Power of Nonviolence: How a Martin Luther King Comic Book Helped Organize the Egyptian Uprising

Sam Graham Felsen wrote this eye-opening article for The Nation: “How Cyber-Pragmatism Brought Down Mubarak.”

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Among the reasons for the remarkable non-violence of the protesters, he includes a “comic book from the 1950s that told Martin Luther King’s story.” Inspired by the success of King’s nonviolent tactics, Dalia Ziada, “long-time human rights activist and blogger … translated the book into Arabic and published it in print and online.”

“MLK was only 29 years old when he launched his campaign and motivated the whole Afro-American community,” Dalia told me. “When people learned about MLK and Gandhi success stories they realized they can do it here too. We have the power to turn our dreams into real tangible facts.” Ziada distributed thousands of print and digital copies of the comic book to her fellow organizers, who took not only inspiration but instruction from the persistence and tactical sophistication of the civil rights movement.

Over time, hundreds of thousands joined the “We Are All Khaled Said”  [Facebook] page, sharing stories of police abuse and posting inspirational YouTube videos and photos, while core organizers pushed them to attend a series of nonviolent “silent stand” protests in public. None of these protests, which took place in June and August of 2010, drew more than a few thousand people.

But in the wake of the Tunisia uprising—when activists saw that the nonviolent tactics of King and Gandhi had succeeded in a nearby country—Ghonim and his fellow organizers seized on the collective hope. Calling a protest on January 25, activists quickly began distributing downloadable flyers and detailed instruction manuals that included advice on how to counteract tear gas. To ensure greater numbers, organizers promised one another that they would each bring at least ten non-connected people they knew to the protests. They even agreed on messaging tactics in advance. In order to better succeed at recruiting poorer, less-educated Egyptians to join them, they focused on economic issues as a rallying cry, not torture. “We spoke their language,” said Dalia, “not our language as Internet users.”

Read the full article here.

Comments

2 Responses to “Power of Nonviolence: How a Martin Luther King Comic Book Helped Organize the Egyptian Uprising”
  1. depelton says:

    Also, see excellent NY Times article today:

    Dual Uprisings Show Potent New Threats to Arab States

    Excerpt:

    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.

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