January 19th, 2012
As Tunisians gather to celebrate the first anniversary of their peaceful revolution and the ousting of President Ben Ali on January 14th 2011, the Foundation for the Future is seizing this opportunity to hold this important and timely regional conference on “Violence and Non-Violence in the Arab Spring”. It is an occasion to bring together prominent thinkers, experts and practitioners from the region to discuss and exchange views on the subject in the theoretical perspective and present live examples from a number of countries in the region.
For its erroneous understanding as an expression of concession or surrender, such a topic has not yet drawn particular attention in the Arab World, even though the issue of peaceful transition is essential to ensure the respect of Human Rights and pave the way to a democratic future for the region. It is, therefore, timely to examine the current events storming the region and analyze motives for nonviolent protests and uprising taking place, and the bellicose response by the governments.
It is just over a year since the sparkle of “Arab Spring” was ignited in Tunisia when a young educated, yet unemployed, fruit vendor burned himself to death as a strong form of protest out of despair. In less than a year similar protests started rolling through the Arab region as we are witnessing the spectacular wave from Tunisia to Egypt, Libya and other Arab countries in the region with drastic political changes and reform unfolding throughout this region.
The Foundation for the Future organized a conference entitled “Violence and Non-Violence in the Arab Spring” on January 17th, 2012. It gathered approximately seventy experts, thinkers and practitioners from the region, of whom four presented the theory surrounding political non-violence and provided study cases from their respective countries of Tunisia, Lebanon, Yemen and Palestine. The discussions underlined existing gap between non-violence as a theory with its acceptance and implementation in the Arab region and worldwide.
In her introduction to the subject, Dr. Ogarit Younan stated that violence is, since childhood, present in the everyday life of people in the Arab region and that education and politics need to start reversing the trend by promoting and fostering non-violence. Indeed, she claims that means and goals have to be similar i.e. peace can be achieved by peaceful means. She named prominent activists and thinkers of non-violence theory including Gandhi who freed India from the colonialists in an entirely peaceful manner.
Most speakers argued that resorting violence as a means is much easier and may produce faster outcomes than non-violence. Dr. Kallab further claimed that the voice of violence is stronger and easier to follow than peaceful resolution of issues. The use of non-violence is indeed exceptionally rare in history compared to the use of violence and other means unleashing one’s frustration and hatred towards others.
It appeared from this conference that non-violence is unfortunately not necessarily perceived by people as a way out of a political dead-end. The idea of non-violence also comprises a number of concepts and issues that are unknown or overlooked. Yet, as underlined by Dr. Al-Kilani from Palestine, “the courage required by non-violence and activism is real and it represents an act of persistence”. The Foundation for the Future is pleased to have witnessed so much enthusiasm during the meeting on a topic it perceives as particularly central and core for a stable and democratic future in the region.
The Foundation for the Future organized this conference with the aim to contribute towards establishing a broad association of nonviolence in the region and facilitate networking among respective civil society organizations in the field of nonviolent culture, especially among youth, and encourage communication and cooperation between them. The subject of this one-day conference consequently presented non-violence theories, the concept of non-violent struggle and peaceful revolution, with emphasis on the respect of Human Rights. Practical examples and case studies—from Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Yemen and Tunisia was presented and analyzed in two panels. Experts further looked into the culture of violence and non-violence in the region in general and in the course of this past year’s events in particular in an attempt to correct the lack of literature on the topic. They seek to address reasons for the difference in the unfolding of each country’s transition. They provided the keys to spreading and enhancing peaceful struggle.
The Foundation for the Future is an independent, multi-lateral and not for profit organization, created in 2005 and fully committed to promoting democracy, Human Rights, the Rule of Law and reforms through supporting Civil Society Organizations’ (CSOs) relevant initiatives in the Middle East and North African (MENA) region at large (also known as the Broader Middle East and North Africa, BMENA).
By organizing this important conference, the Foundation for the Future is assuring its continued support to the democratic change in the region with the importance of peaceful approach towards change that should be durable and more pragmatic.
President Nabila Hamza Speech
Dr. Ogarit Younan Presentation
Dr. Sami Al Kilani Presentation
Mr. FAdi Abi Allam Presentation
Mr. Maher Al Sahli Presentation
Conference Report (Arabic)
Conference Report (English)
Media Coverage on Non Violence Conference.pdf