The theory of nonviolent resistance, applied in practice in Serbia to oust President Slobodan Milosevic, is becoming more common in the middle East.
The dream of the founder of the Serbian non-governmental organization Canvas the dayet SRJI lake Popovich is the holding of political change without violence.
Canvas was founded in 2003 and has its origins in the democratic movement Otpor, whose efforts largely contributed to the fall of the authoritarian regime of Slobodan Milosevic more than a decade ago. Theory Popovic on non-violent struggle then was applied in Ukraine and Georgia. Representatives of the "Canvas" also has trained dissidents in 37 countries, including Belarus, Zimbabwe, Iran and North Korea. Currently the efforts of the representatives of the "Canvas" aimed at helping protesters in Egypt and Tunisia.
Representatives of the "Canvas" gave an interview to correspondents of Radio "Free Europe"/Radio "Liberty" Courtney Brooks and Milos Teodorovich.
THE RIGHT WAY TO CHANGE
"We want to convey to the world that the only way to change is organized and non-violent resistance, says Srdja Popovich. I think this whole non-religious youth, which we see in the protests across the Middle East, is the new face of the region. I really hope they are prudent enough to suppress any extremism, including Islamic".
However, Srdja Popovich refused to confirm its involvement in the training of activists in countries such as Algeria and Yemen, are also involved in the protests, and proposed to ask themselves activists.
The philosophy of the Serbian non-governmental organization "Canvas" based on the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther king, and Gene sharp, author of several books on nonviolent resistance, including the work "From dictatorship to democracy".
In the summer of 2009 the band "Canvas", together with other NGOs, participated in the Belgrade weekly seminar on the training of some 20 Egyptian activists, some of whom subsequently founded the movement "April Sixth" and helped spread the protests and the pace of change in Egypt.
HELP – HUMOR
Petar miličević, the founder of the NGO "Alternativa in Europe", told the participants about the Egyptian campaign, the importance of youth support and the use of social networks.
"During the protests I was in constant contact with my friends in Egypt, and the only thing they asked, is an international attention, says Petar miličević. Everything else, whatever we offered our assistance or material support that they need. They asked us only to inform the world that this is a revolution of the people, not some Islamic or any other kind of coup."
One of the main methods of the movement "Otpor" in Serbia was winning the sympathy of the society with the help of humor. For example, once they drove through the streets the barrel with the image of Slobodan Milosevic. Activists are often arrested but rarely spent more than one night in prison.
I think this whole non-religious youth, which we see in the protests across the Middle East, is the new face of the region. I really hope they are prudent enough to suppress any extremism, including Islamic.
Collaborating with dissidents such more repressive regimes, like Egypt, Iran or Belarus, a group of "Canvas" was forced to admit that for the same actions, the activists of these countries can spend years behind bars.
Nini Gogoberidze, member of the "rose revolution" in Georgia and coach "Canvas", originally worked with Iranian dissidents. She said that every time the fight is different, they differ in the degree of violence that repressive regime is willing to use to suppress protests.
"I doubt that Georgia or Ukraine security service was able to start the carnage to disperse the protesters, says Nini Gogoberidze. – However, I can't say the same about Iran or other countries where the regime ready to use violence."
No one can know how to organise the struggle better than the citizens of each country, said Georgian activist. This is the main idea of non-violent resistance, she says. "We cannot export revolution, sending, for example, ten Serbs, Georgians or Ukrainians. It is an internal affair of the citizens of each country," said Nini Gogoberidze. She said that the Iranians with whom they worked, have no relationship to such organizations as "Green movement". According to her, she taught Housewives, students and journalists how to work in a non-violent struggle.
THE PROTESTS "DO NOT ARISE FROM THE OUTSIDE"
President of the International center on nonviolent conflict Jack Duvall also held a week-long seminar on nonviolent resistance in Egypt in 2007. He believes that foreign organizations are not entitled to give specific advice to combat repression in their countries. However, they can provide an overall conceptual framework for nonviolent resistance, and how to proceed – can be solved only by citizens of this country.
Gene sharp, the author of the theory of combating non-violent methods, assesses the actions of the Egyptians as "very courageous." He stresses that although he is very happy that his work was useful to them, all the credit belongs exclusively to the Egyptian people.
"When people lose their fear, the dictatorship has a big problem. As for the Egyptians, they managed in an outstanding way – not perfect, but still amazing – to maintain discipline, even when the regime began to use force. Yes, there were people who wanted to come to power, but the most repeated: peaceful protest, peaceful protest, peaceful... And this is during a demonstration which gathered more than a million people. Remarkable achievement that led to success," – says gene sharp.
Word-of-mouth and social media through the "Canvas" is now widespread across North Africa and the Middle East.
Zeynep Tufekci, Professor of sociology at the University of Maryland in Baltimore, said that among the countries covered by political protests, there is a mutual exchange of support in solidarity and practical experience, ranging from how to combat tear gas to bypass Internet censorship.
"The protesters don't inspire from the outside. People protest, because they see all the problems in the country; however, in technical terms, they are inspired by what is happening in the world", says Zeynep Tufekci.
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