Sunday, June 2, 2013

Non-violent Resistance: A different kind of armed struggle

"I say nonviolent struggle is armed struggle. And we have to take back that term from those advocates of violence who seek to justify with pretty words that kind of combat. Only with this type of struggle one fights with psychological weapons, social weapons, economic weapons and political weapons. And that this is ultimately more powerful against oppression, injustice and tyranny then violence." - Gene Sharp, 1990 at the National Conference on Nonviolent Sanctions and Defense in Boston

On Friday received a request from a friend in Turkey: "Please follow what's happening in Taksim, and use your channels to mobilize news and what have you. You are good at it and we need you." Watching the news unfold and the nonviolent protesters met with brutal force from the government and elements of the protesters, according to the press accounts, responding with violence to violence has led to this essay and the posting of this video.

There is a prejudice to view nonviolent resistance as either naive or successful due to exceptional circumstances but history has demonstrated otherwise. Gene Sharp, an expert on nonviolent, who works out of a think tank called the Albert Einstein Institute has spent an entire career documenting the power and reality of nonviolent resistance over the course of history and instances now in the present. Most of the books and articles are available for free download in a number of different languages.

High pressure hoses turned on nonviolent demonstrators in Turkey
 Its not only Gene Sharp who has discovered the historical track record of nonviolent resistance. University Academics Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth in their 2008 study "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic on Nonviolent Conflict" compared the outcomes of 323 nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006. They found that major nonviolent campaigns have achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with just under half that at 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns. Finally there study also suggests “that nonviolent campaigns are more likely than violent campaigns to succeed in the face of brutal repression.” This also depends on the nonviolent opposition movement having a strategic vision and maintaining its non-violent posture even under the worse repression.

The author of this blog back in June 14-15, 1996 spent two days in a training led by Gene Sharp in Miami, Florida at Florida International University that was sponsored by Brothers to the Rescue. Sharp gave a presentation on how to face dictatorship's realistically. It was a life changing experience.

The video above is the Spanish version of the documentary How to Start a Revolution: Meet the most important man you've never heard of and you can purchase a copy the English version on Amazon or on their website:

Dear friends in Turkey who at this hour are engaged in a struggle for the future of their country please consider nonviolent resistance and its track record and recall what is now taking place in Libya and in Syria both products of a nonviolent resistance that succumbed and turned violent in response to regime violence.  The stakes are high: the future of your country not only for you but also for your children and their children. This is not a time for improvisation but for strategic thinking and sound tactics to dislodge an entrenched adversary who is threatening your democracy.

Demonstrators on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey on Saturday
It is worthwhile to take a closer look at the writings of Gene Sharp and his observation that: "If you fight with violence, you are fighting with your enemy’s best weapon and you may be a brave but dead hero."

In the meantime, in solidarity, will continue to follow what is happening and mobilize people of good will to support the just aspirations of the people of Turkey.

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