In Egypt and Tunisia nonviolence has been the motor of transformation
Rafael de la Rubia, spokesperson for last year’s World March for Peace and Nonviolence talks about Egypt, Tunisia and the implications for the Arab world. Highlighting the essential role of nonviolence de la Rubia pays tribute to the young people who drove the process to its conclusion. “They have given the rest of the world a Master Class in non-violent revolution.”
The iron dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt falling in less than one month; the wave of freedom and desire of citizens to participate going around the Arab world; the thousands of citizens in Tunis and other cities of North Africa coming on to the street in solidarity to celebrate the resignation of Hosni Mubarak… all of these are manifestations of the profound and rapid changes that are taking place in the Arab world; transformations unforeseen by the “official analysts” of international powers. Just as the fall of the Soviet Union or the recent economic crisis were unforeseen.
The best comparison can be made with the fall of Ceausescu in Romania, but this wave going around North Africa has a different global dimension and transcendence.
In these events we once more see very clearly the true force of the people and their capacity for transformation which in a very short time can produce unthinkable changes without using violence, or rather, using nonviolence. If on the contrary the cry had been *“people take arms against the dictator,”* the security forces would have come along with bloody confrontations ensuing and leading to the risk of civil war. This would have reinforced and “given arguments” to the dictators for greater oppression in order to remain in power, with a severe cost for the people.
The most important thing to happen in these weeks, hasn’t been the departure of Presidents Ben Ali and Hosni Mubarak, the most important thing has been the union of the people in non-violent protest, the most important thing has been to resist the violence of agents provocateurs, to resist the violence of their own institutions, to resist the violence of the police. The Egyptian and Tunisian armies were not defeated with weapons or confrontation, but rather with hugs and open hands. The soldiers, those sent, are at the end of the day human beings and for however many weapons they have, in no way are they going to be able to defeat through violence a people that stands up and demonstrates firmly demanding their rights in a peaceful way and with the methodology of nonviolence. The people can be repressed for a while, but this would discredit the repressors even more and make the moral position of the unarmed people grow even more, which would eventually bring the final victory. This reminds us of the struggles of Gandhi and Luther King. The Egyptian people have freed themselves from a dictator with nonviolence just as India freed themselves from the British. The difference with that struggle is that India counted on a leader, Gandhi, and on this occasion there was no identified leader, the protagonist has been the Egyptian people.
This tremor of nonviolence, of demands for social transformation in a peaceful way, of anxiousness for freedom and democratic participation has only just begun. Following in the path are Yemen, Jordan, Algeria and Morocco with indicators of social mobilisation. What will happen in the Arab Emirates and other dictators of pan-Arabism? What will happen in China where this entire phenomenon of freedom is being censured?
Evidently there is the USA and the European Union whose regimes have been strategically aligned for years and loyal partners of the Egyptian government in their military, political and economic dealings over decades.
After the fall of the USSR, Western powers—with the USA at the head—created a new international enemy: Arabs, or Islam, alarming people about a possible clash of civilisations. The real interest was to be able to continue justifying their irrational arms race, and make us believe in the need to have to counteract this “great danger” and have available a force that could protect us from “them” on a global scale. This new enemy was endowed with the attributes of fanatics, violent and irrational… and to a certain extent this has permeated and been translated into different fields (cinema, TV, international controls, travel restrictions, intolerant legislation against people of Arabic origin). But the events in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as the mobilisations that we’re seeing in other countries of the region, show us populations very different to this rooted stereotype: these are peaceful people, just like any other, with the same needs, aspirations, fears and desire for freedom and democracy; people that need and long to have a dignified life.
The Egyptian and Tunisian people have given the world a lesson in nonviolence and pacifism. They have given a lesson on how to not conform and instead to struggle for their rights. They have given the rest of the world a Master Class in non-violent revolution. They have given us proof, a demonstration effect that will have consequences and repercussions. And, finally, it must be highlighted that the protagonists have all been mainly young people.
All peoples, in their best moments, have made contributions to the human process. We give thanks and celebrate these non-violent revolutions because they open the future for the whole of humanity. We are approaching the Universal Human Nation.