Academy for Change’s Saad Bahaar on Egypt’s revolution

    In a piece for the Washington Post’s On Faith blog, Chicago Theological Seminary professor Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite wrote on Friday about a conference at Cairo University called “The Nonviolent Revolution in Egypt: Learned Lessons” that she had just returned from.

    One of the speakers was Saad Bahaar, a trainer with the Academy for Change, a group of Egyptian expats that has published resources on nonviolence in Arabic and helped train activists in Egypt prior to the revolution, who she quotes at length:

    “Since 2004, many attempts were made to make change but we couldn’t. We studied the Serbian model, applied in 160 countries including the U.S., and we made the Kifaya Movement that means “Enough” in English. It crossed an invisible line and criticized Mubarak himself, which was a taboo. We did many nonviolent trainings. We read Gene Sharpe’s writings, we found German scholars on the science of nonviolence, people started to translate these into Arabic, I translated Gene Sharpe. We had to change the culture of violence and the culture of fear. We learned from Sharpe you have choices, either give power your obedience, or withdraw your support for the regime, be disobedient. But, the rule is, strategies cannot be copied, they have to be adapted for the demands of the location.”

    Thistlethwaite also mentions a presentation by our good friend Maciej Bartkowski from ICNC, which she called a “bright spot in the concluding sessions and one that seemed to provoke great interest among the Egyptians.”

    Bartkowski has researched the role of nonviolent revolutions and the transition to democracy, and had several very concrete observations and suggestions for the Egyptians. Chief among these is that nonviolent civil resistance movements often produce democratic transitions when the “lessons learned” are to keep up public mobilization and build up new civil institutions that can keep reform going. Of special interest to the symposium was the history of Solidarity in Poland, and how the Polish did small constitutional reforms for more than decade.

    Recent Stories

    • Q&A

    Can a podcast show us how to change our hearts and minds?

    In “Reckonings,” producer Stephanie Lepp explores how people change, asking listeners to examine their own assumptions about how far they can stretch their empathy.

    • Analysis

    Will the real Gene Sharp please step forward?

    July 16, 2019

    Recent criticisms calling the founder of nonviolent theory a Cold Warrior are way off the mark. To rightly evaluate him, we need to understand the role he chose for himself.

    • Feature

    Professors and students unite to oppose cuts to Lebanon’s only public university

    July 12, 2019

    A six-week strike by teachers has bolstered a movement against proposed austerity measures targeting Lebanon’s dangerously underfunded education system.