Tahrir Crowds

Tahrir Crowds
Midan Tahrir, 1 Feb 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

Why The Nonviolent Revolution Succeeded

If you want to know my analysis of the 25 January Revolution, here is a summary from a recent interview I gave to Rose Berger of Sojournors' Magazine.

I think the effort was ‘classic nonviolence’ in practice. The organizing groups did many things that are recommended by those who study Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Gene Sharp, Michael Nagler, and other contributors to peace studies.” I identified eight “best practices” used by organizers that led to a successful nonviolent campaign in Egypt:

1. Clear Goals. They clearly identified their goals early on. They were posted in Tahrir Square for everyone to see. The organizers stuck to these goals, even when pressured to settle for less.

2. Broad Base. The organizers built a wide coalition across Egyptian civil society—including the whole political spectrum; Muslims and Christians, farmers, students, and labor; the poor and the wealthy.

3. Women. They created a safe place for women. The organizers encouraged and welcomed the participation of women and children, something that is crucial for the security of everyone. They made it clear that the sexual harassment of women was not allowed, (this is something which is a big problem in Cairo), thereby making it safe for women to participate.

4. Cultivating positive relations with the army. The organizers actively and strategically cultivated a positive relationship with the army. After the police withdrew, organizers brought the soldiers tea, flowers, and lots of kisses.  I think this is based on the organizers understanding of nonviolence, as well as their study of recent successful nonviolent revolutions,  to which the army either did not intervene or actively supported the change, such as in Serbia.  

5. Cultural Enjoyment. They made the demonstrations fun!  Inside Tahrir Square there were a number of stages--one had speakers, at another someone led chants. There were stages with musicians, singing, and comedy acts. They offered face painting and lots of art, especially cartoons for posters. Organizers created a sense of community—of the “New Egypt"--inside Tahrir Square.

6. Creating Community. Participants organized to address their own needs. Citizen teams erected tents for those who wanted to stay, mobilized morning clean-up crews, and provided security, in addition to opening bathrooms, bringing food and water, and establishing both a hospital area and a kindergarten.  While Egypt has no recycling program, they even implemented their own recycling program.

7. Peacekeepers. The organizers’ security crew made it safe to be in the Square.  They put up checkpoints at each entrance at the perimeter and checked identification. They didn’t allow in the police IDs or those of the Ministry of Interior’s secret police. They patted down everyone. The volunteers were very respectful to everyone and apologized for searching people.

8. Open Participation. Meetings were held every evening where all were welcome and a style of participatory decision-making was used to make sure all were heard.

9. Public Opinion. The organizers had the majority of public opinion with them.
Two important myths were debunked by the 25 January Revolution, reported Kamphoefner. First, there is a myth that nonviolent movements must have “a single charismatic leader.” This revolution was led by a coalition of groups. Second, there is a myth is that revolution takes a long time. “Depending on how you measure it,” she continued, “this one took 18 days—though organizers have been busy since 2008.”

The clean-up crews cleaned the normally filthy streets of downtown Cairo for another week after their encampment ended. They did this to symbolize "building a new Egypt."

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Kathy Kamphoefner is the director of Refugees United for Peaceful Solutions (www.refugees4peace.org) which provides mediation services, conflict skills training, and nonviolence training to refugee communities in Cairo, Egypt.
January Revolution Succeeded

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