Observing the excessive praise for social networking and its use throughout the Egyptian revolution over the past weeks, it’s time we asked an important question: Considering the poverty and illiteracy in Egypt, how many people have the privilege to not only own a computer but also access to the internet, a registered Facebook account and the knowledge to administer and run a “campaign” on Facebook?
Without discrediting the Egyptian effort, it’s apparent that rather than being a spontaneous outburst, this Facebook/Twitter revolution was indeed a carefully managed effort targeted to overthrow Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
As it turns out the Egyptians received vital support from the oddest of places, places not necessarily endowed with democratic credentials namely Serbia. It was during the summer of 2009 that Mohamed Adel, a 20-year-old blogger and April 6th activist visited Belgrade. During his visit Mohamed and other fellow Egyptian youth leaders would acquire and lay the foundations of the Egyptian revolution.
Mohamed and his fellow friends were taught the fundamentals of non-violent resistance at the Center for Applied Non-Violent Action and Strategies (CANVAS). In addition the Egyptian entourage learned how to translate “internetworking” into street protests, mobilizing as many people as possible. This democratic boot camp was led by veterans of the Otpor movement. The Otpor movement gained fame in 2000 as it took on and managed to topple the Slobodan Milosevic regime, peacefully.
Otpor’s belief is and has been that the opposition to despotic governments must be home grown and must most importantly be non-violent in nature. This is exemplified in Otpor’s pillar structure, which stresses the need to dissect the regimes power into its individual pillars (e.g. media, military, etc.) and to individually disintegrate these via non-violent means such as persuasion and media/civic pressure. Otpor furthermore often opts for humor as a method with which to peacefully confront despotic regimes. As one can notice all these notions are clearly influenced by the works of political scientist Gene Sharp, who has written extensively about nonviolent struggle and civil disobedience.
As a result Otpor’s stark logo of a clenched black fist was found amongst the banners circulating Tahrir square and other protests in Egypt. The April 6th activism website built heavily on the expertise of Otpor’s CANVAS center. The CANVAS center has supported numerous activists around the world including groups from Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan or Lebanon. Egypt however has proven to be Otpor’s most successful project.
Of course, Otpor’s involvement shouldn’t be exaggerated. The Tunisian revolution was the clear precursor for the Egyptian masses. Nevertheless Otpor’s non-violent doctrine has been crucial to Egypt’s success in toppling Hosni Mubarak.