ikkevold (Nonviolence)

PhD Craig Brown at the Litterature-house in Oslo

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Obituary; Gene Sharp has left us

Just a week after his 90th birthday Gene Sharp passed away.

The journal New Statesman once described Gene Sharp as the “Machiavelli of Nonviolence” and Thomas Weber labelled him “the Clausewitz of Nonviolent Action.” Who was this man and what is his contribution to our understanding of the possibilities to use nonviolent actions in large scale societal conflicts?

Gene Sharp completed his baccalaureate in 1949, just a few scant years after the close of World War II, and quickly turned his attention to the study of nonviolence. After serving nine months in prison for being a conscientious objector to the Korean War, Sharp secretaried for A.J. Muste. He next joined the editorial team of Peace News in London before accepting an invitation from Arne Næss to join him in Oslo with Johan Galtung and others to study the philosophy and practice of Mohandas Gandhi. Throughout this time, Sharp exchanged letters with Albert Einstein, deepening his understanding of and commitment to nonviolence.

While in Oslo, Sharp devoted much time to interviewing teachers who resisted the Quisling government during the Nazi occupation of Norway. Through these interviews, Sharp began to formulate the ideas that would come to constitute his major contribution to nonviolence theory. Moving away from a strictly philosophical, moral, or spiritual nonviolence in the vein of Gandhi, Sharp turned instead to a pragmatic nonviolence. The rest of his life would be spent delineating and analyzing the practical tools of effective nonviolent action.

After his years in Oslo, Sharp pursued his PhD at Oxford University. In 1968 he defended his thesis, The Politics of Nonviolent Action: A study in the control of political power. He continued to develop his thesis work and five years later Porter Sargent published his monumental The Politics of Nonviolent Action, from which “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action” is taken. This book from 1973 has been called “the bible for nonviolent activists” and is still in print nearly 50 years later. Through this and myriad other writings, Sharp contended against a normative approach to nonviolence, where the practice of nonviolence is formulated as a spiritual directive. Nonviolent action need have no moral impetus to be effective; nonviolent actions may be pursued on a purely practical basis on the ground that they are simply the most effective tools available to social and political movements. Indeed, much research by Sharp and others has shown that in the long term nonviolent revolutionary achievements are far more permanent than those fought with kalashnikovs and guerrilla warfare.

Taking this a step further, Sharp maintained that nonviolence could not only resist and overthrow dictatorships or occupations, but could effectively replace all militaries. By thoroughly training the civilian populace in nonviolent strategies and tactics, a nation could make itself ungovernable at will. If such a nation were to be invaded, it could never be subjugated. Those in powerful positions can punish but not force individuals to follow their orders without a certain level of cooperation. As history has shown, people practicing total noncooperation will only serve to drag down their oppressor. The burden of an inoperative state outweighs the benefits of its occupation.

This part of the heritage from Sharp is less known and accepted than his works on nonviolent actions by actors outside the state. Sharp worked hard to convince politicians around the world of his position. Despite some positive feedback from Sweden, Norway and the Baltic states, however, the discussions never moved from the fringe to the central political agenda in any country. The main argument against a national, civilian-based defense might be that such an “army” could also be used against its own state. Does the government trust its own people enough to enable their use of nonviolent actions on a massive scale? Many doubt that they could! We may hope, however, that these ideas came at the wrong time in history and that future discussions will give them the credit they deserve. The revitalization of research on nonviolent actions after the so-called “Arab Spring” might make such discussions possible.

Though he may not have convinced governments to adopt nonviolent training, it is clear that grassroots political and social movements have taken up Sharp’s writings with a passion. The last fifty years has seen the steady spread of Sharp’s fingerprint in movements around the world. When Gandhi and his movement liberated India from the British colonizers in 1947, their use of nonviolent actions was an exception among revolutionary groups. An important shift in strategy took place in the late seventies and early eighties, however. When the Shah was forced to leave Iran in 1979 and Solidarity organized the workers in Poland in 1980, we saw some exiting examples of movements that based their struggle on nonviolent strategies and tactics. To what degree these movements were familiar with the works of Gene Sharp we do not know. What is clear, however, is that revolutionary movements in the next four decades adopted a broad and ever-broadening range of nonviolent actions and strategies—those same strategies Sharp had been elucidating.

Later, when several of Sharp’s key works were translated into dozens of languages, his ideas indisputibly inspired thousands of suppressed people searching for ways to fight for their freedom, rights, and for democracy. The removal of president Marcos in the Philippines in 1986, the liberation of Eastern Europe and dismantling of the Soviet Union after 1989, the first Intifada in Palestine in 1990-91, the Colored Revolutions following the fall of Milosevic in Serbia in 2000, and the uprising in the MENA region from 2011 onwards all evidenced deep understanding of practical nonviolent revolution. Journalists, activists, academics, and politicians then found a new interest in these fascinating regime changes and their theoretical sources. For each and all of them the works of Gene Sharp now became obligatory—and enlightening—reading.

When Sharp began his study, peace research was a small, odd branch on the academic oak. A hardly visible twig on that branch focused on nonviolence. Seventy years later the field has expanded to be a significant part of several academic disciplines. It has also moved beyond the university campus, reaching suppressed people around the world and turning theoretical ideas into practical tools for social movements. Sharp’s lifelong research and voluminous writings have played a crucial role in this development.

When, at the age of 84, Sharp received the 2012 Right Livelihood Award, he humbly played-down his role as a source of inspiration for the twentieth century’s swell—and the twenty-first century’s tsunami—of unarmed revolutions and social movements. He did note, however, that for the first time in his entire life he found himself interviewed by journalists who at least understood what is was that he was talking about.

His contribution to the field of nonviolent actions will for ever be seen as the equivalent to the first humans landing on the moon. A majority of present researchers in the field of nonviolence have benefited enormously by building on the works and theories published by Gene. Many of us have now lost a friend and many more lost an importtant source of inspiration.

SYRIA, past, present, and future

Eyewitness to the liberation of Aleppo
Thoughts on Peace in Syria

Jan Øberg, director of TFF – Transnational Foundation

Litteraturhuset fredag 21 april 18:00 – 21:00
Jørgen Johansen fra FMK vil lede den etterfølgende debatt.

Jan Öberg and TFF have worked in several international conflict regions such as Yugoslavia, Georgie, Burundi, Iraq and now Iran and Syria.

Jan Öberg was one of the very few Westerners present on the ground when Aleppo was liberated in mid-December last year. He could speak freely with people who came out of the 4,5 years of occupation and has reported by analyses and photo stories of people and places.

Öberg will talk about examples of the conflicts underlying the violence and offer alternatives to the Western mainstream reporting which he argues is deceptive.

Finally, he will list a series of steps that must be taken as soon as possible to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people in this the largest humanitarian crisis in a single country since 1945 and that can move the situation toward peace instead of continued war. Peace by peaceful means.

The lecture will be accompanied with a show of some of his unique photos from Aleppo.

Arrangør:
Folkereisning Mot Krig, Norsk seksjon av War Resisters’ International

Hva gjorde Nato og Norge i Libya? Og hva skjer der nå?

Åpent møte på Litteraturhuset (Nedjma-rommet) i Oslo 11. mai kl 19:00.

Aktivisten Asma Khalifa fra Libya forteller om livet under og etter krigen.  Asma er en aktivist som var engasjert i kvinne- og fredsarbeid før NATOs bombing av landet hennes og opplevde krigens konsekvenser på plass. Hun har etter at NATOs bombeangrep ble avsluttet opplevd hvordan situasjonen har forverret seg og fundamentalistiske grupper av mange slag nå fører flere borgerkriger mot hverandre.

Asma vil innlede med å snakke om krigen, situasjonen i dag og legge spesielt fokus på kvinners situasjon. Deretter vil hun svare på spørsmål fra salen. Hun snakker flytende engelsk og har sterke meninger om hva som skjedde og hva som bør gjøres.

Bruk denne muligheten til å møte en aktivist som stod i bomberegnet fra norske fly under krigen 2011.

Spre informasjon om møtet i dine nettverk og til venner og kjente.

​Arrangør: Folkereisning Mot Krig

 

Jailing Heathrow 13 poses ‘massive threat’ to peaceful protest rights

Letter from high-profile signatories including Caroline Lucas and John McDonnell warns prison sentences would be unjust and disproportionate

 

Jailing the 13 activists who last year chained themselves on Heathrow’s northern runway in protest at the airport’s expansion would represent a “massive threat” to the right to peaceful protest in the UK, according to John McDonnell and Caroline Lucas.

In a letter to the Guardian, the shadow chancellor and Green party MP, along with the vice-president of the National Union of Students and several prominent environmentalists, warn that prison sentences for the climate campaigners would be unjust and disproportionate.

“Sending peaceful demonstrators to jail would represent a massive threat to our right to protest in the UK. Prison is an utterly disproportionate punishment, and would mark yet another example of heavy-handed treatment leading to the suppression of political dissent in the UK today,” say the signatories, which include the heads of Greenpeace UK, Friends of the Earth Scotland and the New Economics Foundation.

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Thirteen members of the Plane Stupid group were found guilty in January of aggravated trespass and entering a security-restricted area of an aerodrome. The activists had hoped to win a “necessity defence”, arguing they were acting to prevent the greater harm caused by climate change.

But finding the so-called Heathrow 13 guilty, district judge Deborah Wright warned that the “astronomical costs” of their actions on 13 July 2015 meant they were almost certain to be jailed when sentenced on 24 February.

The judge told the 13 that although they were “principled people”, the seriousness of their actions meant it was “almost inevitable that you will all receive custodial sentences”.

Mike Schwarz, a lawyer from Bindmans representing nine of the 13, said that sentencing guidance recognised that civil disobedience had a “constitutional role” to play in a democracy, and that conditional discharge was usually the starting point for civil disobedience.

“There are very strong arguments to say they shouldn’t get custodial sentences,” he said, adding that it would be “exceptional” if they did.

Blinne Ní Ghrálaigh, a barrister and criminal law specialist at Matrix Chambers, told the Guardian that the typical sentence for first time offenders in such cases was a discharge or at worst a fine. “It is extremely surprising that custody has been raised as a real possibility,” she said.

Dr Graeme Hayes, a reader in political sociology at Aston University who has followed 25 years of environmental protests, recently told the Independent that prison for such an action would be “unprecedented in modern times”. Three of the activists have been been previously convicted of aggravated trespass, while the other 10 have no previous convictions.

Danni Paffard, one of the protesters, said: “To us the court’s reaction seems eerily similar to the government’s – complete agreement with the urgent warnings of climate scientists, and complete failure to let those warnings influence their decisions.

“Winning the argument and then watching those in power continue to favour vested interests over the truth is what drives people to stop arguing and start taking action – there is no need or justification for direct action when democracy is working as intended, but it so rarely does.”

In their letter to the Guardian, the signatories said they shared the protesters’ concerns over aviation expansion’s impact on climate change.

“Their judgment noted the ‘astronomical costs’ incurred by a few delayed flights. We recognise that the costs of unchecked climate change and pollution will be far higher, and far graver. This is what our government and judicial system should be cracking down on, not peaceful protest.”

Carbon emissions from European aviation alone increased 80% between 1990 and 2014, and are forecast to grow a further 45% by 2035. Governments are negotiating at UN talks this year to set the first CO2 standards for planes.

 

Jailing Heathrow 13 poses ‘massive threat’ to peaceful protest rights | Environment | The Guardian.

Bosnia women protest at ban on headscarf

About 2,000 women in Bosnia have protested against a ban on wearing Islamic headscarves in courts and other legal institutions.

The ban includes all religious symbols but explicitly mentions the hijab.

The women marched for around an hour through the capital, Sarajevo.

Hijab-wearing was banned by the communist authorities while Bosnia was still part of the former Yugoslavia until 1992, when it declared independence.

The protest came in response to a decision by Bosnia’s high judicial council, which supervises the functioning of the judiciary, to ban «religious signs» in judicial institutions.

Some of the women held signs saying «The hijab is my right».

Protest organiser Samira Zunic Velagic said the ban was a «serious attack against Muslim honour, personality and identity» and said it was aimed at depriving Muslim women of their right to work.

The ban has also been condemned by Muslim political and religious leaders.

 

Muslims make up about 40% of Bosnia’s 3.8m population. The others are mostly Orthodox or Catholic Christians.


 

 

Bosnia women protest at ban on headscarf – BBC News.

Calls for Civil Disobedience in Australia Over Children’s Offshore Detention

 

A High Court decision upholding Australia’s offshore detention system for people seeking asylum has prompted calls for civil disobedience. Many people are particularly outraged that there are 80 children including 37 babies among 267 people currently facing deportation. Among them is a five year-old boy allegedly raped on Nauru.

A campaign focusing on the children, based on the theme of #LetThemStay, had commenced before the judgment.

First Dog on the Moon’s cartoon for the Guardian Australia captured the widespread revulsion:

Background

The current policy for ‘border protection’ is aimed at refugee arrivals who come by boat. It has two main arms:

1. Offshore detention on either Nauru or Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island, with the aim of resettlement in regional countries for those successful in their asylum claims. Essentially anywhere but Australia. Most remain in detention centres because of the lack of acceptable countries for relocation.

2. Turning back of refugee boats heading for Australia.

The stated goals include defeating people smuggling and ending deaths at sea.

The BBC canvassed the broader issues in a November 2015 article Australia asylum: Why is it controversial? Public opinion is divided:

Domestically, asylum is a hot political issue. Polls have shown that a significant number of Australians approve of taking a tougher stance

The Australian Human Rights Commission also has an online guide for anyone seeking detailed information.

 

 

 

Calls for Civil Disobedience in Australia Over Children’s Offshore Detention · Global Voices.

Soldiers Attack The Weekly Nonviolent Protest In Bil’in

Dozens of nonviolent protesters suffered the effects of tear gas inhalation, Friday, after Israeli soldiers attacked the weekly nonviolent protest against the Annexation Wall and colonies, in Bil’in village, near the central West Bank city of Ramallah.


Photo By Mohammed Yasin

The Popular Committee against the Wall in Bil’in has reported that the protest started from the center of the village, following noon prayers, and that, similar to previous protests, many Israeli and international peace activists marched with the Palestinians.

The protesters carried Palestinian flags, and posters of detainee Mohammad al-Qeeq, who continues his hunger strike for the 66th consecutive day, demanding his immediate release.

They demanded the release of all political prisoner, held by Israel, and chanted for the liberation of Palestine.

Abdullah Abu Rahma, coordinator of the Popular Committee in Bil’in, said the soldiers invaded the western part of the village, and fired dozens of gas bombs, targeting the nonviolent protesters and many homes, causing dozens to suffer the effects of tear gas inhalation.

Abu Rahma added that «Israel’s terrorist attacks against the Palestinians are ongoing, including killings, kidnappings and home invasions, in addition to isolating many villages and towns, and the illegal confiscation of lands.»

«This is a systematic Israeli policy targeting the very existence of our people,» he said, «These daily violations and crimes must end, and Israel should be held accountable.»

 

Soldiers Attack The Weekly Nonviolent Protest In Bil’in, Fire Gas On Homes – International Middle East Media Center.

Catalonia leader Artur Mas summoned to answer charges of civil disobedience

  • Catalan regional president Artur Mas appeared in court today in Barcelona after calling an independence vote
  • Mas, 59,  wants the region to sever ties with Madrid and form its own independent state as soon as 2017
  • The politician accused the Spanish judiciary of acting in a ‘political fashion’ with their ‘civil disobedience’ charge

 

 

 

Thousands of people took to the streets to support the Catalan regional president as he was summoned to appear before Spanish judges to face civil disobedience charges over his decision to call an independence referendum. 

Artur Mas appeared in court today to contest court charges against him for staging a ballot on independence from Spain, in the latest skirmish of his secessionist battle with Madrid.

The Catalan independence movement has raised political tensions in Spain as it recovers from several years of recession and prepares for a general election on December 20.

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Catalan regional president Artur Mas, pictured centre, held a massive rally in Barcelona after he appeared in court earlier today

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Mas, pictured leaving court, is accused of ‘civil disobedience’ in his decision to call an independence referendum in November 2014

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More than 3,000 people lined the streets, as supporters, many of them waving Catalan flags as Mas claimed the court case was ‘political’

Thousands of cheering supporters rallied outside the courthouse in Barcelona as Mas went before a judge for questioning over charges of civil disobedience and misuse of public funds in organising the vote on November 9, 2014.

Speaking outside the court, the 59-year-old told supporters: ‘I hold myself responsible for all of this. I am not avoiding any of my responsibilities.’

Defending the unity of Spain, the central government says holding an independence vote is against the constitution since all Spaniards have the right to decide on matters of sovereignty.

Mas’s allies have branded the case politically motivated and accuse Spanish authorities of going after him to disrupt his drive for the rich northeastern region to secede.

 

Catalonia leader Artur Mas summoned to answer charges of civil disobedience | Daily Mail Online.

5 principles for a responsible internationalist policy on Syria

Our response to events in Syria must be built on an understanding of the lessons of history.

Azaz, Syrian, Voice of America News: Scott Bob report from Azaz, Syria. Public Domain photo: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Azaz_Syria_during_the_Syrian_Civil_War_Missing_front_of_House.jpg

Finally, after half of Syria’s population has been displaced and a quarter of a million people have been killed – and probably several years too late – civilian protection has become a focus for the British parliament.

A debate brought on Monday by new Labour MP and former Oxfam policy chief Jo Cox, focussed attention on the urgent need to find a solution to the Syrian crisis. A serious debate over whether the UK should deepen its engagement in Syria is beginning to take place and while more detail is needed before any of the proposals can be properly assessed, here are five core principles that any policy should abide by.

1. Though it sounds simple, the responsibility to protect civilians must be the guiding force of any foreign engagement strategy in Syria. Government policy so far has preferred options that contain the crisis, rather than proactively seeking to protect communities at risk. Thus while the UK has been a leading donor to refugee camps in the Middle East, the same government axed its support for the Mediterranean rescue missions and, until late this summer, continued to frame the Syrian exodus to Europe as economic migration. In 2005, the UK together with all other member states of the United Nations committed to protect civilians at risk of mass atrocity crimes – crimes against humanity, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and genocide. This commitment, made in response to the failures of Rwanda and Bosnia, has not yet been met in Syria.

2. Legitimacy is key. While the UN Security Council may be in deadlock, with Russia and China using their veto power to stymie international action against the Assad regime, any international engagement in Syria must have the support from the UN General Assembly and from the affected region. The failure of the international community has exposed the limits of the Security Council but until its limits can be addressed, it is crucial that problem solving remains an international process. A Security Council resolution should be sought against against ISIL and if one cannot be found for the protection of civilians from Assad’s forces, legitimacy must come from the people of Syria and the wider international community. The Iraq invasion of 2003, and to an extent the military action in Libya in 2010, have made plain that a broad coalition of military actors are always needed and that unilateral western military decision-making alone cannot be legitimate.

3. Dialogue. Increased rhetoric from Philip Hammond and Tony Blair about countering Russian aggression through western alliances undermines the fact that any meaningful peace deal in Syria will involve Russia. Dialogue with all stakeholders in the Syrian crisis is essential if any agreement is to be found. Whatever military decision is taken, diplomatic and political efforts must continue and an open dialogue must be pursued.

4. Reconciliation. Communities in Syria have become deeply divided according to pro-regime or rebel identities, even if the citizens themselves do not participate in the violence. More broadly, the deep crises in Syria and Iraq have become, if they were not always, part of a wider Shiite/ Sunni divide that threatens to split the entire region. The fanning of identity-based divisions has exacerbated cleavages in community relations, creating patterns of prejudice and fear. Planning for a post-conflict development strategy should begin now, and include massive investment in community-building and inter-faith reconciliation.

5. The final principle must be accountability. Plans must be must be made to ensure that all those suspected of breaching international humanitarian law in the region face justice, either through the referral of Syria to the International Criminal Court or local prosecution. International decision makers and international structures such as the UN Security Council must also be accountable for their actions: In the UK, policy making must be transparent and votes carried out free from party politics and whips. Furthermore, the limitations of the UN Security Council to protect the people of Syria must be assessed, addressed, and rectified if the United Nations is to continue to be a relevant instrument of peace and security.

 

5 principles for a responsible internationalist policy on Syria | openDemocracy.

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