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[liberationtech] The seeds of change - a movement in the making for year (with cross-border assistance)

Patrick Meier (Ushahidi) patrick at ushahidi.com
Thu Feb 17 09:06:11 PST 2011


I *completely* agree with you, Nathan.

Here are two blog posts I wrote on the subject back in 2008:

*Digital Resistance: Between Digital Activism and Civil Resistance*
http://irevolution.wordpress.com/2008/12/25/digital-resistance-between-digital-activism-and-civil-resistance

*Gene Sharp, Civil Resistance and Technology*
http://irevolution.wordpress.com/2008/12/25/gene-sharp-civil-resistance-and-technology


This NYT piece was just published on Gene Sharp's work:

*Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution*
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/17/world/middleeast/17sharp.html?_r=2




On Tue, Feb 15, 2011 at 6:26 AM, Nathan Freitas <nathan at freitas.net> wrote:

> There is another story in the NYTimes today on this topic:
>
> http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/world/middleeast/14egypt-tunisia-protests.html?hp=&pagewanted=print
>
> For those of you who attended the LibTech conference at Stanford a few
> months ago now, the talk I gave mentioned how the work I do within the
> Tibet independence movement and what I teach technology-focused students
> at NYU focuses on combining the teaching of non-violent activism with
> innovative technology to create effective movement empowering tools and
> campaigns. This is not something I came up with, but more a realisation
> developed through ten years work deep within a non-violent movement in
> need of new approaches. Much credit should be given to Tibetan activists
> for their willingness to experiment with new tactics over their long
> fifty year occupation.
>
> The gist of the idea is to combine the focused vision of change and
> empowerment offered by Gene Sharp with Steve Jobs' strange ability to
> mass market that, or the popular potential of OTPOR with Android, or the
> dedication to ethics of Tsundue (well known Tibet activist) with Richard
> Stallman. These aren't natural marriages by any means, but they are
> strands of culture that must be cross-pollinated. I felt like the
> concept was well received at the event, but it seemed to be a bit
> foreign or a novelty in a room full of people talking about
> circumvention, censorship, and mostly online activism. You can view the
> full presentation here, http://prezi.com/ttsj526jjlsi/libtech/, but it
> matters less than the opportunity to make a point on this list at this
> unique time.
>
> I hope the lessons learned that come out of Egypt show the important of
> this combination - that access to information alone is not enough for a
> movement to succeed. We all have much to learn and consider about
> "liberation technology" from pre-internet revolutionaries, while people
> working on the ground have much to benefit from the tools designed and
> deployed in the right way through the right organizations. Strategy is
> critical to all of this - it just doesn't spring fully formed out of
> Twitter and Facebook, as many have said, and little good is done from
> tools dropped in from the sky baked up in a vacuum. It also shows that
> having only a handful of well-organized bloggers or tweeps can make a
> huge difference if they are the right people. None of this approach to
> organising should be dismissed as "professional activism", either. It is
> necessary.
>
> If you are interested in some of these topics, a great place to start is
> the CANVAS Core Curriculum students guide, which is available in English
> (and Farsi!) here, as a PDF. I use this as a teaching tool, and so can
> you, but you should also reach out to the creators if you are seriously
> interested in applying it to your work:
> http://www.canvasopedia.org/legacy/content/special/core.htm#special
>
> In addition, Gene Sharp's "From Dictatorship to Democracy" is available
> in many languages here, including Tibetan:
> http://www.aeinstein.org/organizationsTibetanFDTD.html
>
>
> Here's the choice part of the NYTimes story, btw, that inspired this rift:
>
> "For their part, Mr. Maher and his colleagues began reading about
> nonviolent struggles. They were especially drawn to a Serbian youth
> movement called Otpor , which had helped topple the dictator Slobodan
> Milosevic by drawing on the ideas of an American political thinker, Gene
> Sharp . The hallmark of Mr. Sharp’s work is well-tailored to Mr.
> Mubark’s Egypt: He argues that nonviolence is a singularly effective way
> to undermine police states that might cite violent resistance to justify
> repression in the name of stability.
>
> The April 6 Youth Movement modeled its logo — a vaguely Soviet looking
> red and white clenched fist —after Otpor’s, and some of its members
> traveled to Serbia to meet with Otpor activists.
>
> Another influence, several said, was a group of Egyptian expatriates in
> their 30s who set up an organization in Qatar called the Academy of
> Change , which promotes ideas drawn in part on Mr. Sharp’s work. One of
> the group’s organizers, Hisham Morsy, was arrested during the Cairo
> protests and remained in detention."
>
> Best,
>  Nathan
>
>  https://tibetaction.net
>  https://guardianproject.info
>
>
> ***
>
> http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/world/middleeast/14egypt-tunisia-protests.html?hp=&pagewanted=print
>
>
> February 13, 2011
> A Tunisian-Egyptian Link That Shook Arab History
> By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and DAVID E. SANGER
>
> CAIRO — As protesters in Tahrir Square faced off against pro-government
> forces, they drew a lesson from their counterparts in Tunisia: “Advice
> to the youth of Egypt: Put vinegar or onion under your scarf for tear gas.”
>
> The exchange on Facebook was part of a remarkable two-year collaboration
> that has given birth to a new force in the Arab world — a pan-Arab youth
> movement dedicated to spreading democracy in a region without it. Young
> Egyptian and Tunisian activists brainstormed on the use of technology to
> evade surveillance, commiserated about torture and traded practical tips
> on how to stand up to rubber bullets and organize barricades.
>
> They fused their secular expertise in social networks with a discipline
> culled from religious movements and combined the energy of soccer fans
> with the sophistication of surgeons. Breaking free from older veterans
> of the Arab political opposition, they relied on tactics of nonviolent
> resistance channeled from an American scholar through a Serbian youth
> brigade — but also on marketing tactics borrowed from Silicon Valley.
>
> As their swelling protests shook the Egyptian state, they were locked in
> a virtual tug of war with a leader with a very different vision — Gamal
> Mubarak, the son of President Hosni Mubarak , a wealthy investment
> banker and ruling-party power broker. Considered the heir apparent to
> his father until the youth revolt eliminated any thought of dynastic
> succession, the younger Mubarak pushed his father to hold on to power
> even after his top generals and the prime minister were urging an exit,
> according to American officials who tracked Hosni Mubarak’s final days.
>
> The defiant tone of the president’s speech on Thursday, the officials
> said, was largely his son’s work.
>
> “He was probably more strident than his father was,” said one American
> official, who characterized Gamal’s role as “sugarcoating what was for
> Mubarak a disastrous situation.” But the speech backfired, prompting
> Egypt’s military to force the president out and assert control of what
> they promise will be a transition to civilian government.
>
> Now the young leaders are looking beyond Egypt. “Tunis is the force that
> pushed Egypt, but what Egypt did will be the force that will push the
> world,” said Walid Rachid, one of the members of the April 6 Youth
> Movement, which helped organize the Jan. 25 protests that set off the
> uprising. He spoke at a meeting on Sunday night where the members
> discussed sharing their experiences with similar youth movements in
> Libya, Algeria, Morocco and Iran.
>
> “If a small group of people in every Arab country went out and
> persevered as we did, then that would be the end of all the regimes,” he
> said, joking that the next Arab summit might be “a coming-out party” for
> all the ascendant youth leaders.
>
> Bloggers Lead the Way
>
> The Egyptian revolt was years in the making. Ahmed Maher, a 30-year-old
> civil engineer and a leading organizer of the April 6 Youth Movement,
> first became engaged in a political movement known as Kefaya , or
> Enough, in about 2005. Mr. Maher and others organized their own brigade,
> Youth for Change. But they could not muster enough followers; arrests
> decimated their leadership ranks, and many of those left became mired in
> the timid, legally recognized opposition parties. “What destroyed the
> movement was the old parties,” said Mr. Maher, who has since been
> arrested four times.
>
> By 2008, many of the young organizers had retreated to their computer
> keyboards and turned into bloggers, attempting to raise support for a
> wave of isolated labor strikes set off by government privatizations and
> runaway inflation.
>
> After a strike that March in the city of Malhalla, Egypt, Mr. Maher and
> his friends called for a nationwide general strike for April 6. To
> promote it, they set up a Facebook group that became the nexus of their
> movement, which they were determined to keep independent from any of the
> established political groups. Bad weather turned the strike into a
> nonevent in most places, but in Malhalla a demonstration by the workers’
> families led to a violent police crackdown — the first major labor
> confrontation in years.
>
> Just a few months later, after a strike in the Tunisian city of Hawd
> el-Mongamy, a group of young online organizers followed the same model,
> setting up what became the Progressive Youth of Tunisia. The organizers
> in both countries began exchanging their experiences over Facebook. The
> Tunisians faced a more pervasive police state than the Egyptians, with
> less latitude for blogging or press freedom, but their trade unions were
> stronger and more independent. “We shared our experience with strikes
> and blogging,” Mr. Maher recalled.
>
> For their part, Mr. Maher and his colleagues began reading about
> nonviolent struggles. They were especially drawn to a Serbian youth
> movement called Otpor , which had helped topple the dictator Slobodan
> Milosevic by drawing on the ideas of an American political thinker, Gene
> Sharp . The hallmark of Mr. Sharp’s work is well-tailored to Mr.
> Mubark’s Egypt: He argues that nonviolence is a singularly effective way
> to undermine police states that might cite violent resistance to justify
> repression in the name of stability.
>
> The April 6 Youth Movement modeled its logo — a vaguely Soviet looking
> red and white clenched fist —after Otpor’s, and some of its members
> traveled to Serbia to meet with Otpor activists.
>
> Another influence, several said, was a group of Egyptian expatriates in
> their 30s who set up an organization in Qatar called the Academy of
> Change , which promotes ideas drawn in part on Mr. Sharp’s work. One of
> the group’s organizers, Hisham Morsy, was arrested during the Cairo
> protests and remained in detention.
>
> “The Academy of Change is sort of like Karl Marx , and we are like
> Lenin,” said Basem Fathy, another organizer who sometimes works with the
> April 6 Youth Movement and is also the project director at the Egyptian
> Democratic Academy, which receives grants from the United States and
> focuses on human rights and election-monitoring. During the protesters’
> occupation of Tahrir Square, he said, he used his connections to raise
> about $5,100 from Egyptian businessmen to buy blankets and tents.
>
> ‘This Is Your Country’
>
> Then, about a year ago, the growing Egyptian youth movement acquired a
> strategic ally, Wael Ghonim , a 31-year-old Google marketing executive.
> Like many others, he was introduced into the informal network of young
> organizers by the movement that came together around Mohamed ElBaradei ,
> the Nobel Prize -winning diplomat who returned to Egypt a year ago to
> try to jump-start its moribund political opposition.
>
> Mr. Ghonim had little experience in politics but an intense dislike for
> the abusive Egyptian police, the mainstay of the government’s power. He
> offered his business savvy to the cause. “I worked in marketing, and I
> knew that if you build a brand you can get people to trust the brand,”
> he said.
>
> The result was a Facebook group Mr. Ghonim set up: We Are All Khalid
> Said , after a young Egyptian who was beaten to death by police. Mr.
> Ghonim — unknown to the public, but working closely with Mr. Maher of
> the April 6 Youth Movement and a contact from Mr. ElBaradei’s group —
> said that he used Mr. Said’s killing to educate Egyptians about
> democracy movements.
>
> He filled the site with video clips and newspaper articles about police
> violence. He repeatedly hammered home a simple message: “This is your
> country; a government official is your employee who gets his salary from
> your tax money, and you have your rights.” He took special aim at the
> distortions of the official media, because when the people “distrust the
> media then you know you are not going to lose them,” he said.
>
> He eventually attracted hundreds of thousands of users, building their
> allegiance through exercises in online democratic participation. When
> organizers planned a “day of silence” in the Cairo streets, for example,
> he polled users on what color shirts they should all wear — black or
> white. (When the revolt exploded, the Mubarak government detained him
> for 12 days in blindfolded isolation in a belated attempt to stop his
> work.)
>
> After the Tunisian revolution on Jan. 14, the April 6 Youth Movement saw
> an opportunity to turn its little-noticed annual protest on Police Day —
> the Jan. 25 holiday that celebrates a police revolt that was suppressed
> by the British — into a much bigger event. Mr. Ghonim used the Facebook
> site to mobilize support. If at least 50,000 people committed to turn
> out that day, the site suggested, the protest could be held. More than
> 100,000 signed up.
>
> “I have never seen a revolution that was preannounced before,” Mr.
> Ghonim said.
>
> By then, the April 6 movement had teamed up with Mr. ElBaradei’s
> supporters, some liberal and leftist parties, and the youth wing of the
> Muslim Brotherhood to plaster Cairo with eye-catching modernist posters
> advertising their Tunisia-inspired Police Day protest. But their elders
> — even members of the Brotherhood who had long been portrayed as
> extremists by Mr. Mubarak and the West — shied away from taking to the
> streets.
>
> Explaining that Police Day was supposed to honor the fight against
> British colonialism, Essem Erian, a Brotherhood leader, said, “On that
> day we should all be celebrating together.
>
> “All these people are on Facebook, but do we know who they are?” he
> asked. “We cannot tie our parties and entities to a virtual world.”
>
> ‘This Was It’
>
> When the 25th came, the coalition of young activists, almost all of them
> affluent, wanted to tap into the widespread frustration with the
> country’s autocracy, and also with the grinding poverty of Egyptian
> life. They started their day trying to rally poor people with complaints
> about pocketbook issues: “They are eating pigeon and chicken, but we eat
> beans every day.”
>
> By the end of the day, when tens of thousands had marched to Tahrir
> Square, their chants had become more sweeping. “The people want to bring
> down the regime,” they shouted, a slogan that the organizers said they
> had read in signs and on Facebook pages from Tunisia. Mr. Maher of the
> April 6 Youth Movement said the organizers even debated storming
> Parliament and the state television building — classic revolutionary moves.
>
> “When I looked around me and I saw all these unfamiliar faces in the
> protests, and they were more brave than us — I knew that this was it for
> the regime,” Mr. Maher said.
>
> It was then that they began to rely on advice from Tunisia, Serbia and
> the Academy of Change, which had sent staff members to Cairo a week
> before to train the protest organizers. After the police used tear gas
> to break up the protest that Tuesday, the organizers came back better
> prepared for their next march on Friday, the 28th, the “Day of Rage.”
>
> This time, they brought lemons, onions and vinegar to sniff for relief
> from the tear gas, and soda or milk to pour into their eyes. Some had
> fashioned cardboard or plastic bottles into makeshift armor worn under
> their clothes to protect against riot police bullets. They brought spray
> paint to cover the windshields of police cars, and they were ready to
> stuff the exhaust pipes and jam the wheels to render them useless. By
> the early afternoon, a few thousand protesters faced off against well
> over a thousand heavily armed riot police officers on the four-lane Kasr
> al-Nile Bridge in perhaps the most pivotal battle of the revolution .
>
> “We pulled out all the tricks of the game — the Pepsi, the onion, the
> vinegar,” said Mr. Maher, who wore cardboard and plastic bottles under
> his sweater, a bike helmet on his head and a barrel-top shield on his
> arm. “The strategy was the people who were injured would go to the back
> and other people would replace them,” he said. “We just kept rotating.”
> After more than five hours of battle, they had finally won — and burned
> down the empty headquarters of the ruling party on their way to occupy
> Tahrir Square.
>
> Pressuring Mubarak
>
> In Washington that day, President Obama turned up, unexpectedly, at a
> 3:30 p.m. Situation Room meeting of his “principals,” the key members of
> the national security team, where he displaced Thomas E. Donilon , the
> national security adviser, from his seat at the head of the table.
>
> The White House had been debating the likelihood of a domino effect
> since youth-driven revolts had toppled President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali
> in Tunisia, even though the American intelligence community and Israel’s
> intelligence services had estimated that the risk to President Mubarak
> was low — less than 20 percent, some officials said.
>
> According to senior officials who participated in Mr. Obama’s policy
> debates, the president took a different view. He made the point early
> on, a senior official said, that “this was a trend” that could spread to
> other authoritarian governments in the region, including in Iran. By the
> end of the 18-day uprising, by a White House count, there were 38
> meetings with the president about Egypt. Mr. Obama said that this was a
> chance to create an alternative to “the Al Qaeda narrative” of Western
> interference.
>
> American officials had seen no evidence of overtly anti-American or
> anti-Western sentiment. “When we saw people bringing their children to
> Tahrir Square, wanting to see history being made, we knew this was
> something different,” one official said.
>
> On Jan. 28, the debate quickly turned to how to pressure Mr. Mubarak in
> private and in public — and whether Mr. Obama should appear on
> television urging change. Mr. Obama decided to call Mr. Mubarak, and
> several aides listened in on the line. Mr. Obama did not suggest that
> the 82-year-old leader step aside or transfer power. At this point, “the
> argument was that he really needed to do the reforms, and do them fast,”
> a senior official said. Mr. Mubarak resisted, saying the protests were
> about outside interference.
>
> According to the official, Mr. Obama told him, “You have a large portion
> of your people who are not satisfied, and they won’t be until you make
> concrete political, social and economic reforms.”
>
> The next day, the decision was made to send former Ambassador Frank G.
> Wisner to Cairo as an envoy. Mr. Obama began placing calls to Prime
> Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip
> Erdogan of Turkey and other regional leaders.
>
> The most difficult calls, officials said, were with King Abdullah of
> Saudi Arabia and Mr. Netanyahu, who feared regional instability and
> urged the United States to stick with Mr. Mubarak. According to American
> officials, senior members of the government in Saudi Arabia argued that
> the United States should back Mr. Mubarak even if he used force against
> the demonstrators. By Feb. 1, when Mr. Mubarak broadcast a speech
> pledging that he would not run again and that elections would be held in
> September, Mr. Obama concluded that the Egyptian president still had not
> gotten the message.
>
> Within an hour, Mr. Obama called Mr. Mubarak again in the toughest, and
> last, of their conversations. “He said if this transition process drags
> out for months, the protests will, too,” one of Mr. Obama’s aides said.
>
> Mr. Mubarak told Mr. Obama that the protests would be over in a few days.
>
> Mr. Obama ended the call, the official said, with these words: “I
> respect my elders. And you have been in politics for a very long time,
> Mr. President. But there are moments in history when just because things
> were the same way in the past doesn’t mean they will be that way in the
> future.”
>
> The next day, heedless of Mr. Obama’s admonitions, Mr. Mubarak launched
> another attack against the protesters, many of whom had by then spent
> five nights camped out in Tahrir Square. By about 2:30 p.m., thousands
> of burly men loyal to Mr. Mubarak and armed with rocks, clubs and,
> eventually, improvised explosives had come crashing into the square.
>
> The protesters — trying to stay true to the lessons they had learned
> from Gandhi, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Gene Sharp — tried
> for a time to avoid retaliating. A row of men stood silent as rocks
> rained down on them. An older man told a younger one to put down his stick.
>
> But by 3:30 p.m., the battle was joined. A rhythmic din of stones on
> metal rang out as the protesters beat street lamps and fences to rally
> their troops.
>
> The Muslim Brotherhood, after sitting out the first day, had reversed
> itself, issuing an order for all able-bodied men to join the occupation
> of Tahrir Square. They now took the lead. As a secret, illegal
> organization, the Brotherhood was accustomed to operating in a
> disciplined hierarchy. The group’s members helped the protesters divide
> into teams to organize their defense, several organizers said. One team
> broke the pavement into rocks, while another ferried the rocks to
> makeshift barricades along their perimeter and the third defended the
> front.
>
> “The youth of the Muslim Brotherhood played a really big role,” Mr.
> Maher said. “But actually so did the soccer fans” of Egypt’s two leading
> teams. “These are always used to having confrontations with police at
> the stadiums,” he said.
>
> Soldiers of the Egyptian military, evidently under orders to stay
> neutral, stood watching from behind the iron gates of the Egyptian
> Museum as the war of stone missiles and improvised bombs continued for
> 14 hours until about four in the morning.
>
> Then, unable to break the protesters’ discipline or determination, the
> Mubarak forces resorted to guns, shooting 45 and killing 2, according to
> witnesses and doctors interviewed early that morning. The soldiers —
> perhaps following orders to prevent excessive bloodshed, perhaps acting
> on their own — finally intervened. They fired their machine guns into
> the ground and into the air, several witnesses said, scattering the
> Mubarak forces and leaving the protesters in unmolested control of the
> square, and by extension, the streets.
>
> Once the military demonstrated it was unwilling to fire on its own
> citizens, the balance of power shifted. American officials urged the
> army to preserve its bond with the Egyptian people by sending top
> officers into the square to reassure the protesters, a step that further
> isolated Mr. Mubarak. But the Obama administration faltered in
> delivering its own message: Two days after the worst of the violence,
> Mr. Wisner publicly suggested that Mr. Mubarak had to be at the center
> of any change, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned that
> any transition would take time. Other American officials suggested Mr.
> Mubarak might formally stay in office until his term ended next
> September. Then a four-day-long stalemate ensued, in which Mr. Mubarak
> refused to budge, and the protesters regained momentum.
>
> On Thursday, Mr. Mubarak’s vice president, Omar Suleiman , was on the
> phone with Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. at 2 p.m. in Washington,
> the third time they had spoken in a week. The airwaves were filled with
> rumors that Mr. Mubarak was stepping down, and Mr. Suleiman told Mr.
> Biden that he was preparing to assume Mr. Mubarak’s powers. But as he
> spoke to Mr. Biden and other officials, Mr. Suleiman said that “certain
> powers” would remain with Mr. Mubarak, including the power to dissolve
> the Parliament and fire the cabinet. “The message from Suleiman was that
> he would be the de facto president,” one person involved in the call said.
>
> But while Mr. Mubarak huddled with his son Gamal, the Obama
> administration was in the dark about how events would unfold, reduced to
> watching cable television to see what Mr. Mubarak would decide. What
> they heard on Thursday night was a drastically rewritten speech,
> delivered in the unbowed tone of the father of the country, with
> scarcely any mention of a presumably temporary “delegation” of his power.
>
> It was that rambling, convoluted address that proved the final straw for
> the Egyptian military, now fairly certain that it would have
> Washington’s backing if it moved against Mr. Mubarak, American officials
> said. Mr. Mubarak’s generals ramped up the pressure that led him at
> last, without further comment, to relinquish his power.
>
> “Eighty-five million people live in Egypt, and less than 1,000 people
> died in this revolution — most of them killed by the police,” said Mr.
> Ghonim, the Google executive. “It shows how civilized the Egyptian
> people are.” He added, “Now our nightmare is over. Now it is time to
> dream.”
>
> David D. Kirkpatrick reported from Cairo, and David E. Sanger from
> Washington. Kareem Fahim and Mona El-Naggar contributed reporting from
> Cairo, and Mark Mazzetti from Washington.
>
> On 02/14/2011 11:00 AM, Katrin Verclas wrote:
> > There has been a lot of talk about the spontaneous uprising in Egypt,
> thanks to Facebook and Twitter.  As usual, there is more to the story and a
> history of some years of planning and strategizing, cross-border
> collaboration, as well as smart use of tactics and tools.  A little bit of
> history of the April 6th movement in Egypt is in this Al Jazeera video
> http://english.aljazeera.net/programmes/peopleandpower/2011/02/201128145549829916.html(aired prior to Mubarak's ouster), and in this NYT article that picks up on
> the reporting of Al Jazeera: http://bit.ly/eFhag2.  Will be interesting to
> see whether Egyptian activists will now helping movements in other countries
> plan non-violent resistance, activist leadership, and the long road towards
> democratic change.
> >
> > Best,
> >
> > Katrin
> >
> > Katrin Verclas
> > MobileActive.org
> > katrin at mobileactive.org
> >
> > skype/twitter: katrinskaya
> > (347) 281-7191
> >
> > A global network of people using mobile technology for social impact
> > http://mobileactive.org
> >
> > _______________________________________________
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