Article about Gene Sharp and Nonviolence in the New York Times

The element of President Obama's recent speech about regime change in Egypt that enthused me the most was the stress he laid on the power of nonviolence in bringing about peaceful revolution.
The credit for the nonviolence in Cairo's Liberation Square and elsewhere in the country is entirely due to the the intelligence and bravery of the Egyptian people involved in organising and assisting at the demonstrations, but a February 16th article article in the New York Times shows the influence that Gene Sharp has had, over the years, among people who search for nonviolent ways of overthrowing dictatorial regimes. It is titled Shy U.S. Intellectual Created Playbook Used in a Revolution
You can find Sharp's books, including his major work, FROM DICTATORSHIP TO DEMOCRACY, freely available, in many languages, at his organization's website:
Below are some excerpts from the NY Times article by Sheryl Gay Stolberg.
BOSTON — Halfway around the world from Tahrir Square in Cairo, an aging American intellectual shuffles about his cluttered brick row house in a working-class neighborhood here. His name is Gene Sharp. Stoop-shouldered and white-haired at 83, he grows orchids, has yet to master the Internet and hardly seems like a dangerous man.
But for the world’s despots, his ideas can be fatal.
Few Americans have heard of Mr. Sharp. But for decades, his practical writings on nonviolent revolution — most notably “From Dictatorship to Democracy,” a 93-page guide to toppling autocrats, available for download in 24 languages — have inspired dissidents around the world, including in Burma, Bosnia, Estonia and Zimbabwe, and now Tunisia andEgypt.
When Egypt’s April 6 Youth Movement was struggling to recover from a failed effort in 2005, its leaders tossed around “crazy ideas” about bringing down the government, said Ahmed Maher, a leading strategist. They stumbled on Mr. Sharp while examining the Serbian movement Otpor, which he had influenced.
When the nonpartisan International Center on Nonviolent Conflict, which trains democracy activists, slipped into Cairo several years ago to conduct a workshop, among the papers it distributed was Mr. Sharp’s “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action,” a list of tactics that range from hunger strikes to “protest disrobing” to “disclosing identities of secret agents.”...
He has been watching events in Cairo unfold on CNN from his modest house in East Boston, which he bought in 1968 for $150 plus back taxes...

Read the rest of the article on the New York Times website.

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Tags: Nonviolence


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Comment by John Gaynard on February 18, 2011 at 5:02pm


I agree with you entirely.  

I hope that after what has been happening in Egypt the people who were there, on the ground, will share what they learned and theorise it so that it will become teachable to other peoples who wish to benefit from their experience. 

Comment by Sahar Taman on February 18, 2011 at 4:23pm

Dear John,


I read the NYTimes article and sent it to friends on the ground in Egypt who were at Tahrir Square the entire length of the uprisings.  They are conflict resolution professionals and scholars who know and admire the work of Gene Sharp.  They, and I, also know some of the young people in the April 6th and Kefiyah Movement.  While we heard great ideas, there was no mention of the work of Gene Sharp on the ground or on Facebook.  My Facebook pages are in English, Arabic (and Egyptian transliteration), French and German.  No mention at all.

With all due respect to the wisdom and greatness of Western scholars and thinkers, we can not attribute Egypt's nonviolent uprising except to the people of Egypt, as diverse as they are. 


It is important to understand that laying credit to Westerners is a long time habit which undermines the originality and ideas of the people of the Orient, in this case, the Egyptians and Arabs.


Thank you.

Comment by Fatmata Samura on February 18, 2011 at 12:38pm
this must be a wonderful piece. cant wait to read this. im gonna go for it now.

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