Reclaiming the Power of Nonviolence: Successes, Obstacles and Sustainability of Nonviolent Movements in the Arab Spring
On March 29th and 30th, American University hosted a symposium on nonviolent movements in the Arab Spring. The event was sponsored by the International Peace and Conflict Resolution department, the Center for Peacebuilding and Development, the Mohammad Said Farsi Chair of Islamic Peace, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict and Nonviolence International. The two-day conference featured various activists, professors, journalists, politicians, and private organization officials from the Middle East and Washington, DC.
The goal of the conference was to create a space to discuss the efforts of nonviolence in the Arab Spring throughout the last year, in particular paying attention to marginalized groups, and determine how nonviolence could be applied in the future within the region to promote peace, growth and stability. The discussions were divided into panels focusing on particular issues or regions.
On Thursday, March 29th the panelists discussed nonviolent movements in Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen, the struggles of nonviolent resistance in Syria and Libya, and the role of nonviolence in nations experiencing a governmental transition, particularly Egypt, Yemen and Jordan. Some of the significant questions raised during the first day of the conference included the ability of nonviolent movements to remain nonviolent in the face of violence and the role of the access of information on nonviolent strategies.
The keynote speaker of the conference was Jawdat Said, a Syrian scholar and nonviolent activist. Mr. Said emphasized the traditions of nonviolence within the Quran and stated that justice and equality sustain the rule of law and is applicable to all people, not just Muslims. His speech utilized examples from religious texts, history and philosophy to support his advocacy of nonviolence.
On the second day, March 30th, the panels focused more specifically on marginalized groups, such as women, ethnic minorities and religious minorities, and looked at the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq as a case study. Important questions addressed in these panels included the role of the international community in the Arab Spring, when and how minorities should join the nonviolent protests and the difficulties in comparing various Middle Eastern countries and their national revolutions. The day concluded with a wrap-up panel that examined the general conclusions of the conference and discussed the future of nonviolent movements in Middle Eastern countries still undergoing revolution or experiencing transition.