href="http://hrichina.org/content/6991">announced</a> that, &ldquo;The Chinese are in the best position to know the situation of human rights in China,&rdquo; he wasn&rsquo;t referring to the hundreds of notable Chinese citizens and groups who have been learning to frame their dissent in the language of international human rights as well as those who have been directly campaigning for broader civil participation in the drafting and international reporting on China&rsquo;s human rights.</p> <p>In the months leading up to the late July deadline for China to submit its official report to the HRC and the review itself on 22 October, Chinese activists organized a series of actions in multiple locations around the country culminating in a sit-in at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) in Beijing beginning on 18 June. The organizers, who chose an area around the East Gate of the Ministry building because of its proximity to the Human Rights Division, had planned to maintain the demonstration until 22 October. </p> <p>The organizers, among them Cao Shunli, claimed that the principal grievances behind the sit-in were the ongoing refusals by the ministry to respond to a series of open information disclosure requests, eventually leading the ministry to claim that the UPR process was a matter of state security. At the high point, the sit-in attracted around 200 participants, mostly women. Cao Shunli <a href="mailto:http://www2.amnesty.org.uk/blogs/countdown-china/chinese-government-must-end-reprisals-against-activists-demanding">remarked</a> to Chinese Human Rights Defenders that, &ldquo;We just want to have all the participants in the sit-in to have a dialogue with officials, to know how the country&rsquo;s human rights report is produced and who should be part of the process.&rdquo;</p> <p>On 1 July, the first of three police raids dispersed the demonstrators. Around 9 a.m., hundreds of officers descended on the gathering and rounded them up in two groups. Activists from Beijing were taken away in one vehicle, while those from outside of Beijing were removed to separate locations in four different police vehicles. After 12 hours of interrogation, with some reports of physical abuse, almost all of the activists were released. Many of them returned to the ministry to resume the sit-in. The police would clear the sit-in two more times, on 22 August and on 3 October, holding activists separately by region and subjecting them to exhausting questioning. </p> <p>Similarly, seizing the spotlight of the UPR - a common tactic among Chinese activists, to capitalize on sensitive dates and anniversaries - many have campaigned against China&rsquo;s inclusion in the Human Rights Council. In Hangzhou, dissident writer Chen Shuqing and fellow organizers Lu Gengsong and Gao Haibin circulated an open letter denouncing China&rsquo;s entry to the human rights body. The petition received hundreds of signatures from activists in over ten provinces. The organizers of this campaign were later detained on suspicion of &lsquo;inciting to subvert state power.&rsquo; Similar campaigns took place in other parts of the country and some overseas organizations claim to have gathered over 10,000 signatures from Chinese both inside and outside of the country. International Chinese activists also staged actions in Geneva on the opening day of the Review.</p> <p>During the UPR, Human Rights in China <a href="http://hrichina.org/content/6991">announced</a>, that the Chinese government had continued to detain and question individual activists who had persisted in civil resistance pegged to China&rsquo;s international human rights obligations, which prompted several Special Rapporteurs to specifically criticize China&rsquo;s crackdown on peaceful assembly related to the UPR. The day before, on 21 October, Guo Feixiong, an outspoken rights defender from Guangzhou, was formally placed under criminal detention in reprisal for organizing a petition in March calling for the ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. </p> <p>The ratification of this core instrument was a major issue during China&rsquo;s first review in 2009. At the time of his arrest, Peng Lanlan, a Tujia minority and human rights defender from Hunan, had already been under criminal detention for a year under charges of &lsquo;obstructing official business.&rsquo; Reportedly tortured in police custody, Peng Lanlan was the first activist to be arrested for pushing for civil society participation in the UPR and challenging the country&rsquo;s entry to the Human Rights Council. She was targeted after several years of activism. In addition to relying on open petitions such as Guo Feixiong, mentioned above, Peng Lanlan utilized China&rsquo;s 2008 Freedom of Information Act, also commonly relied upon by Cao Shunli and others.</p> <p>On 14 September Cao Shunli was taken into police custody at the Beijing International Airport. Meanwhile, at about the same time, over two thousand kilometers to the South, fellow MFA sit-in organizer Chen Jianfeng was apprehended by airport security in Guangzhou. The two women had been on their way to Geneva to attend a training program on the UPR and other international human rights mechanisms. Although Chen Jianfeng was eventually released after intimidating questioning, Cao Shunli remained disappeared even after the UPR had begun. Activists involved in demonstrations related to the UPR told multiple sources that during interrogations police were forceful in questioning related to Cao Shunli, apparently working to contrive charges against her. Front Line Defenders has <a href="http://www.frontlinedefenders.org/node/24055#sthash.2VKqeBgs.dpuf">noted</a> that state tactics of repression are increasingly relying on the manipulated prosecutions of activists.</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/cao-shunli--644x362-1.JPG" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Cao Shunli.</p> <p>Like Peng Lanlan, both Chen Jianfeng and Cao Shunli had been engaged in campaigning for transparency in UN reporting and civil society participation in China&rsquo;s domestic and international human rights since before the first review in 2009. In addition to collective action and open information requests, the women had previously gone so far as to sue relevant ministries over transparency issues. Unlike the majority of her fellow demonstrators, Cao, who exhibited a sophisticated understanding of international human rights, had filed a report with the HRC under the name of the Rights Campaign, based out of Jiangsu Province. Her submission, which called attention to the persecution of civil society demands for participation in human rights plans, was included in the official UPR stakeholder analysis, a fact that has very likely contributed to maximizing her reprisals by the state, which understandably seemed less concerned with acts of collective action that generate limited attention than those generating more official condemnation. </p> <p>Government reprisals against activists campaigning for broader civil society participation in China&rsquo;s human rights implementation and reporting demonstrate that the Chinese government is at least somewhat concerned by the possible content of independent reviews of its internal human rights. That Chinese activists are gradually strengthening the framing of domestic grievances with the vocabulary of international human rights marks a departure from locality-specific episodes of contention. Although issue and locality-specific activism and rights defense remains the norm, activists such as Guo Feixiong and Cao Shunli are gradually turning to international norms and seeking training by international human rights experts, when unimpeded by the authorities, in addition to contained tactics like sit-ins and petitions.</p> <p>Although a number of actors in civil resistance, such as at the MFA sit-in, still participate to draw attention to individual grievances or merely to express general disgust with the government, increasing exposure to concepts of international rights will have an impact on the development of their resistance in the future. </p> <p>It exhibits an innovation in the framing and substance of civil resistance in China that challenges the often repeated claims of the Chinese government, when their human rights record is criticized, that universal values are incommensurate with Chinese values. On the contrary, it could be that the more Chinese activists become aware of universal rights the more they will include them in the framing of domestic civil resistance to counter attempts by the government to manipulate the discourse from within the Human Rights Council. </p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1_0.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> China </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance China Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics civilResistance Michael Caster Fri, 15 Nov 2013 08:35:27 +0000 Michael Caster 76983 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Ruthless regimes not impervious to civil resistance: A reply to Maged Mandour https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/stephen-zunes-jack-duvall/ruthless-regimes-not-impervious-to-civil-resistance-reply- <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>There is little systematic evidence to suggest that “ruthlessness” is, in and of itself, a critical variable. </p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Maged Mandour&rsquo;s article on openDemocracy, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/arab-awakening/maged-mandour/beyond-civil-resistance-case-of-syria">Beyond Civil Resistance: The Case of Syria</a>&rdquo;, argues that civil resistance has been marginalized in the Syrian insurrection because it doesn&rsquo;t work&nbsp; against &ldquo;ruthless&rdquo; regimes. But history doesn&rsquo;t support that conclusion. </p> <p>The outcome of a nonviolent insurrection against an autocratic regime is determined by any number of factors, such as its ability to mobilize a critical mass of the population, the overall strategy and skil<del datetime="2013-10-31T20:21" cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler">l</del>ful sequencing of tactics, the effectiveness in targeting the regime&rsquo;s pillars of support, and the ability to cause divisions within the ruling elite and to encourage defections within security services. But as Drs. Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan note in their book, <a href="http://www.cup.columbia.edu/book/978-0-231-15682-0/"><del datetime="2013-10-31T20:21" cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler"><del cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler">&ldquo;</del></del><em>Why Civil Resistance Works</em><del datetime="2013-10-31T20:21" cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler"><del cite="mailto:Rosemary%20Bechler">&rdquo;</del></del></a> (Columbia University Press, 2011), these dynamic actions are effective in part because they avert or minimize the effects of ruthless force by an oppressor.<strong></strong></p> <p>Indeed, history is replete with examples of ruthless governments - such as apartheid South Africa, Suharto&rsquo;s Indonesia and Pinochet&rsquo;s Chile which, like the regime in Syria, demonstrated their willingness and ability to massacre opponents by the thousands - which have been ousted by movements using civil resistance as the driving vector of their struggle.&nbsp; There are many other cases, including the Philippines, East Germany, and Tunisia, in which dictators have ordered their troops to massacre protesters by the thousands yet - unlike in Syria - the troops defied their commands. There is little systematic evidence to suggest that &ldquo;ruthlessness&rdquo; is, in and of itself, a critical variable. <br /><br /> Chenoweth and Stephan cite powerful evidence to the contrary, based on their quantitative analysis of tactical actions and ultimate results by 323 nonviolent and violent insurrections between 1900 and 2006, <a href="http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/IS3301_pp007-044_Stephan_Chenoweth.pdf">noting that</a> &ldquo;in the face of regime crackdowns, nonviolent campaigns are more than six times likelier to achieve full success than violent campaigns that also faced regime repression.&rdquo; </p> <p>Mandour does suggest that dismantling a regime&rsquo;s ideological base promotes civil resistance, and indeed unarmed civilian based movements are generally more effective at undermining an autocratic regime&rsquo;s ideological credibility, through the conscientization and mobilization of broad segments of society necessary to forge a successful movement. This is a common theme in most of the scholarly literature of civil insurrections. &nbsp;George Lakey, for example, in his classic <em><a href="http://new.trainingforchange.org/manifesto_for_nv_revolution">Manifesto for a Nonviolent Revolution</a></em> and subsequent <a href="https://www.warresisters.org/revisiting-manifesto-nonviolent-revolution">writings</a>, emphasizes the need for cultural preparation and organization-building prior to confrontation.&nbsp; </p> <p>The failure of the nonviolent phase of the Syrian uprising was not in its choice of nonviolent resistance, as if it that were at an intrinsic disadvantage against violent repression, but rather in its rush to confrontation with a brutal state apparatus prior to the necessary steps of broadening citizen participation.&nbsp; Sometimes, the state can be so weak (Georgia as in 2003) or the resistance so massive (Egypt in 2011), that a regime can collapse prior to sufficient ideological transformation, opening the door to a democratic and progressive transition, but the subdued, disparate character of Syrian civil society and the opposition&rsquo;s lack of unified strategic leadership made that unlikely. </p> <p>Ironically, because nonviolent struggles are usually shorter and more successful than armed struggles, they can bring down a regime prior to a broader ideational transformation among the population as a whole.&nbsp; If the new system offers at least some semblance of liberal democracy, however, it may provide enough political space for the belated strengthening of civil society institutions capable of allowing a more systemic transformation to proceed. This is most evident in parts of Latin America, where two decades of domination by elite-dominated center-right but mostly democratic governments following the downfall of military dictatorships enabled the re-emergence of strengthened labor unions, the progressive church, student groups, human rights organizations, women&rsquo;s and indigenous groups, which paved the way for the election of a series of popular, representative governments.</p> <p>The fragmentation of the Syrian nonviolent resistance which Mandour cites and which began in late 2011 was greatly exacerbated by the rise of armed opposition groups. Eventually hundreds of militias were vying for control, many of which have insisted that they alone are the true vanguard of the revolution. &nbsp;By contrast, the numbers of participants and the rate of defections in the security forces was far greater during the predominantly nonviolent phase. Armed struggle, with its martial values and military hierarchy, tends to bring to the fore autocratic tendencies and also offers a much more legible target to regime forces.&nbsp; This contrasts with nonviolent movements, which recognize that in order to effectively mobilize the people, they need to represent a broad cross-section of civil society in their ranks.&nbsp; Though armed revolutionary groups may provide greater ideological strength, they run the risks - as seen in any number of victorious Marxist-Leninist revolutions - of turning into new dictatorships upon coming to power.<br /><br /> Another pitfall of ideologically driven revolutions is that internal disagreements that could be resolved peaceably in non-militarized coalitions may lead to bloody factional fighting.&nbsp; In some countries, like Algeria and Guinea-Bissau, the more progressive elements of the revolutionary leadership fell victim to military coups not long after armed movements ousted European colonialists.&nbsp; Other victorious armed anti-imperialist struggles, like those in Angola and Mozambique, fell into bloody civil wars.&nbsp; Other armed anti-colonial struggles - such as that of Kenya - proved to be as accommodating to neo-colonial economic structures as the European-led elite-driven transitions of a number of other African countries. </p> <p>The ideological heterodoxy of most nonviolent struggles not only minimizes the risks of new forms of authoritarianism, it can still be effective in undermining the ideological foundations of the regime. &nbsp;As long as the opposition can plausibly offer a more democratic, just, and transparent order - even when all sectors cannot agree on the details - it can be enough to invite resistance to the status quo.&nbsp; Indeed, if the movement is clearly open to input from the population, it should make participation more attractive.&nbsp; Furthermore, the waging of a civil insurrection itself, even in its early stages, can undermine the ideological foundations of the regime.&nbsp; For example, in forcing Poland&rsquo;s Communist government to recognize it as an independent trade union in 1980, Solidarity helped undermine the myth that Poland was a &ldquo;workers&rsquo; state,&rdquo; since a true workers&rsquo; state would not need an independent trade union.</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Solidarity.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="307" /></p><p class="image-caption">Solidarity demonstration in Warsaw, Poland, August 31, 1984. <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Solidarity_1984_August_31.png">Wikimedia/Thomas Hedden</a>. Public domain.</p><p> Furthermore, armed resistance can reinforce an autocratic government&rsquo;s ideological rationale for the need of a strong state to provide &ldquo;national security,&rdquo; &ldquo;law and order,&rdquo; and &ldquo;defense against terrorism.&rdquo;&nbsp; By contrast, repression against nonviolent movements often backfires as it can unmask the security rationale as simply a means of maintaining an elite&rsquo;s hold on power.<br /><br /> One of the enduring and often misleading terms that can obscure the powerful record of civil resistance used by nonviolent movements is the innocent but promiscuous use of the word &ldquo;revolution&rdquo;. More than a century ago, it carried the assumption that sudden or decisive political change driven by a forceful opposition involved popular unrest, street-fighting, barricades and bonfires, if not actual warfare. Today, the mind&rsquo;s scenery of revolution is still almost indelibly violent. But romanticizing violent revolutions, however often undertaken on behalf of the people, is increasingly questionable as a matter of history, and even less so in light of the latest wave of movements &ndash; from Bulgaria to Cambodia, and from West Papua to Western Sahara, almost all of which have chosen civil resistance as their means of conflict. Their rise has not been stopped by ruthless force, and their fate will almost surely be decided by an equation of force and strategy in which arms are only infrequently the pivotal factor</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1_0.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p> <fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/north-africa-west-asia/maged-mandour/beyond-civil-resistance-case-of-syria">Beyond civil resistance: the case of Syria</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/civilresistance/maciej-bartkowski-mohja-kahf/syrian-resistance-tale-of-two-struggles">The Syrian resistance: a tale of two struggles</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/civilresistance/maciej-bartkowski-mohja-kahf/syrian-resistance-tale-of-two-struggles-part-2">The Syrian resistance: a tale of two struggles, Part 2</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Syria Civil society Conflict Democracy and government International politics Syria: a tale of two stuggles civilResistance Jack DuVall Stephen Zunes Fri, 01 Nov 2013 09:55:37 +0000 Stephen Zunes and Jack DuVall 76457 at https://www.opendemocracy.net The Maldives: a serial coup in progress? https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/stephen-zunes/maldives-serial-coup-in-progress <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>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.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>In the latest episode of what appears to be a serial coup in the Maldives, the country&rsquo;s Supreme Court - apparently at the behest of allies of the former dictator, &nbsp;Islamists, and powerful business figures - threw out the results of the first round of presidential elections just hours before the scheduled date of the second round in which pro-democracy leader Mohamed Nasheed was expected to win handily.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>On October 10, the Court also invalidated all registered voters (the greatest number of whom had supported Nasheed) and called for the re-registration of everyone who wished to participate in a new presidential election, which they scheduled for October 19, only nine days later. This has raised concerns that the rushed and largely unsupervised re-registration process will allow anti-democratic forces to add the names of non-existent supporters of their candidates to the rolls while purging large numbers of Nasheed supporters.</p> <p><a href="http://www.economist.com/blogs/banyan/2013/10/maldives">The Economist</a>, noting that the police were getting &ldquo;suspiciously strong powers of oversight&rdquo; in the repeat election, observed that the impact of the ruling of the Court, dominated by appointees of a former dictator, is that &ldquo;the crooked and the powerful are telling voters to go away and try again until they come up with a different result. &rdquo;</p> <p>The failure of the United States, Great Britain, India, and other international actors to make a more forceful stand in support of a transparent and comprehensively monitored democratic process in the Maldives has raised fears that the anti-democratic forces may get away with it.</p> <p>The current political crisis is part of an ongoing pro-democracy struggle in the Indian Ocean archipelago which goes back to the emergence of a nonviolent resistance campaign in the 1990s against the corrupt and authoritarian former president Mahmoud Gayoom, who ruled for nearly thirty years. &nbsp;Using many of the same strategies and tactics of civil resistance which have brought down scores of dictators around the world in recent decades, the movement - whose most prominent leader was then journalist and human rights activist Mohamed Nasheed - eventually forced the regime, along with the threat of international sanctions, to hold free and fair elections in October 2008, which Nasheed and his Maldivian Democratic Party won easily.</p> <p>As president, Nasheed governed as an advocate of democratic rights, tax reform, anti-corruption initiatives, and sustainable development, and became internationally prominent as an advocate for concrete action to fight climate change, which is resulting in rising sea levels which threaten the very existence of his low-lying nation.</p> <p>In February of last year, in response to his efforts to challenge vestiges of the old dictatorship in the security services and the courts, Nasheed was forced to resign in a coup in which his family was threatened. &nbsp;His vice-president allied himself with the supporters of the former dictator&rsquo;s regime and a crackdown commenced against Nasheed and his supporters. </p> <p>However, the Maldivian people, instead of meekly accepting a return to corrupt autocratic rule or taking up arms, renewed their nonviolent protests, pressuring the provisional government to allow for presidential elections, which occurred on September 7. As a result of apparent ballot stuffing and other fraudulent procedures documented by independent journalists and other observers, Nasheed fell just short of a majority, thereby requiring a runoff, which was scheduled for September 28.</p> <p>&nbsp;Despite the reported ballot tampering, the United Nations, the United States, and the European Union ruled the first round free and fair. Nevertheless, Nasheed seemed a very likely winner in the run-off election, against the second place finisher, Abdullah Yameen, half-brother of deposed dictator Gayoom.&nbsp; However, Qasim Ibrahim, a wealthy business tycoon who finished just behind Yameen in third place according to the official results, went to court insisting that he had actually come in second and should therefore be on the ballot to challenge Nasheed in the second and final round.</p> <p>Instead of recognizing that an honest count would have resulted in Nasheed&rsquo;s outright election as president in the first round and thereby make the fight for second place moot, and invalidating the alleged 5,600 improper votes, a divided Supreme Court instead chose last week to nullify the entire election, thereby cancelling the scheduled second round just hours before Nasheed was expected to win. &nbsp;</p> <p>Interestingly, the majority verdict was apparently based on a secret police report alleging the existence of those fraudulent ballots, a report that was not shown to the Elections Commission.&nbsp; As a result, the Commission, which had certified the initial results, was unable to present a counter-argument.&nbsp; Furthermore, no lawyers from Nasheed&rsquo;s party were allowed to participate in the proceedings.</p> <p>Nasheed&rsquo;s opponents - consisting primarily of allies of the former dictator and powerful business interests - recognize that if Nasheed becomes president, they will likely be subject to the rule of law, and that the international community may be less tolerant in the future of the almost comical manipulation of the democratic process that Nasheed&rsquo;s foes have been pursuing for well over a year.&nbsp; As a relatively young, popular, democratic modernizer, Nasheed represents the hope of Maldivians for a nation whose income and civil society aren&rsquo;t dominated by an old, self-serving autocratic order. </p> <p>In response to the cancelled election, pro-democracy activists have engaged in strikes and other protests. Meanwhile, the real motives of Nasheed&rsquo;s fellow contenders have become increasingly visible. Yameen&rsquo;s running mate,&nbsp; <a href="http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/island-president/news.html">Mohamed Jameel Ahmed, declared that the</a> &ldquo;Maldives can never have stability through elections which has opposition Maldivian Democratic Party presidential candidate Mohamed Nasheed&rsquo;s name on the ballot. We will not hand over [power] through an election, [we] will not hand over even if he gets elected.&rdquo;&nbsp;&nbsp; Their party is petitioning the Supreme Court to prevent Nasheed from running in the &nbsp;repeat election on the grounds of his criticisms of the judiciary and claims that he is &ldquo;irreligious.&rdquo;&nbsp; Meanwhile, arsonists attacked and damaged a television station aligned with the pro-democracy forces.</p> <p>On October, 10, UK foreign secretary William Hague noted that while he was &ldquo;worried by recent reports of intimidation, violence, arrests and arson attacks which have taken place in the past days,&rdquo; the Foreign Office has &ldquo;acknowledged positively&rdquo; the snap new election and re-registration of voters.&nbsp; That same day, in what appears to have been the first formal statement by the US State Department throughout the crisis, a spokesperson <a href="http://www.canada.com/news/Maldives+opposition+says+Supreme+Court+working+with+exautocrat+delay/9026082/story.html">stated</a>, "We continue to urge a peaceful political process that is inclusive of all candidates in order to ensure the Maldivian election that will meet international standards of an elected, legitimate democracy."&nbsp; </p> <p>Both the British and American governments have issued similar platitudes about autocratic regimes with which they&rsquo;ve been friendly in the past, however, with little effect.&nbsp; Much of what is motivating the anti-democratic forces is their desire to continue controlling the country&rsquo;s two largest sources of income: tourism and fisheries. Only through concrete action, such as demanding full access by foreign election observers and noting the possibility of international sanctions in case of a full democratic break-down &nbsp;&nbsp;(e.g. encouraging tourists to avoid the Maldives and to boycott Maldivian exports) - will the forces trying to thwart the leading candidate get the message that they cannot get away with denying the Maldivian people their democratic rights for a third time in less than two years.</p> <p>The failure thus far of Britain, the United States, and other influential international actors to respond more decisively is pathetic.&nbsp; Election fraud should not be a concern only if the country is sizable and well-known or if the government opposes western policies.&nbsp; There are certain democratic principles the application of which are universal, regardless of the geopolitical value of the country at risk of losing its opportunity to become a stable democracy.</p> <p>Furthermore, a country dependent on western aid, investment, and tourism would be a case in which governments which purport to believe in democracy can have undoubted influence. Indeed, if Britain and the United States had made clear there would be serious economic consequences to improper efforts to block Nasheed&rsquo;s election, the corrupt officials who are now apparently plotting to block his victory would not have risked the kind of brazen interference with the election process we have seen so far.</p> <p>What happens in the Maldives represents an important precedent.&nbsp; It is a Muslim country where a dictatorial regime was brought down through a disciplined nonviolent pro-democracy campaign; where the leader of the unarmed movement was elected president and became a global leader in the fight against climate change, perhaps the biggest single threat to international security; and, where that democratically-elected president was deposed in a coup by forces allied with the former dictator but once again was projected into contention by the nonviolent action of the people themselves&hellip;&nbsp; </p> <p>Should the powers that claim to be concerned stand by and allow reactionary forces to stage-manage a phony election, it would send the message that western rhetoric about supporting democracy in Muslim countries is meaningless. It would send yet another inconsistent and disheartening message to those struggling for peaceful democratic change in the Islamic world and beyond.&nbsp;</p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1_0.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Maldives </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance civilResistance Maldives Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics civilResistance Stephen Zunes Tue, 15 Oct 2013 21:01:47 +0000 Stephen Zunes 76038 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Voices of Syrian women in civil resistance https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/nada-alwadi/voices-of-syrian-women-in-civil-resistance <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>Although we now hear guns more than peaceful chants in Syria, and while the news of armed rebellion overshadows discussion of nonviolent resistance, a subtle everyday survival activism performed by civic groups, especially women, keeps the movement alive.<strong><span style="text-decoration: underline;"></span></strong></p> </div> </div> </div> <blockquote><p>&ldquo;The day I left prison, I got invited to attend a memorial service for one of those who were killed by the regime in Syria. Everyone started chanting my name the minute I entered the venue. They were thousands, and they treated me like a hero. It was a moment that I will never forget. I never felt more connected to my people&rdquo;. </p></blockquote> <p>Rima, the 40 year old Syrian writer who now lives in exile, didn&rsquo;t really ask for a leadership role in the early nonviolent struggle in Syria. Her passion was always fighting for women&rsquo;s rights, as well as advocating against honor killing and corruption. But beginning in March 2011, she found herself among thousands of other Syrians fighting through social media or on the streets for a bigger cause - democracy in Syria.</p> <p>Syrian women have played an important role in nonviolent protests when the Syrian uprising began. But as the conflict turned violent, men and their guns came to dominate the struggle. And with the advent of armed insurgent groups like the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Liberation Army, stories of civil resistance in Syria, like Rima&rsquo;s story, have been submerged.</p> <p>Today, many say that the role of women in the Syrian uprising has diminished as the struggle has become militarized. Others believe the role of women in struggle is taking a different shape - an auxiliary role in keeping the resistance strong. In any case, there is a need to better understand the challenges which women faced while engaged in nonviolent resistance before the struggle was steered toward violent insurrection. This reflection can help to identify ways for the nonviolent resistance to remain a positive influence in the country.</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/SyriaWomen1_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Image from protests in the Damascus suburb of Douma, April 24, 2011. <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/syriana2011/5650736332/sizes/m/">Flickr/Syriana</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <h2>Commitment to nonviolent work but no strategy</h2> <p>&nbsp;&ldquo;We were around 100 women. We used to fast together during daytime. We sat together and prayed for the victory of our people&rdquo;. This story is told by Mona, a wife and a mother, and also a woman activist from Altall. </p> <p>It is a well-known belief among Muslims that prayers will be answered if they are uttered by a fasting Muslim. Mona&rsquo;s voice shakes when she talks about these memories. It&rsquo;s clear that these shared activities created an intimate connection between those women. &nbsp;Mona and her group would go out for their daily protest 15 minutes before sunset. &ldquo;We would chant around our area. Then, have a meal together. This was our routine for months, and it gave us courage&rdquo;. Despite the repressive environment, this group created an outlet to network, recruit, as well as organize street gatherings and protests. Women developed their own chants and slogans and managed to form a unity among resisters in the area. &nbsp;&nbsp;However, the lack of a longer-term strategy in their nonviolent efforts became evident. In many cases, these women were wives, mothers, daughters and sisters of the soldiers who volunteered for the Free Syrian army. Some of their activities were later oriented to supporting the armed resistance, which may have involuntarily contributed to the weakening of nonviolent discipline in the struggle against the Assad regime. </p> <p>Other groups of Syrian women were aware of the importance of building a fighting strategy based on nonviolent principles, and they genuinely believed in it. &nbsp;Kinda, a student from Duma said, &ldquo;Our revolution started like a baby, and we needed more time to grow stronger. This will never happen until we have a solid and unified strategy for our peaceful resistance.&rdquo; Kinda organized many protests and strikes at her university. She tried to come up with effective ways of maintaining nonviolent discipline and not allowing violent resistance to take over. But her efforts to succeed had to be replicated by hundreds and thousands, and particularly by the men who were deserting the Syrian army in great numbers. This did not happen. </p> <h2>Being a woman in the Syrian struggle </h2> <p>Women activists in Syria were jailed and tortured. Stories of rape that spread like wildfire were terrifying to most women activists. Despite this brutality, many women inside Syria continued their fight. But they were also keen to use precautionary measures to protect themselves, including covering their faces while in protests so that they could not be identified by security forces. &nbsp;Nuha, an artist from Jaramana, organized many protests in her area from the beginning of 2011. Despite being beaten, she never stopped organizing. She reflects: &ldquo;Women choose the safest and more effective ways to do things, and these qualities and skills are very useful in our civil resistance. Women are the best at organizing - the logistics of setting up and running field hospitals, arranging blood drives and donations.&rdquo;</p> <p>According to Nuha, women were in many cases the minds behind successful resistance actions that aimed as much at showing defiance as at limiting chances for getting injured or killed. She noted that &ldquo;when women choose routes for protests, they take into account all elements and factors, and in many cases, the protests designed by a woman will end up with no or minimum arrests and no confrontation with the police&rdquo;. </p> <p>Maha, a Syrian human rights activists also observed the advantage of being a woman activist. She said: &ldquo;in the beginning of the uprising, I used to drive through the police checkpoints with my western outfit and short skirt and they never suspected me. They were under the impression that the only supporters for this movement were the Islamists. The police would have never suspected a secular woman like me&rdquo;. This helped Maha to move from one location to another documenting and reporting human rights violations.&nbsp; Later, she was arrested at the human rights center where she worked along with many of her colleagues. She was released the same day and fled the country in late 2012, fearing for her safety. Her story is a testimony to the changing circumstances for women activists in Syria over the past two years.</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/02-11-2011syrianprotest.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">&nbsp;<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/syriana2011/5650736332/sizes/m/">Flickr/Syriana</a>. Some rights reserved.</p> <h2><strong>Nonviolent resistance persists despite brutality </strong></h2> <p>Mai, a woman scout leader from Damascus, was one of the peaceful resisters who still remains in Syria. &nbsp;She started her actions by gathering together with several men and women and organizing peaceful protests, using tools like balloons, signboards and leaflets to attract more people. Mai and her colleagues believed strongly in the virtue of citizenship, and they wanted to promote it through legal actions. They applied to the authorities for a permit to organize demonstrations to challenge the restrictive law on public gatherings. They went through a lot of bureaucracy and paperwork and finally succeeded and secured the necessary permissions. However, when they held their peaceful protest in Damascus, they were immediately attacked by the police even though the demonstrators were holding the protest permit in their hands.&nbsp; <span></span></p> <p>Despite violence, we continue reading the stories of &ldquo;Daryya&rsquo;s Free Women Group&rdquo;, nicknamed the &ldquo;Spray women&rdquo;. These women sprayed messages on the walls of their neighborhoods and towns, aiming to unify residents around nonviolent resistance.&nbsp; Some of these messages read, &ldquo;Remember that we went out first for the rule of law&rdquo; and &ldquo;the revolution passed through here&rdquo;. </p> <p>We also hear about a brave woman who in August 2011 began documenting the names of people who were killed by the regime in Syria. She searched systematically for their personal stories, inquired with people about their hopes and dreams, in a mission to document the sacrifices of ordinary people for future generations. These examples demonstrate that a repressive environment and violent reactions to peaceful acts, although creating a formidable challenge, cannot douse the spirit of women in resistance. </p> <h2>Protecting the movement </h2> <p>Many women activists in Syria are aware of the enduring damage that the armed conflict is inflicting on Syrian society. This is why many of them have shifted their energy towards building a strong civil society rather than just organizing protests. &nbsp;Nuha was among many women who volunteered for organizations inside Syria. &rdquo;We try to empower civil society and to give it a voice&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;I am personally afraid of the power and money that the radical Islamist groups are acquiring in the course of this revolution. This radical ideology is very foreign to our society as a whole, and it&rsquo;s threatening Syria&rsquo;s future&rdquo;. </p> <p>Many Syrian female activists chose to be involved in activities that crisscross civil society and politics. Katherine, a lawyer and a human rights activist is involved in building community organizations from the bottom up in Syria, which she and several other women activists are trying to do. Their work focuses on instilling the culture of self-management of local communities through an informal network of people and institutions. &nbsp;</p> <p>Although we now hear guns more than peaceful chants in Syria, and while the news of armed rebellion overshadows discussion of nonviolent resistance, an everyday survival activism performed by civic groups, especially women, keeps the movement alive, and this is done in a much more subtle way than overt protests and demonstrations. </p> <p><em>This article is based on field research conducted by Rajaa Altalli, senior advisor at the Center for Civil Society and Democracy in Syria, and Dr. Anne-Marie Codur. who holds a Ph.D. in Economics and Sustainable Development from Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris and was a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard University</em></p> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1_0.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/civilresistance/maciej-bartkowski-mohja-kahf/syrian-resistance-tale-of-two-struggles">The Syrian resistance: a tale of two struggles</a> </div> <div class="field-item even"> <a href="/civilresistance/maciej-bartkowski-mohja-kahf/syrian-resistance-tale-of-two-struggles-part-2">The Syrian resistance: a tale of two struggles, Part 2</a> </div> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/civilresistance/stephen-zunes/opposition-to-intervention-in-syria-utilitarian-not-ideological">Opposition to intervention in Syria utilitarian, not ideological</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Syria </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance Syria Ideas International politics civilResistance Social innovation Nada Alwadi Fri, 27 Sep 2013 10:56:15 +0000 Nada Alwadi 75647 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Teachers challenge a President: protests suppressed in Mexico https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/alice-driver-rodrigo-jard%C3%B3n/teachers-challenge-president-protests-suppressed-in-mexi <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>In Mexico, government officials have often been accused of planting violent protesters in nonviolent movements in order to justify the use of police force. But teachers know that they are stakeholders in the country’s future. Like citizens in Brazil, Egypt, Turkey, Mexican teachers want to play their part.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Teacher%20protest.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="324" /></p><p class="image-caption">Photo by Alejandro Mancilla / The Rag Blog. All rights reserved.</p><p>In early September, tens of thousands of teachers gathered from all over Mexico to march in the nation&rsquo;s capital against recent educational reforms proposed by President Enrique Pe&ntilde;a Nieto and approved by Congress. Teachers have marched at least 15 times over the past two months to protest against this legislation. The reforms include teacher evaluation policies and standardized testing like those in the US &ldquo;No Child Left Behind&rdquo; Program. The legislation has infuriated Mexican teachers, because they want more focus on resolving underlying structural problems related to education. The new test-based hiring and promotion system will allow the government to take a large measure of power from teachers&rsquo; unions.</p> <p>In his first six months in office, Pe&ntilde;a Nieto has passed labor reforms that allow outsourcing, lower the minimum wage, increase part-time employment and strip away job protections. His priorities so far have been closely tied to business interests and have included few protections for workers and little regard for protest and other forms of nonviolent civil resistance. He has also been investigated by the Mexico City human rights commission, which found evidence of police brutality and arbitrary detentions during protests against his December 1, 2012 inauguration.</p> <p>The teacher protests were organized by the Coordinadora Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educaci&oacute;n (CNTE), the smaller of two teachers unions in Mexico. Since the early &lsquo;70s, teachers unions have organized massive mobilizations to protest state policies related to education, especially policies that seek to weaken the power of unions. For example, in the &lsquo;80s, the unions opposed government austerity policies brought about by the devaluation of the peso. After massive 1989 protests, the government responded to the economic demands made by the teachers unions, and teachers received pay increases in 1989, 1990 and 1991 that outpaced increases in other sectors. Today, the average teacher makes around $600 (8,000 pesos) a month or less. </p> <p>The teacher&rsquo;s movement in Mexico has been successful in mobilizing large numbers of people - including students, women and indigenous groups - to participate in public actions such as marches, sit-ins and demonstrations. However, there have also been consistent problems of corruption within teachers&rsquo; unions, including the sale of jobs. This has already divided public opinion and the media consistently describes protesting teachers as &ldquo;lazy,&rdquo; for supposedly protesting instead of being in the classroom. </p> <p>The dysfunction of Mexico&rsquo;s educational system has been documented in recent documentaries such as <em>De panzazo</em> (2012), which means &ldquo;belly flop.&rdquo; It shows that, in addition to inadequate supplies and classrooms, teachers are often unprepared for class or don&rsquo;t show up. Recently, Elba Esther Gordillo Morales, the leader of the 1.4 million member Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores de la Educaci&oacute;n (SNTE), the largest labor union in Latin America, was jailed on corruption charges. Gordillo ran the SNTE for 23 years, but her multiple international vacation homes and her penchant for luxury clothing rankled ordinary Mexicans.&nbsp; After she was jailed, it was discovered that she spent more on clothing at <em>Neiman Marcus</em> than pop singer Beyonce. </p> <p>Backers of the current educational reform legislation, which also seeks to dismantle unions, argue that it will prevent corruption. Teachers agree that they also want educational reform, but they disagree with the methods that the government wants to impose to achieve it. For example, teachers in states like Oaxaca that are home to diverse indigenous groups worry that standardized legislation and testing will not allow them to teach indigenous history or languages. In general, teachers are most worried about what they see as the starvation of the public education system, which many believe is a deliberate strategy to so weaken public education that privatization seems like the only option. Their buildings and resources have been neglected for decades, yet now they are going to be more stringently evaluated after having taught in dilapidated, leaking, cold classrooms, and having bought supplies for their students out of their own incomes. </p> <p>On September 4, 2013, teachers organized a giant march that shut down traffic on Reforma, the main boulevard in Mexico City. They also coordinated action with groups in 22 states of Mexico, shutting down tourist destinations and main thoroughfares all over the country. Beatriz Gonz&aacute;lez, a teacher from the southern state of Oaxaca who participated in the Mexico City march, said that she was there to &ldquo;defend public education, and not only for our rights as teachers, but also to defend the children of this country.&rdquo; Gonz&aacute;lez discussed the importance of organized nonviolent resistance stating that, &ldquo;This type of resistance helps us be more creative, and we begin to transform ourselves from below. Speaking about civil resistance helps us, because then more organizations, more people and more students will join us.&rdquo;</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/protesters.jpg" alt="" width="460" /></p><p class="image-caption">Photograph by Rodrigo Jard&oacute;n. All rights reserved.</p> <p>Many teachers gave up weeks of their lives to organize and try and force the government to include them in the dialogue about educational reform. A teacher from the Tlaxiaco region of Oaxaca who was part of the march noted that as &ldquo;in all movements, there is always a physical and economic cost. We are resisting this legislation with the support of our families and our people.&rdquo; Teachers who supported the march and occupation in various cities faced government and media criticism that they had abandoned their work, which has been the common government criticism of peaceful demonstrators in Mexico. </p> <p>The Mexico City protests led to an occupation of the Z&oacute;calo in the center of the city. Thousands of teachers, joined by youth from the #YoSoy132 movement, camped out until September 13, when riot police wielding plastic shields, helmets, tear gas, batons, water cannons and rubber bullets drove them out. The police, backed by armored vehicles and helicopters, skirmished with some missile-throwing protesters. The teachers&rsquo; movement claimed that the violent protesters were part of a radical flank that was perhaps even hired by the government to create unrest. In Mexico, government officials have often been accused of planting violent protesters in nonviolent movements in order to justify the use of police force.</p> <p>Several protesters were reportedly injured, and 31 people were arrested when the police entered the square. The government decided to use force against the protesters to prepare for Independence Day celebrations on September 15. Since it is President Pe&ntilde;a Nieto&rsquo;s first term in office and he was scheduled to carry out an important Independence Day ritual in the Z&oacute;calo, it has been argued that he cleared the square to avoid political embarrassment. Dominicano, a protester who gave only his first name, discussed how the government had &ldquo;tried to criminalize a nonviolent protest.&rdquo; Pe&ntilde;a Nieto, who came into office in December 2012, also authorized arrests and detentions to deal with protests against his inauguration. </p> <p>After the police action, the Z&oacute;calo was strewn with trampled tents, trash, and food, with small fires burning. One protesting teacher, looking over the destruction, said, &ldquo;We have to find a way to survive, to resist in the face of this kind of aggression and state violence.&rdquo; Out of fear of retaliation, he said he would rather not give his name. He also discussed the myth that teachers were opposed to professional evaluation. He said, &ldquo;Our main issue is the defense of public education. It&rsquo;s not like they say, that it is related to evaluation. Evaluation is only a small part of true educational reform, because true reform means looking at the infrastructure of all the schools.&rdquo;</p> <p>Although President Pe&ntilde;a Nieto sent out last minute Independence Day invitations to dignitaries, his actions against protesters leave many Mexicans wondering how much there is to celebrate. Teachers, for their part, have promised to continue organizing nonviolent actions and occupying Mexico City to bring attention to material problems in public schools. On September 19 and 20, teachers organized a national strike in response to the police actions carried out in the Z&oacute;calo. On September 21, union leaders attended the Third Popular Teachers Summit to analyze their strategies and prepare for future action. However, many teachers from the poorest southern states, like several of those interviewed who were from Oaxaca, face growing economic pressures. For now, the support of their communities, both financial and otherwise, allows them to participate in the democratic process and work for reform from below. </p> <p>The teachers&rsquo; protests in Mexico may be not only a reaction to what they perceive as misguided or destructive proposals for change in education, but perhaps also a response to not having been able to play much of a direct role in framing such proposals. As professionals who care about the children and young people with whom they spend their days, teachers are not only employees, they know that they help shape the abilities of new generations to build a better society. They are, in a word, stakeholders in the country&rsquo;s future: they are citizens. And just as citizens in other democracies such as Brazil, Egypt, Turkey and other countries have risen up in recent years to challenge publicly the failures of their governments, Mexican teachers are bidding to be part of the decisions that affect not only their jobs but also the country they love &ndash; by taking direct nonviolent action when it&rsquo;s necessary to insist that they be part of public decision making.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1_0.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mexico </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance Mexico Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government International politics civilResistance Rodrigo Jardón Alice Driver Mass or elite movements? Fri, 27 Sep 2013 10:45:31 +0000 Alice Driver and Rodrigo Jardón 75649 at https://www.opendemocracy.net A struggle for sacred land: the case of Wirikuta https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/lilian-palma/struggle-for-sacred-land-case-of-wirikuta <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>For the moment, the Wixáritari believe that they are winning the fight for the hearts and minds of Mexicans and that public opinion is turning against international mining companies. They should not be underestimated.&nbsp;</p> </div> </div> </div> <p>Hakima Hernandez sits on a plastic stool, head bent. With precision she picks up a tiny coloured bead and threads it onto an intricate patterned necklace. Business has been slower than normal and she complains that her eyes hurt from the work. Her young son stands shyly next to the family stall, his fingers running over the crafts for which his people are famous. Hakima and her child are Huichols, also known as Wix&aacute;ritari, one of the few indigenous groups in Mexico, who have managed to preserve traditions and a religion predating the arrival of the Spanish.</p> <p>Hakima smoothes out the folds in her billowing white skirt picks up a pen and starts drawing. The story of the Wix&aacute;ritari unfolds on the page. With rapid strokes of her pen, she sketches out the four states where the Wix&aacute;ritari live. She draws flowers and plants, explaining their medicinal properties. She describes the gods of the corn, rain and sun and how offerings must be left to them and she draws Wirikuta, their scared place. </p> <p>Wirikuta, 140 hectors of protected desert in Central Mexico, is all sky and sun- bleached earth. It is to here that the Wix&aacute;ritari have made their yearly pilgrimage, to the place where they believe the sun was born.&nbsp; &ldquo;Wirikuta for us is like the Basilica for the Catholics,&rdquo; says Hakima. &ldquo;It is our most treasured place, here we have our sacred water and the plants of our Gods. It is a place that must be respected.&rdquo; But preserving such customs in modern-day Mexico is proving difficult. Land, where they leave offerings and through which they pass on the way to their sacred mountain, <em>el Cerro Quemado</em>, is increasingly being given over to agriculture and mining. In 2009, the Mexican government granted 36 concessions to the Canadian mining company, First Majestic Silver, 70 per cent of which are within the Wirikuta zone. The Wix&aacute;ritari have since been involved in a peaceful struggle to preserve their religious sites.</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Photo_1_Wirikuta.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="308" /></p><p class="image-caption">El Cerro Quemado, the sacred mountain of the Wix&aacute;ritari, is located within Wirikuta, 140 hectors of protected desert, north Mexico. The land is increasingly under threat both from farming and international mining companies operating in the area.&nbsp;Credit: Nicolas Tavira</p> <p>The sun is relentless and the wind cold in the mountain town of Real de Catorce. Real, on the edge of Wirikuta with a population of around a thousand, is an old mining town popular with tourists. It is also next to First Majestic&rsquo;s proposed mining site. It was here, in 2010, where around 80 Wix&aacute;ritari first gathered to talk. After two days of discussion, the decision was made to form the Regional Council of Wix&aacute;ritari, an organisation to coordinate the fight against the mine.</p> <h2>The regional council and the Frente&nbsp;</h2> <p>Santos de la Cruz cuts a formidable figure. His voice is deep, his tone serious. Cruz, a member of the Regional Council, explains that the body is made up of representatives from various Wix&aacute;ritari communities spread out over four states in Mexico. Their way of organising mirrors the way their communities are governed with no one post being more important than another. It is a truly democratic form of leadership, says Regina Lira, an anthropologist specialising in the Wix&aacute;ritari people. </p> <p>The forming of a central planning group such as the Regional Council is a common strategy in nonviolent struggles, and the fact that the Wix&aacute;ritari have no centralised leadership has served them well in the past. As Lira points out, &ldquo;It is one of the reasons they were never taken over by the Spanish. The Spanish never knew whom to deal with,&rdquo; she says. And, according to Althea Middleton-Detzner, a senior advisor at the International Centre on Nonviolent Conflict, an independent educational foundation specialising in nonviolent struggles, it could serve them well in the future. &ldquo;What you see in some nonviolent campaigns is that a committee may purposefully make themselves invisible,&rdquo; she states. &ldquo;This gives them a certain amount of protection and stops personal politics from being brought into the movement.&rdquo;</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Photo_2_Wirikuta.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="309" /></p><p class="image-caption">Wix&aacute;ritari women make their pilgrimage to Wirikuta. The indigenous community have been involved in a two-year struggle to protect their religious sites.&nbsp;Credit: Christian Palma</p> <p>On the same day that the Regional Council was established, a group of NGOs and specialists formed the Frente, an organisation supporting the Wix&aacute;ritari in their struggle. The Frente<em> </em>is made up of various departments, each one responsible for overseeing a different area. &Uacute;rsula Garz&oacute;n Arag&oacute;n, an environmental lawyer from CEMDA, an independent organisation focusing on environmental rights, explains.</p> <p>&ldquo;We have those responsible for issues relating to the environment, those who are specialists in law and those who are responsible for getting the messages out,&rdquo; she states.</p> <p>But it is the Regional Council that calls the shots. &ldquo;We take our lead from them,&rdquo; Garz&oacute;n Arag&oacute;n, who is part of the Frente, states. &ldquo;They meet and authorise what needs to be done and depending on our expertise we look at what we can do to assist them.&rdquo; Working together, the Wix&aacute;ritari and the Frente try to find the best way of pressuring the mining company. It is not an easy task. Middleton-Detzner points out that the movement is not just up against one opponent, but two. &ldquo;This is a struggle looking at two different opponents,&rdquo; she states. &ldquo;The government is a pillar of support for the mining company and the mining company likewise is a support for the government.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p> <h2>Building public support</h2> <p>The atmosphere is lively on Reforma, one of Mexico City&rsquo;s main avenues. Over a loud speaker the shouts of &ldquo;Wirikuta is not for sale, Wirikuta defends itself,&rdquo; can be heard. Members of the Wix&aacute;ritari community mingle with the Mexican public, their brightly coloured traditional clothing setting them apart. This march is one of several that have been held in the country&rsquo;s capital, in what is a deliberate strategy by the Wix&aacute;ritari to draw attention to their cause. The result has been a surge in support for their struggle. The stronger a movement&rsquo;s support network, the more likely they are to be successful, explains Middleton-Detzner. &ldquo;A successful campaign is linked to high level participation,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Part of the game is to get as many people involved as possible.&rdquo; </p> <p>While the Wix&aacute;ritari have been largely successful in winning over the Mexican public, they have had problems convincing some members of their own communities. Max Mu&ntilde;oz de la Cruz is watching on his smartphone a video of his daughter being baptised. &ldquo;She is now part of our tradition,&rdquo; he states. &ldquo;She has been washed with our sacred water.&rdquo; Mu&ntilde;oz de la Cruz is a Wix&aacute;ritari and member of the Regional Council.&nbsp; He joined the movement later than others, something he attributes to the situation in his home state. &ldquo;We are not as well-organised or structured as others,&rdquo; he states. &ldquo;The information never really reached my community, we were out of the loop.&rdquo;&nbsp; Max explains how the Wix&aacute;ritari of his state had a lot of questions about the Regional Council and the Frente. &ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t really know who was behind it. What was this movement? What interests did it represent?&rdquo; He turns back to his mobile phone, indicating with his finger the video of his daughter. &ldquo;Our children have to know that these sacred places exist,&rdquo; he says. It was this that drove him to join the movement. &ldquo;We have to defend our sacred places and the best way to do it is unity. We still need to go to the most isolated places and spread the word.&rdquo;&nbsp; </p> <h2>Unity and poverty<strong>&nbsp;</strong></h2> <p>The people of San Jos&eacute; del Progreso, once a peaceful town in the south of Mexico, understand only too well the importance of a united front. Since 2006, they have been involved in a nonviolent fight against the Canadian mining company, Fortuna Silver </p> <p>Inc. Over the past few years, two people have been killed and the presence of a paramilitary group in the area has added to the tensions. One of their problems is a lack of unity. Around half the town are in favour of the mine, making the struggle incredibly difficult. It is a problem that the Wix&aacute;ritari also face. Despite winning over a large section of the Mexican public, they have mostly been unsuccessful in persuading the population who stand most to benefit from the mine, the people living in the municipality of Real de Catorce.</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Photo_3_Wirikuta.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="308" /></p><p class="image-caption">Business in Real de Catorce, a town popular with tourists, has been affected by drug-related violence in the area. Residents hope that the 200 jobs offered by the mining company could offer a solution to rising unemployment rates.&nbsp;Credit: Nicolas Tavira</p> <p>Making a living in the parched mountains of the state of San Luis Potosi is no easy feat. Work is hard to come by and poorly paid. The area has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state and one of the lowest wages in the country. Money largely comes in the form of remittances from family members in the United States and from work found in the faltering service industry. What is more, the area has been hit hard by drug-related violence, leading to a drop in tourism. </p> <p>News of the mine&rsquo;s arrival and the 200 jobs it will create has been met with cautious optimism by the people of Real. But Luis Barraza, an economist from the Autonomous University of San Luis Potosi, is not so positive. He says that mining does little to solve long-term problems of unemployment. &ldquo;When the mineral runs out, the company packs up and leaves,&rdquo; he states.<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <h2>Finding a way</h2> <p>Aware that they need to do more if they are to persuade people to reject the mine, the Wix&aacute;ritari are focusing part of their campaign on finding solutions to the unemployment problem. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not about taking work away from people,&rdquo; says Chema Guzman, a member of the Wix&aacute;ritari community and part of the Regional Council. &ldquo;You have to offer them a solutions. We come from the desert; we know how hard it is to make a living.&rdquo; </p> <p>The Regional Council is currently planning a series of projects for the area, financed by a music concert held in May 2012. Sales of tickets from the event made almost $800,000 US dollars, 40 per cent of which is destined to help communities in the area. &ldquo;We want projects that are in keeping with the environment, that bring benefits to the people who are living there. We want people to be able to sell their products outside of their communities and make a wage,&rdquo; says de la Cruz. The Regional Council currently has recently set up several initiatives, including a more efficient crop watering system and a plastic recycling center. Projects, the Wix&aacute;ritari hope, that can provide an alternative to mining. </p> <p>The Regional Council has also been applying legal pressure. Lawyers from the Wix&aacute;ritari community and from the Frente have succeeded in halting any further mining work for the time being, but they acknowledge that the road ahead is long. Garcia, a lawyer working on the case, explains that one of the problems is that the Wix&aacute;ritari do not live on the land affected by the proposed mining site. &ldquo;They have had access to this land for generations,&rdquo; she states. &ldquo;But they do not live there. This is a difficult situation because it is not clearly defined in law what indigenous territory is.&rdquo; </p> <p>The Regional Council has several battles on its hands. A number of agricultural businesses, including tomato farming, operate in the area, threatening already scarce water supplies. And there is a bigger problem, the mining company Revolution Resource. Santos de la Cruz says that the Wix&aacute;ritari are prepared to fight the company in the courts. &ldquo;We are currently investigating, documenting and building a case,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;This is worse than First Majestic, Revolution wants 59,000 hectors, 42 per cent of land within the natural park.&rdquo; He explains how each community presents a legal case on behalf of the whole Wix&aacute;ritari community with the community of San Sebastian bringing the case against First Majestic and Santa Caterina challenging Revolution Resource. </p> <p>The struggle of the Wix&aacute;ritari is not unusual, in Mexico, or elsewhere in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Local communities far from urban areas, often with indigenous people who have lived there for centuries or millennia, are under threat of despoliation of their land, removal of their resources, and even personal displacement, due to the rising global demand for mineral and natural resources. China has actively entered this picture recently, joining the corporations and state enterprises of the west to compete for control of lands and habitats formerly taken for granted by ancient communities.</p><p><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/Photo_4_Wirikuta_0.jpg" alt="" width="460" height="307" /></p><p class="image-caption">The Wix&aacute;ritari partake in a religious ceremony dating back to pre-hispanic times. Indigenous leaders say their way of life is being threatened as more and more land is given over to farming and mining.&nbsp;Credit: Christian Palma</p> <p>But the tools of civil resistance that involve self-organization and nonviolent self-defense, to pressure local and national political authorities as well as mobilize support from people in the cities, are finding new practitioners in these communities and may make a vital difference in the outcome of such struggles. &ldquo;The Wix&aacute;ritari are &lsquo;nonviolent warriors&rsquo;&rdquo;, Middleton-Detzner said, using the phrase of the American civil rights leader Bernard Lafayette. &ldquo;They should not be underestimated.&rdquo;</p> <p>For the moment, the Wix&aacute;ritari believe that they are winning the fight for the hearts and minds of Mexicans and that public opinion is turning against international mining companies. For Aniceto Torres Robles a Wix&aacute;ritari from the community of Santa Caterina, losing is not an option. &ldquo;To have the mine operate in Wirikuta would be like someone pulling out my heart,&rdquo; he says. He throws up his hands gesturing to the sky. &ldquo;They must listen, if not, these companies will finish with us and they will finish with Mexico.&rdquo;&nbsp;</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Mexico </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Economics </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance Mexico Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Economics International politics civilResistance Lilian Palma Thu, 26 Sep 2013 07:40:45 +0000 Lilian Palma 75607 at https://www.opendemocracy.net Civil resistance as deterrent to fracking: Part Two, Shale 911 https://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/philippe-duhamel/civil-resistance-as-deterrent-to-fracking-part-two-shale-911 <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p>The on-the-ground citizen victory against those who represented one of the most powerful industries in the world is the result of a multi-pronged, multiyear combination of tactics that has combined into an innovative, compelling strategy. See <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance/philippe-duhamel/civil-resistance-as-deterrent-to-fracking-part-one-they-shale-not-0">Part One here</a>.</p> </div> </div> </div> <p><em>In Part One, Philippe Duhamel explains how </em><em>La Campagne Moratoire d'une Generation (MDG), the One-Generation Moratorium Campaign, deployed an ultimatum to the Quebec government to impose a 20-year moratorium on fracking, a proactive nonviolent direct action training program, and a long-distance walk from Rimouski to Montreal, to build unity around a preventative struggle strategy to put on hold all current fracking operations and pre-testing wells in the province. What has happened since that success?</em> </p> <p>By mid-summer 2011, as we were debriefing and evaluating the walk and its success, the organizing challenges and the lessons, Marie-&Egrave;ve Leduc, one of our creative members suggested that we set up an early warning system to watch and sound the alarm should fracking activity resume on Quebec territory. She suggested we call it &ldquo;Shale 911&rdquo;.</p> <p>We got working on the design. First, there would be the creation and maintenance of a monitoring website and a 1-800 number to serve as hubs for active, citizen-based surveillance. </p> <p>The web site that we built, <em><a href="http://schiste911.org/">SCHISTE911.org</a></em> in French, sports a big red button to signal suspicious fracking activity, and includes geo-mapping of all known potential sites, with a colour-coded level of alert with short descriptions.</p> <p>We have secured the 1-888-SCHISTE emergency number, allowing for low-tech and more immediate contact with the campaign. </p> <p>Eyes and ears in the community, watching remotes sites, important intersections and back roads, paying attention to rumours and talking with strangers, can provide important, timely information. It is the first and vital step in the system.</p> <p>This kind of surveillance network doesn't always have to be built from scratch. In the Canadian province of New Brunswick, Canada , Neighbourhood Watch and Block Parent homes were enlisted to signal to protesters the presence of thumper trucks, used for seismic testing.</p> <p>Any information received is first validated through a basic protocol. Journalism-style, we need at least two verified sources before an alert is made public. Point people in citizen groups stand ready to go out and verify allegations. Engineers and specialists are on call to validate.</p> <h2>One priority: train, train, train</h2> <p>If anything, the concept of preventative action rests on one paramount priority: to train communities in Nonviolent Direct Action (NVDA) and Civil Disobedience (CD). To reinforce their intended effect as a deterrent for the industry, the trainings themselves are publicized and mediatized.</p> <p>Our trainings are full-day workshops, with advance registration, equal part theory, history of civil resistance strategy, and tactical training, all based on an experiential training design. </p> <p>To anchor the training, and move the real work of organizing, we have started to facilitate tactical planning towards local emergency plans. What are the best locations to blockade? Where will civil resisters be sheltered? How will they be fed? Who will provide transportation?</p> <p>As another innovation, we are using a Participatory Video process, adapted from UK-based <em>Insightshare</em>, teaching small groups in the use of video, the new literacy, to build a rapid deployment plan. With friendly faces from the community, this self-made video can show everyone -&nbsp;local folks, national authorities, and energy investors - the emergency mobilisation and direct action plans that are being prepared to resist shale gas development, should it ever dare come back in the area.</p> <h2><strong>D</strong>irect action: costing the opponent</h2> <p>Although we knew intuitively, and politically, that preparing for mass participation in civil disobedience blockades would constitute a threat to the industry, the CEO of a major firm in the field of hydraulic fracturing provided a nice confirmation of the validity of one of our tactical assessments:</p> <blockquote><p><em>"A fracking operation costs about half a million dollars a day. That's why I won't pay this kind of money if the risk is too high that protesters will chain themselves to installations, or stop my teams from working."</em></p></blockquote> <p>&mdash;&nbsp;Michael Binnion, CEO of Questerre.</p> <p>"Thank you Mr. Binnion, for sharing the recipe," we'd quip at every opportunity. "Now let's gather the ingredients!"</p> <p>Although one would be well-advised to remember that one tactic alone is rarely enough, and that employing a vast repertoire of methods, with varying levels of risks, from none to mild to high, is key to mass participation, and thus victory, other stakeholders and analysts seem to share his assessment that direct action and nonviolent blockades represent a high risk and real costs for the industry.</p> <p>In early 2013, London-based Control Risks, a global risk assessment consultancy for industries and governments, published an in-depth study of anti-fracking groups around the world entitled, <a href="http://www.controlrisks.com/OurThinking/Pages/The-Global-Anti-Fracking-Movement.aspx"><em>The Global Anti-Fracking Movement: What it Wants, How it Operates and What&rsquo;s Next.</em></a> On page 10 of the report, Control Risks consultants provide this piece of analysis on direct action, weighing more specifically the relative cost/benefit of blockades as a tactic to the anti-fracking movement, vs. unconventional hydrocarbon developers:</p> <blockquote><p><em>"Direct action serves both strategic and tactical purposes. Strategically, it attracts media attention, raising public awareness of hydraulic fracturing, and thereby increasing receptiveness to anti-fracking messaging and aiding activist recruitment. Demonstrations, days of action and non-violent civil disobedience provide impetus and focus to the anti-fracking movement, helping to mobilise grassroots support, and generating solidarity both locally and globally. Direct action can also confer political influence on the anti-fracking movement, as the imposition of moratoriums in France, Bulgaria, South Africa, Czech Republic and elsewhere has demonstrated..." </em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p><p><em>"Blockades are a favoured non-violent direct action tactic across the environmental activist movement, particularly for rural gas drilling projects, which often depend on single, purpose-built access roads. Blockades generally do not require site security to be breached and can occur at a distance from the project. Furthermore, while the costs to activists of blockades are extremely low &ndash; both in terms of organisation and penalties &ndash; the potential for disruption to the target can be significant in terms of lost productivity and extra operating costs."</em></p></blockquote> <p>Providing further confirmation of our choice of tactics, Control Risks also had this to say about one element of the One-Generation Moratorium campaign, deemed a relatively sophisticated operation:</p> <blockquote><p><em>"In line with the generic evolution of social movements, online and social media are also instrumental in organising and mobilising the anti-fracking movement. Local and national anti-fracking demonstrations, for example, are promoted heavily via Facebook pages and Twitter feeds, with websites providing ready-made templates for posters, T-shirts and banners. At the more sophisticated end of the spectrum, for example, the anti-shale Quebecois (Canada) campaign </em>Moratoire d&rsquo;une generation<em> maintains a dedicated initiative &ndash; Schiste 911 &ndash; to alert activists by email to drilling activity in the province."</em></p></blockquote> <h2>Making the most of direct action</h2> <p>The second key element of the preventative campaign design deals with training very much upstream of industry activity. </p> <p>We put a lot of emphasis on non-arrest, support roles. Our goal is to get as many people to attend the training as possible. We also want to recruit people who might not otherwise attend, because it is a fact that support roles around nonviolent direct action often involve greater time commitments, and even courage, than the getting arrested part.</p> <p>Civil Disobedience and Nonviolent Direct Action (NVDA) trainings can generate quite a bit of media buzz. Especially outside of urban areas, these workshops are not only a rare occurrence and a novelty, they generate enough controversy to provide prime newsworthiness. Especially when allowed to cover role-plays and other simulations, NVDA trainings provide this irresistible mix of anticipation and drama about the upcoming conflict.</p> <p>Allowing media to cover civil disobedience workshops allows training to become an action in itself. </p> <p>Since not only police and corporate surveillance outfits, but also journalists have been known to covertly attend these trainings, it is better that the movement allow access to the media, and hence exert some control over the message, and plan how to derive the most benefit from the coverage. </p> <h2>Pledging civil resistance</h2> <p>The training sessions in civil resistance always end with the offer to sign a "Pledge of Resistance" made out to each participant's name, followed by a graduation ceremony with diplomas also printed individually&nbsp; - we register people in advance through an online form, and ask for their personal information, to be compiled in a database. </p> <p>Because it is formal and dignified, it strengthens people's resolve. It is a serious commitment, that not everyone, but most participants do make. It prepares people for not just short-term, but a longer-term vision of how they should contemplate being involved in this struggle. It provides a reassurance that this movement is serious, well-organized and that it will see to it that nonviolent discipline doesn't break down, and that high-risk roles aren't open to untrained participants.</p> <p>We then take a picture of each graduate holding their diploma, and add it to the database of trained participants. Later, we send each one their laminated personal card, complete with photo ID, QR code, and a newsletter with a fundraising appeal.</p> <p>When we reach 500 trained participants (right now, our numbers hover just above 300), we hold a press conference to show how many people have committed to take part in civil resistance actions, as direct participants and support, should the industry come back.</p> <h2>Learning from the experiment</h2> <p>Under a threat as immense as fracking, no town could succeed alone. Just the same, no single organisation, much less a leader, can claim full credit for such a vast and successful movement. </p> <p>With a mix of friction and collaboration, the combination of everyone&rsquo;s diverse efforts and specific contributions generated the victory. Just as in nature, it takes many specialized roles to make an effective and resilient movement ecosystem.</p> <p><strong>Public framing</strong></p> <p>Choose a frame that allows you to talk to almost everybody, ordinary people who do not know about, share or even care about the premises of environmental activism, who know nothing about movement jargon such as &ldquo;climate justice&rdquo;, &ldquo;CO2 PPM&rdquo;, or even alternative energy sources. To become a mass movement, we need to develop language devoid of inside code words or policy-speak.&nbsp; If your framing allows the other side to win over the fence sitters, you will lose. </p> <p>We chose to put forward the idea of a momentary stop&nbsp; -&nbsp;not a permanent ban outright&nbsp; - so that there could be a way to bring over those who are not yet convinced, or educated enough about the issue, to even "hear" a hard position such "no shale gas, ever". The One-Generation Moratorium idea was able to capture the idea of reaching into the future, to talk about life through caring about our children. Granted, "Moratorium" sounds technical, and soulless. It is itself a term that sounds like jargon. It was so widely held in the movement, it was the main plank: we had to also cater to the activists.</p> <p><strong>Ultimatum: take back the timeline</strong><strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p>Citizen-based initiatives trying to oppose unwanted development tend to be very reactive. By definition, the building of new installations is a process controlled by the opponent. Therefore, the timing of events - when and how each of the steps will be carried out, cutting down trees, bulldozing the topsoil, bringing in the equipment -&nbsp;is controlled by the opponent.</p> <p>Add to this that citizens often lack in-depth knowledge of the various steps involved in more complex development processes, and you have a very unequal power over the time and place for confrontation.</p> <p>Where do you draw the line? When do you launch an action?</p> <p>Extensive research, other groups with on-the-ground experience, and sympathetic experts are all ways citizen groups can acquire better knowledge of the upcoming process to define the important steps around which actions can be designed.</p> <p>Another great device is the ultimatum -&nbsp;a set date by which a demand must be met, or else a sanction, or a series of consequences, will ensue for the opponent.</p> <p>Mohandas K. Gandhi made good use of the ultimatum during his career, often in the form of a letter penned in concerned, amicable language.</p> <p>Issuing an ultimatum provides a number of advantages, the most important being that it allows a campaign to regain the initiative, by setting a deadline around which to plan, for a better handle on preparatory steps for mobilizations and resource-intensive moments.</p> <p>Because an ultimatum warns opponents ahead of time of the likely consequences if they opt for confrontation, it tends to make the issuer look more composed and reasonable. At least, an attempt is made at persuasion, before coercion.</p> <p><strong>The denouement</strong></p> <p>One could argue that recent market conditions -&nbsp;in the form of lower gas prices - helped temper North American enthusiasm and urgency towards the development of extreme hydrocarbon deposits. True enough. But shale gas continues to be developed elsewhere, while it has been stopped in a province where the resource was found to be abundant, close to the surface, and cheap.</p> <p>Sometimes, all it takes is some extra cost, some new unwanted risk, or a small increase in political uncertainty. Certainly, civil resistance can play a role in all three, for a winning combination to the benefit of people&rsquo;s short-term quality of life, long-term health, their environment, and the promise of a better life for their children&rsquo;s children.</p> <p>Victories against extractive industries and other destructive projects sometimes come in the form of repeated delays and postponements imposed on promoters&hellip; until the conditions or the general climate, political and otherwise, change permanently. Winning time, especially if the time is used for more organizing, can mean winning, period.</p> <p>Initially, the opponent in Quebec was wise enough to use public forums to try and pull the public toward their point of view. It started in the spring of 2010, when the Petroleum and Gas association toured the province to talk about the benefits of the industry. It was a disaster, helped along with the arrogance and mistakes of its spokesmen.</p> <p>Then, the provincial government set up multiple environmental review boards. It designed their mandates so they would be constrained to look only at the how, not the whether if, or when. So alongside civil resistance, the public authorities and the industry were also doing their advocacy and consultations, often winning government officials over. While activist groups were tempted to ignore the flawed process, they were nevertheless important as a potential means by which public decision-makers would take stock of the deeper opposition that civil resistance had been stirring, as the included chronology shows.</p> <h2>Chronology</h2> <p>* Spring 2010, the issue comes to the fore. </p> <p>* Fall 2010, Provincial government launches an environmental review process on how to mitigate hydraulic fracturing. Citizen groups and most environmental organizations want proceedings to focus on whether fracking should be allowed and demand a moratorium. Moratoire D&rsquo;une Generation (MDG) stages a dignified act of defiance: one by one, everyone in the room stands up and asks the board for a one-generation moratorium.</p> <p>* December 2010 to February 2011, the MDG strategy proposal is circulated.</p> <p>* March 1, 2011, Launch of the One Generation Moratorium Campaign, with ultimatum to government set for May 1.</p> <p>* March 8, 2011, Environment minister announces a new study, this time a Strategic Environmental Assesmment (SEA), but makes no commitment that test wells and experimental fracking will be excluded. </p> <p>* May 2011, Walk from Rimouski to Montreal, with educational campaign on fracking and proposed long-range strategy of preventative nonviolent direct action. First moratorium law proposed, then adopted on fracking under the St. Lawrence or any of its islands west of Anticosti.</p> <p>* June 2011, Environment minister announces full stop to drilling and fracking for shale gas. Walk culminates on Montreal.</p> <p>* December 2011, the SEA committee holds proceedings across the St. Lawrence valley. Everywhere, it is met with hours of opposition testimonies and statements from citizens, others standing in silent protest, holding signs with a giant eyeball saying: &ldquo;Keeping an eye on you. The next generations are watching.&rdquo;</p> <p>* April 2012, first of series of trainings for Schiste911 (Shale911) begins. About three hundred citizens have been trained so far. </p> <p>* September 2012, Parti Qu&eacute;b&eacute;cois is elected as a minority government. In keeping with election promises, it soon announces it will impose a moratorium on fracking for shale gas, through a bill to be presented.</p> <p>* May 2013, A bill toward a 5-year shale gas moratorium in the St. Lawrence Valley is presented, but has yet to be adopted. The Parti Qu&eacute;b&eacute;cois also changes and extends the modalities of the SEA. For the bill to be adopted, the minority government needs the votes of at least one of the largest opposition parties. </p> <p>* September 2013, the situation is unchanged. Emergency action plans are being drafted by citizens trained in NVDA, using an innovative participatory video process. </p> <p>* And next, exploration for shale oil is slated for 2014 on Anticosti Island and the Gasp&eacute; peninsula, areas unfortunately excluded from the proposed moratorium. Two pipelines carrying Alberta tar sands crude have also been announced to carry diluted bitumen across the province. Opposition to these initiatives is mounting. Victories bring new challenges, and extra layers of complexity. La lutte continue&hellip;</p> <p>On a practical level, intentional civil resistance planning, relentless community organizing, and a powerful sequence of preventative nonviolent actions were able to prevent destructive development from being sold as a "done deal". Grassroots civil resistance organizing acted as a real deterrent against seemingly undefeatable extractive industries.</p> <h2>Activism and resistance</h2> <p>This kind of success does not come easily. And many threats in Quebec still loom. But the on-the-ground citizen victory against those who represented one of the most powerful industries in the world is the result of a multi-pronged, multiyear sequence of tactics that combined into an innovative, compelling strategy. </p> <p>Civil resistance can change the politics of environmental threats, by mobilizing the very same people who, in democracies, elect the politicians. Activism&nbsp;and advocacy are with us all the time. But sustained pressure by organized groups of informed, determined people who will be affected by exploitative public or private action is still rare in open societies. When it is summoned by shrewd planning and the framing of a cause whose time has come, the result can be to pull the sword of the people&rsquo;s power out of the rock of even the daunting combination of governmental torpor and relentless corporate action &ndash; and finally put public interests ahead of private gain.</p><p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-edPart-logo-460-blue_0_1.png" alt="" width="460" height="97" /></a></p><fieldset class="fieldgroup group-sideboxs"><legend>Sideboxes</legend><div class="field field-read-on"> <div class="field-label"> 'Read On' Sidebox:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <p><a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance"><img src="http://www.opendemocracy.net/files/CR-HIghlight-1_0.png" alt="" /></a></p><p>More from the <a href="http://www.opendemocracy.net/civilresistance">civilResistance</a> partnership.</p> </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-related-stories"> <div class="field-label">Related stories:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/civilresistance/philippe-duhamel/civil-resistance-as-deterrent-to-fracking-part-one-they-shale-not-0">Civil resistance as deterrent to fracking: Part One, They shale not pass</a> </div> </div> </div> </fieldset> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Canada </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Conflict </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> <div class="field-item even"> International politics </div> </div> </div> civilResistance Canada Civil society Conflict Culture Democracy and government Ideas International politics civilResistance Philippe Duhamel Thu, 26 Sep 2013 07:32:31 +0000 Philippe Duhamel 75625 at https://www.opendemocracy.net