Stephanie and Michael welcome three guests this week on Nonviolence Radio. First, they talk to Katherine Hughes-Fraitekh and Steve Chase about their work together in Solidarity 2020 and Beyond — then Sudanese activist Mubarak Elamin.
Responding to the isolation and suffering caused by COVID, Solidarity 2020 and Beyond offers hope and support to grassroots activists and organizations, providing opportunities to network, learn from each other and collaborate through webinars and trainings. Solidarity 2020 and Beyond draws on the power inherent in sharing experiences and using them to educate and increase solidarity amongst all those who are striving — nonviolently — to bring about change for good, wherever in the world they may be. As Katherine explains:
…what we’re trying to do is to be driven by the grassroots activists, extremely flexible to respond to their needs, and not create an organization but realize there are amazing groups out there – Beautiful Trouble, ICNC, the Einstein Institute, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Metta Center, Waging Nonviolence, all the groups that are working on these issues. And African Youth Movement, Africans Rising – we’re very closely connected with them. And just trying to help bring groups together and find ways to do critical learning, research, and really spread the knowledge both to people that are doing the work on the ground as people learn from each other.
…for the vast majority of people in the world that are not directly involved, but may be very hopeless right now, letting them know these amazing things are happening, and these amazing courageous people are out there changing the world for the better. It’s not time to give up hope, but really to have a vision for a better future. And that is possible.
Meanwhile, Mubarak Elamin, a Sudanese activist supporting the movement in Sudan discusses the astounding strength and courage of the Sudanese people. In particular, he highlights their determination to stand up for what they need, often risking their lives, working for peace and change:
We’re actually learning from the streets of Sudan. It’s amazing, the creativity and how people are committed to — first, they’re committed to nonviolence and peaceful protest — peaceful actions. And the second thing they are doing also, organizing. And the third thing they are doing is also being really media savvy…
And they just demonstrate that day in and day out. They’re speaking about, “We’re not out for bread. We’re not out for lower prices of gas. We’re out for our own freedom and to bring about some other high-level values to our life and to our people.” And they’re so determined to do that. So, it’s just really like when you see these, read these stories, it’s just heartfelt. The stories that all of these kids — I will call them heroes and warriors in a way or the other.
From all three guests this week, we see the power that comes when we actively listen to and connect with others. Every community, every person has its experience, and when diverse experiences are brought together, when they are heard and shared, they become a resource, an exhilarating force for change.
Stephanie: Well, welcome everybody to another episode of Nonviolence Radio. I’m your host, Stephanie Van Hook, and I’m here in the studio with my co-host and Nonviolence News anchor, Michael Nagler. Good morning, Michael.
Michael: Good morning, Stephanie.
Stephanie: And we are from the Metta Center for Nonviolence, where we study all of the angles and aspects of nonviolence and help people use nonviolence more safely and more effectively. Nonviolence Radio is a project of this work.
Today on the show we have with us other people who are helping activists train and get involved, and we’re really excited about their work. They’re called, “Solidarity 2020 and Beyond.” We have Katherine Hughes-Fraitekh and Steve Chase with us. Later in the show we will hear from our friend Mubarak Elamin who is a Sudanese activist supporting the movement in Sudan. He’s living in Seattle, Washington. We’ll have him back on the show as he was on a couple years ago with the last situation, last movement in Sudan.
Katherine Hughes-Fraitekh is one of three co-founders of Solidarity 2020 and Beyond and is its current director. She’s an expert on peacebuilding, social justice movements, and nonviolent strategy and resistance. She trains, convenes, researches hundreds of grassroots activists and nonviolent campaigns and movements who are struggling for peace, self-determination, women’s rights, economic and environmental justice, and immigrant rights in Africa, Asia, Middle East, Europe, Latin America and North America.
Over the past 10 years she’s traveled to 75 countries, having been invited by organizers and activists to help provide trainings, education, and strategic planning. So, welcome to the show, Katherine.
Katherine: Thank you so much. It’s good to be on, Stephanie and Michael.
Stephanie: Seventy-five countries in ten years. That’s a big deal. That’s a lot of movement, a lot of learning.
Katherine: Yeah, it certainly is. I think I’m very blessed to have been involved in this work. I always say that I actually learn a lot more than I bring or teach. I’m so excited to learn about and work and be motivated by these amazing grassroots activists around the world who, as you said, are struggling for a number of different kinds of issues. Some are local communities. Some are national or even international.
Stephanie: And you founded Solidarity – or you co-founded Solidarity 2020 and Beyond, and we have your assistant director with us, Steve Chase, who used to be the manager of Academic Initiatives at the ICNC, which is the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict. He did publications, research, curriculum fellowships, online education and he helped co-lead regional institutes on strategic nonviolence in Nepal and Ukraine. He’s a faith-based activist and author of “Revelation and Revolution: Answering the Call to Radical Faithfulness” as well as “Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions; A Quaker Zionist Rethinks Palestinian Rights.” Welcome, Steve.
Steve: Thank you so much. It’s a great pleasure to be with you and Michael.
Stephanie: Steve, what is a Quaker Zionist? What does that mean?
Steve: As a teenager, I grew up thinking — I was very critical of Palestinian complaints. I was very supportive because of my concern about anti-Semitism and the whole of the Holocaust, and was very, very supportive of the State of Israel and its policies towards Palestinians. But progressive Jewish friends of mine pushed back and asked me to look more closely and think more critically about the nature of settler colonialism and apartheid.
Over a period of decades I went through a transformation in my outlook. And so, in that template, I was writing largely to Quakers about that journey, encouraging other folks to think critically about the current situation and really live up to our commitment to equality, social justice and human rights.
Stephanie: That’s a beautiful story. But that’s exactly the path, isn’t it? That we start off with one set of beliefs and ideas and then patient people work with us, and we help change the way that people think. And we have the capacity to start in one place and end up in another place in terms of our thinking for social justice work, which I think is important, that we don’t always all start off with an understanding of justice that includes everybody, and we learn to expand that.
Michael: Yeah, Steve, I just thought I’d share with you that I went through exactly the same trajectory. You know, having seen films on the Holocaust when I was in high school, being wildly enthusiastic in favor of the “Jewish homeland,” and then watching in horror as the thing kind of fell apart and became so violent. And that was a long time before I discovered Gandhi or anything.
So, I think the good thing about going through a trajectory like this, is that we have compassion for people who haven’t quite gone through it yet. Because yeah, we were there.
Katherine: I also started out as a kind of, you know, middle-class protestant person from the U.S. with a lot of white privilege. During grad school I was studying the Middle East and Peace and Conflict Resolution out at American University in Georgetown and went with the human rights delegation during the First Intifada to Palestinian. I kind of expected to see the two sides of the conflict in a war. And what I saw was just, you know, totally turned over my views: being on the ground and seeing children shot up by Israeli soldiers in Gaza, people tortured in hospitals, seeing churches attacked — I mean, it was a very traumatic, but very eye-opening experience. And like the rest of us, I think, have been involved and engaged in that issue ever since. I think it’s a critical one because it’s a role the U.S. plays with accepting this kind of support for the Israeli State.
Steve: In fact, Katherine’s master’s thesis was on the nonviolent resistance of the Palestinians in the First Intifada.
Stephanie: Now, it is 2021. We’re at the end of 2021 and your organization is “Solidarity 2020 and Beyond”. Katherine, maybe you can get us started. We all know a little bit about what happened in 2020, but tell us from your perspective why you want to co-found this organization, Solidarity 2020, and then how Beyond got added onto that.
Katherine: Yes, a great question, Stephanie. I was actually a Rotary Peace Fellow at their mid-career program in Thailand at Chulalongkorn University, from January to April 2020, right when COVID hit. And during my time there, I was also working with the Global Fund for Women as an expert in movements and social justice issues, as they were also changing their strategic planning and trying to focus more on supporting and being in solidarity with the movements versus just organizations.
And we started hearing a lot from activists around the world, many of whom I had worked with over 10, 15, 20 years and built a lot of trust with, both at ICNC, but also with Peace Brigades International, where we provided protective accompaniment for human rights defenders in at-risk areas around the world.
What they were calling for was basically saying many of us have been involved in movements and campaigns and regions across the world, and we’ve been doing okay. You know, we’ve been moving forward. We’ve been moving toward democracy. We’ve been mobilizing. But with COVID, it adds a whole other level of challenge. We ourselves are losing our jobs. We’re being locked down by authoritarian governments. We’re using this as an excuse. It’s a health issue, but they’re using it as an excuse to shut down our protests and our strikes and our movements. We ourselves are getting sick. Our families are dying. There’s a lot of other issues, like teen pregnancies, domestic violence, rapes going up in our communities.
And we don’t have the capacity to help bring together and convene across the world and across others that we might learn from and provide solidarity and support for because we’re right in the middle of this. And we’re just barely surviving now.
2020 was really important to the co-founder, Marita Rainbird from Finland and Vedran Obuncina from Croatia, the two other Rotary Peace Fellows who co-founded this. We saw it like Arundhati Roy did, as this portal, as this really critical time in human history where we were going to go through this and either learn from lessons and change some things on the other side, or we were going to just exacerbate and things were going to get worse.
We saw that as a critical tipping point as 2020 and the Beyond is — yes, we wanted to found a network (which has happened) and we wanted to build something that would last way beyond 2020, in this critical time. Basically, with all of these activists calling and contacting us and others, and asking for some critical support, we first did a mapping to make sure that nothing else existed that they were asking for, this large broad network of activists around the world in a number of different issue areas of movements. We found that we probably had the most contacts with over 100 movements or campaigns in at least 70-75 countries around the world.
Our Global Grassroots Activists Network, or GGAN, which drives our work, is about 150 leader activists who have already been trained in nonviolent action and are actually engaged in activities for change and justice in their communities. They represent a large number of people in addition to that around the world.
Basically, over a period of time, we had biweekly meetings with them. We did a lot of focus groups. We did a lot of requests and actions for brainstorming from them. They wanted to do presentations. They wanted to share challenges. They wanted to talk about strategy and action, and also how they could support each other with peer-to-peer exchange and over time, develop Solidarity 2020 and Beyond Network. We have a really great board that we call our organizing community with specialists around the world who could support journalists, psycho-social experts, and a lot of participatory research scholar activists.
Michael: Katherine, just to say that what you people are doing is something that I yearned for and called for years ago, and I’m just so utterly thrilled to see it actually coming into existence.
I was at a meeting some years ago now, which was leading up to the founding of Nonviolent Peaceforce. A lot of people from Peace Brigades International were there, including our friend, Yeshua Moser-Puangsuwan. You must know Yeshua. He said something quite startling at that meeting, which is kind of what I’m hearing happening right now. He said, “You people aren’t really starting an organization,” which we thought we were. He said, “You’re starting a movement.”
Katherine: Yeah. I was going to say, Nonviolent Peaceforce has really done amazing work, and as you said, it was a close ally of PBI. Over the years when I was working as the executive director for the U.S. for PBI, and as you said, it really became a movement around the world, working with human rights defenders, working for peaceful alternatives and ways to protect people that were at risk with these teams of activists and regular citizens from around the world.
I definitely agree with you. And, as you said, what we’re trying to do is to be driven by the grassroots activists, extremely flexible to respond to their needs, and not create an organization but realize there are amazing groups out there – Beautiful Trouble, ICNC, the Einstein Institute, Nonviolent Peaceforce, Metta Center, Waging Nonviolence, all the groups that are working on these issues. And African Youth Movement, Africans Rising – we’re very closely connected with them. And just trying to help bring groups together and find ways to do critical learning, research, and really spread the knowledge both to people that are doing the work on the ground as people learn from each other.
But also, for the vast majority of people in the world that are not directly involved, but may be very hopeless right now, letting them know these amazing things are happening, and these amazing courageous people are out there changing the world for the better. It’s not time to give up hope, but really to have a vision for a better future. And that is possible.
Stephanie: Katherine, let’s just help people better understand how they can get involved in your work. Say I’m an activist and there’s a struggle for children’s rights that I’m a part of. So, I would come to you and what would happen from there? I would tell you about what’s happening. I would say, “I can’t do this on my own.” I’m looking for what? I’m looking for examples of what other people are doing. I’m looking for other – what would you do when I come to you?
Katherine: Yeah, so basically we have this group that has been built and connected over time, and very careful with wanting to, you know, the buzzword, “Scale up,” but also being very cognizant that trust is the key factor here. And that there are very important confidentialities, security issues for many of these activists. And so, they’re very careful with who joins our core group and whom we engage with. Normally, those are groups that we or others have worked with that are recommendations or references or referrals that can have from the community, toward that, to ensure that it is a community-based action or campaign or movement. And that also there are groups that we can bring into the fold and really can be trusted.
We, in general, work with the global south. We are looking at a lot of ways to exchange with movements and campaigns in the global north because we see that Europe and the U.S. have so much – and Canada – that they can learn from other places. But at the time, there are so many more resources here than there are in other parts of the world. So, that’s sort of the first, in a way, stipulation or guideline. And then secondly, we would love to have people contact us. And that’s just Solidarity2020andBeyond@gmail.com. And they can go to our website which is the same. And just get in contact with us. Let us know what they’re doing, who they are, we’ll get connected. We have these OC members across the world, other people in the field across the world that can go out and meet with people, be in touch with people, and then get them involved in our meetings, our webinars, and the many activities and working groups that we’re building.
Stephanie: That sounds really incredible. I want to bring in Steve Chase. Steve, can you tell us a little bit about these webinars that are taking place? I’ve seen that you’ve collaborated with Waging Nonviolence on those. From the digital strategies perspective, what are you doing with those webinars, and what are people learning?
Steve: Well, thanks for that question. I guess I would just like to back up one second about why I joined this initiative this summer is that I had an experience when I was 15 years old of being recruited into Solidarity Support Network, a multi-issue activist all over the country, committing to strategic nonviolent action, a profound decentralization of power and grassroots democracy, a focus on anti-racism, feminism. And it was called Movement from your Society.
And so, I have this experiential base of the power of solidarity networks that are multi-issue and crossing a lot of geography. We focused on things like providing resources, small grants, emergency grants. There was an emphasis on how to do personal maturity and self-care and growth, a focus on researching what different people are doing. There was also a lot of focus on convening and practicing in the networks, training and skill building were all part of being – part of this national network.
And so, for me, the kinds of things that Solidarity 2020 and Beyond is doing on a global scale, with people who are embedded in various local movements. And so, it has this ripple effect beyond just the people who are directly involved. But the people, since they’re embedded in the movement for the campaign, it has a ripple effect. So, I was primed for just knowing the importance of this. And so, that’s my personal excitement about being a part of this initiative.
Now, to your question about webinars, one of the things that global activists have asked for is, one, the chances to learn from each other. But also to amplify what they’re doing and what’s going on to a wider audience around the world. And the webinar, in a particular way, to do that, that people have gotten fairly used to because of the pandemic, as a way of convening an education, but it has value in terms of being able to have broad geographic reach.
And so, one example of using the wisdom of the global south to help global north activists think through some things is around the last election. When there was so much organizing and doing trainings around the country in the U.S. about how to deal with a potential coup, we gathered people from around the world who have dealt with coups, many of them successfully and tell their experiences. And then we really pushed for the U.S. audience thinking this would really help people think through what some of the challenges are.
Other things we’ve done recently is we did one on building people power encountering violence in Afghanistan. And that had various people – because there’s very structural things going on. There’s critiques of U.S. imperialism and what happened there. But we also wanted to put the focus on what can people do in really difficult situations to have agency. And so, we had Afghan activists and others talking about that.
The next one we had in late October, we called it, “Acting in good faith.” Look at the intersection of religion, peacebuilding, and nonviolent action from different people around the world, and thinking through that. We will be partnering with a group to do one on Palestinian rights, coming in early December. And then December 21st, based on a short book that I’ve just written for ICNC Press, on the impact of agent provocateurs on movements, the negative impact and what we can learn about what they do to avoid agent provocateurs like-behavior by sincere but sort of misguided and unstrategic activists.
So, we’re going to have people from around the world talking about how they’ve seen agent provocateurs working in their movements and being disruptive and what have people come up with to inoculate their movements and campaigns from that kind of negative influence to increase their chances of success.
So, it’s a wide diversity. We seek to have one to two a month, with different grassroots people, activists from around the world to just have that sort of – a global sense of things, but also tied to really rooted campaigns at people’s location.
Stephanie: Well, it sounds like such a wonderful service that you are able to provide, bringing people together, building trust, answering questions that activists around the world all share, different experiences. It sounds like a wonderful network that you have helped put together.
And Katherine, I want to turn back to as we’re wrapping up here a bit, about the commitment to nonviolence in the organization because, you know, activists around the world aren’t necessarily all committed to nonviolence, but it seems to be a specific part of your work in Solidarity 2020 and Beyond and I wonder if you could speak to that, how you look at nonviolence in the work that you’re doing.
Katherine: Certainly. Basically, what we’ve found, you know, nonviolence has obviously been studied by many people and given amazing examples, you know, with Gandhi in South Africa and Martin Luther King and others. But what we’ve found over the last maybe 10-20 years of a lot of academic research and some participatory research in the field, is that people using nonviolent strategic action and really understanding it and having the skills and the tools and analysis to wage it for justice and peace are at least – it’s about twice as effective with campaigns and less costly for them. And it actually takes less time to meet their objectives than any kind of armed struggle or violence.
And on top of that, the work by Erica Chenoweth, Maria Stephan, Jonathan Pinckney – there are many, many in the field that are working on this, including many from ICNC and the Einstein Center. Gene Sharp is a real leader in this field – has basically shown that on top of that, for those that actually are successful, up to 52 percent of the last 100 years of all the really tough movements and struggles, of those, you know, about 6 percent of the armed struggle success actually lead to democracy. About 94 percent lead to coups, new authoritarian dictators, genocide, civil wars.
And in the case of nonviolent action and nonviolent movements, of those 52 percent or so that were successful over this large period of time, about 55-65 percent, depending on which study you look at, actually lead to more open democratic society within a few years. And so, people that I work with all over in the field, I always say, “That we’re not going to judge their way of struggle or the movements that they’re leading, or the decisions that they make. We are not there, and we can’t make those decisions.” But when they look at other case studies, their own experience and their own situations and civil wars and what their parents have dealt with – let’s say a lot in Africa or Asia – they themselves really realize how effective and how important nonviolent struggle can be and how it’s much more likely to lead to these more horizontal, open societies in which people of all types – inclusion, diversity, are involved.
And again, it’s not necessarily our kind of democracy, but cultural norms that fit within their societies and have to be driven locally. And so, we feel an important connection to the idea of nonviolence and living a nonviolent life in a principled way, but also the strategic part of nonviolent action and how important that is to movements all over the world when you’re fighting huge powers with lots of violence and military, that you’re going to be much more effective if you can build the numbers and mobilize people from all different parts of life – women, children, people with disabilities, older, younger, all different kinds of ethnicities and races. And if you can build a movement together, you’re going to be a lot more effective at having a better community and a better future with less violence.
You know, Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” at some point, and I believe that’s our commitment and the people that we’re working with, that’s how they very much see it as well.
Stephanie: Your expertise just really comes through, and it’s beautiful to hear what you’re doing and to meet you. So, thank you so much for joining us today on Nonviolence Radio. Steve, do you have any last words as well, about the role of nonviolence in the work that you’re doing?
Steve: Well, I come from a peace church background since I was a teenager and became a Quaker. But one thing that I’ve discovered is my own evolution, is that not all pacifists – in fact, the majority of pacifists don’t engage in nonviolent movements. And the majority of people who do engage in nonviolent resistance aren’t pacifists. But for many people, even if they’re not pacifists, they have a moral preference that if you can get to a goal of justice and freedom and human rights without causing massive suffering, that would be better.
But I’ve also – since I was in my late teens, started reading Gene Sharp because of my involvement with Movement for a New Society and other studies I’ve done, I totally agree with Katherine that the argument about strategic effectiveness, we really want to win. We don’t want to just sort of witness. We want a different world. We want to move towards it through collective action that’s strategic and powerful. And for me, that deepens and deepens the commitment to figuring out a really smart strategy that’s using the tools of nonviolent resistance in an incredibly effective way.
Stephanie: Yeah. Well, we look forward to having you all back on the show and any that we can be of support to Solidarity 2020 and Beyond, please count us in.
Katherine: Thank you so much, Stephanie and Michael. Really enjoyed it. Really appreciate your work over the years.
Steve: Thank you so much. Thank you for your work.
Stephanie: Yes. We’ll be in touch. We were just speaking with Katherine Hughes-Fraitekh and Steve Chase. Katherine Hughes-Fraitekh is one of three cofounders and Steve Chase is the assistant director of an organization called Solidarity 2020 and Beyond. You can find out more about their work at Solidarity2020andBeyond.org. And this interview will be transcribed and archived later at Waging Nonviolence.
We have with us next on the show Mubarak Elamin. He is a Sudanese activist in the U.S. He was the chair of One America, which is an organization founded by Pramila Jayapal. It’s one of the largest immigrant and refugee advocacy organizations in Washington State. Welcome to show, Mubarak.
Mubarak: Thank you for having me. I’m so honored to speak on your show and speak to your audience.
Stephanie: Well, we had you on the show a couple years ago because of the revolution and the movement in Sudan. And now you’re back. Let’s talk about the movement in Sudan today. You know, we discussed having this interview back in October, so a lot has changed every single day in Sudan since then. And maybe it would be wonderful to get us started by catching up our audience of what is the situation now in September, October, November in Sudan and what are people facing?
Mubarak: Yes. The last time we spoke we were really kind of celebrating the new Sudan, you know, coming out of 30 years of autocracy and ruled by the most vicious and brutal regime of al-Bashir. It was ruled by al-Bashir for 30 years. And we were celebrating, at that time, the coming together of two institutions coming together. The military and the alliance of the – between the military and the civilians to form a transitional government. And also to transition to democracy in 2023, you know, kind of an electorate government in 2023.
And then since that time, a lot happened. And fast-forward, coming to the current events that are happening in Sudan, just basically that alliance collapsed. The military staged a coup on October 25 and basically, they dissolved the government, and also they dissolved the civilian government and detained the prime minister and several of his cabinet members.
And basically what happened is really kind of a betrayal – a betrayal to the agreement between the military and the civilians, just to kind of guide the country and move it towards a democratically elected government.
Now what is happening today is really a very tough situation. Specifically, the pro-democracy peaceful protestors are facing bullets and really being killed and also detained. Several people – I mean dozens of people were killed and hundreds of people were injured and also detained. So, this is a really kind of a grim picture of what is happening today.
Michael: Yeah. Last I read, Mubarak, it was like almost 40 people who lost their lives protesting. I’m going to ask you a question which I wish I were in a position to ask them. And that is, what techniques or what actions do you see going forward beyond protest? Protest, as we all know, is a good beginning. It gets people together. It gives us courage. Then we need a program. So, what do you see there?
Mubarak: We’re actually learning from the streets of Sudan. It’s amazing, the creativity and how people are committed to – first, they’re committed to nonviolence and peaceful protest – peaceful actions. And the second thing they are doing also, organizing. And the third thing they are doing is also being really media savvy.
So, now some of the techniques, some of the things that they are doing today are primarily around, you know, the protest, barricades, and civil disobedience. You know, strikes, things like that. Those are very much the traditional way. But they’re also doing a lot of the work on the media side because, as you know, the first thing that the generals did, they turned off the internet.
Now, the Sudanese in the diaspora under alliances and their friends, they start really working from the outside to make sure that is – whatever avenues they found, to make sure that the messages go out and people know what’s happening in Sudan. And just to make sure that the world is watching.
Now, from the inside, people are also thinking about, you know, things like some of the leaders, maybe they go into hunger strikes and also putting a lot more force into specific times of the day. I mean just learning from different groups around the world, maybe just going out at a certain time at night in the neighborhood and just, you know, banging drums or whatever. Just to make sound that we are in – we’re all protesting. We’re all in this together.
The other things that are being introduced in some way, there are so many groups within the security forces. I would say, specifically, if you’re talking about the military or any of that, people are still hopeful that some people will actually come in solidarity with the civilians and come in solidarity with the streets.
And traditionally, that happened. In Sudan, there were like three revolutions in the past. In 1964, in 1985, and the recent one in 2019. People saw it actually, you know, like some elements from the military in the situations came out in support of the people. And that made some success in making a transition to civilian government. But those democracies didn’t live really long. You know, in 1985 it was only like for four or five years. In ’64 as well. And also in 1969 was another general taking over. Things like that.
So, they’re also looking for solidarity from the international community. Like, you know, maybe some groups going into Sudan in solidarity to make sure that civilian casualties will be reduced and not these large numbers. Where a lot of youth are actually dying today because they’re so committed, so willing to die to bring about a democratically elected government.
Stephanie: Yeah. That was something that I noticed, Mubarak, in many of the articles about Sudan, interviewing people within the country, was this discussion that people were saying that they were willing to die for this or even in the kinds of actions people were taking. You know, they’re facing down a military. The military has guns. They’re going to crowd the military headquarters. To me, that seems like a tinderbox. You know, you’re just waiting for the match to be lit on that. Talk about the escalation of these techniques and what are people saying inside of Sudan that helps us to better understand why people would be willing to die for this.
Mubarak: So, this is a really good question, Stephanie. Because Sudan has been ruled by military generals for not less than 40-some years – it’s more than that actually. It’s almost like 60 years. The thing is, people are already fed up with the military. They know they’ve been living in a rut for so long. And they also saw what the military delivers to them. They deliver corruption. They deliver hunger. They deliver brutality. They deliver lack of freedom. They deliver, really, all of the bad things.
Nothing they do is for the benefit of the people or improves their livelihood. And this young generation, that mostly were born within this last military regime, they were mostly either under 30 or so. And there’s 47 percent of the total population of Sudan, probably under the age of 30 years old. I mean between 15 and 30 years, probably about roughly 47 percent.
If you look at that, these people grow up within the military, you know, confinement during that time. And they also saw what the military delivers, as I said. And now they are just not willing to spend the rest of their lives doing that again. And they’re willing to die for their freedom. They’re willing to die for justice. They’re willing to die to bring about some prosperity for their country.
And the thing that is also being observed is just the level of consciousness, the level of – I don’t want to call it education, but really kind of knowledge about what makes sense in this 21st century — where are we going? What are we doing? And how do we live our lives? And what is important?
And they just demonstrate that day in and day out. They’re speaking about, “We’re not out for bread. We’re not out for lower prices of gas. We’re out for our own freedom and to bring about some other high-level values to our life and to our people.” And they’re so determined to do that. So, it’s just really like when you see these, read these stories, it’s just heartfelt. The stories that all of these kids – I will call them, really, like you know, they were heroes and warriors in a way or the other. And they’re calling for – just the way they are doing it, in a very peaceful way.
They’re not willing to – you know, Sudan is really – you can ignite it with, as you said, like if you just drop a match there, that whole country can actually get into a conflict, and it’s easy to find arms, and it’s easy to get into violence. But these young women and men are willing to still their hand and open their chest, and just not willing to get into – not to exchange in violence and also protest peacefully. So, that’s really the amazing part about this whole thing.
Michael: Yeah. First of all, I wanted to say, Mubarak, it’s extremely encouraging to hear this because we know from history that movements that have used violence to gain their ends end up having a violent regime. That seems to be an inescapable law. So, the commitment to peace and nonviolence at this time, at this stage of the movement, is quite critical.
But about thing that history shows as critical, is planning – okay, what will we do when we win? And that has to be organized and in place and ready to move or else the chaos can be extremely dangerous, even if there’s a successful overthrow. Now, you did say something about that, Mubarak. I’d like to draw you a little more on what kind of planning is being thought through here.
Mubarak: Yeah. So, that’s an interesting side of this whole story because you are right. In the beginning, when you’re looking at the history of this movement and this revolution, which started back in 2018, December of 2018. And for all of the people that have studied this revolution, they were kind of amazed that this revolution started really kind of organically. Like just something that, you know, sparked in one city and then moved – the anger moved to the capital. And now the whole country at the same time just moved against al-Bashir.
And if you look back at this, like there weren’t any plans for what is next. Just the first plan was, “Okay, we want this tyrant down. We want to bring this tyrant down.” And that’s the chant that united all of them. Like, you know, which is called in Arabic [Arabic] which is like, you know, “Just fall. Just fall. We’re going to make you fall.” And that’s the chant. And that’s united everyone.
So, it’s easy to unite people around one thing. But now, if you move too fast to form a future plan. It’s also, you know, the differences that come about. Some groups want this. Some other groups want this. Then it becomes a lot more into a political disarray in that sense. So, there is definitely the future plans. And now, how far can you take that? Because a lot of people – you know, were talking during the revolution, “Let’s make a plan for what is next. And then let’s talk about that. Who is going to – what form of government are we going to have? How do we do that?” And all of these kind of things.
So, then people get caught into technicalities. This is not to say that it shouldn’t be done, but it should be done in a very intelligent way, very methodical, in some sense. How you strike that balance is very important. So, this is what we learned from this particular revolution. We need a plan. But at the same time, it has to be very — you know, it cannot open any ways for the divide between people or between different groups.
Stephanie: You know, there’s this excellent piece in Al Jazeera by Kholood Khair. She’s a managing partner of Insight Strategies and – a think tank based in Khartoum. And she really describes, you know, for both of you, that the way that she’s saying it is that, “The movement not only knows what it doesn’t want, it knows what it does want, which is a full civilian government.” And then she explains three reasons why. Because people are, as Mubarak, you were saying, are entirely in solidarity around this. There’s no question. There’s no collaboration, there’s no cooperation with the coup government, right? And people see that the transitional government model was on shaky ground and that they really are ready for something new. And they see the power and the impact that they’re having.
Mubarak, what do you think that the role of the Sudanese diasporic community can be right now, and how can people support the movement in Sudan and get involved?
Mubarak: I think those in the diaspora have a bigger role to play right now. People inside Sudan are doing the work in facing the military head-on, but the Sudanese in the diaspora are doing a lot of the fundraising to help the fallen people and also their families and all of those kind of things.
At the same time, they’re also reaching out to their members of, you know, in the house to make sure that they are aware of what is happening in Sudan and also supporting that. And reaching out to some of the media outlets to make sure the people keep Sudan in the front of their front pages and also inform the public about what is happening is Sudan. Because that’s how we pressure the generals not to commit more crimes against their own people. Those are the kind of things that the Sudanese in the diaspora are doing.
But if you also ask me about what we want the international community to do, I will say really just keep an eye on Sudan and also for all of the media outlets, really kind of just to stay on top of what is happening in Sudan. There’s a lot of good stories that are going to come out, but not without a lot of sacrifices and the Sudanese people are willing to do that. But they want to also contribute to something to the international community and to showcase that.
Stephanie: Thank you so much for joining us, Mubarak Elamin, here on Nonviolence Radio. And we are here to cheer you on and to support in any way possible.
Mubarak: Thank you so much for having me.
You are at Nonviolence Radio. I’m Stephanie Van Hook and I am here in the studio with Michael Nagler. Michael, please tell us a little bit about what’s happening in nonviolence around the world and your nonviolence report.
Michael: Thank you, Stephanie. Sure, don’t mind if I do. Listening to Katherine and Steve, I was reminded that what they seem to be doing is filling in a gap which I have always felt was the critical missing element in the development of nonviolence worldwide. Well, maybe it’s kind of a double element. On one hand, we need a supra-originate organization that embraces others, which are mainly just movement organizations.
But more importantly even than that, we need to do some learning. And we need to get the knowledge that, for example, Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan promote out into the wider world. You know, beyond the choir. And what I really hold out for is an awareness that the difference between strategic and principled nonviolence is not just one in tactics, but that principled nonviolence entails an entirely different vibe, if you will, or consciousness or concept of what is a human being and how we are related to one another.
So, that said, there is kind of a theme that I seem to be observing in nonviolent activities around the world. It might just be me. It might just be the way my antennae were tuned, but it seems to me that an awful lot of strengthening is going into that learning component. For example, at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, there’s now a Master’s degree in sustainable peacebuilding. And they’re, naturally, accepting applications right now for the fall semester. So, sustainable peacebuilding, ultimately in my view – or our view here at Metta – has to be founded on the bedrock of nonviolence. I’m not sure how much of that comes into the program at UW Milwaukee, but it is so refreshing for me because there was just almost nowhere you could turn to learn about this vast alternative, which is far more positive and effective and elevating of the human spirit than the usual violent techniques. There was no place to learn it. I used to say in my more, if not cynical, flippant moments, I used to say, “Bank robbers do more touching base and looking at what strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures than peace movements were doing.” But that is ending.
So, for one example is that master’s degree at UW Milwaukee. And there have been about 200+ undergraduate degrees, and I’m very happy to see the master’s degrees and the graduate degrees are coming online.
And also, we’re always happy to talk about the global nonviolent action database at Swarthmore College, which we celebrated a while back because it passed the 1000 mark. They’re now up to 1400 examples of major nonviolent campaigns that have taken place around the world and a systematic way of organizing them. And what an incredible learning resource that is.
Well, similarly, there’s a website that is coming up pretty soon from a research network that deals with this. It’s called, “Creating Safer Space.” So, they will be happy to publish contributions in their working paper series which are focused on unarmed civilian peacekeeping, which we always like to promote here at Nonviolence Radio. And this will be available as a free download for the Creating Safer Space website. It’s still under construction, but it will probably go up soon. Creating-safer-space.com.
So, this is an international research and impact collaboration. And one of their aims is to understand and to support unarmed civilian protection and self-protection amidst violent conflict. So, they support research. They explore how violence against civilians can be deterred or prevented by civilians.
I just want to through in the idea here that it’s certainly true that violence against civilians is particularly grievous and offensive form – it could be violence in any direction against anyone that really has to be addressed. So, they have a coordinating project space in Colombia, Indonesia, Kenya, Myanmar, and so on and so forth.
There’s a new organization called Regeneration.org and that the Institute of Economics and Peace at Oxford has launched a historic peace index which will be super helpful along with the Swathmore GNAD.
Stephanie: Thanks so much, Michael Nagler for that brief report.
We want to thank our mother station, KWMR, to you our listeners. Want to thank Matt Watrous who is going to transcribe the show. Bryan Farrell, who helps put it up at Waging Nonviolence. Annie Hewitt, who does some editing on our transcript, thank you so much. And to everyone out there, until the next time, please take care of one another.