Pogledaj Full Version : Otpor! Serbia

Željko Zidarić
28th-May-2012, 08:33 PM
Canvasopedia (http://www.canvasopedia.org/legacy/content/serbian_case/otpor_campaign.htm) - Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otpor!) - SourceWatch (http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Otpor)

Serbian ousters of Milosevic make mark in Egypt (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/feedarticle/9512206)

The Otpor Connection in Egypt (http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/blog/the-otpor-connection-in-egypt)

What Egypt Learned from the Students that overthrew Milosevic (http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2011/02/16/revolution_u&page=full)

What is the connection between Otpor and the Egyptian youth movement? (http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/02/14/what-is-the-connection-between-otpor-and-the-egyptian-youth-movement/)

Analysis: Otpor's challenge to Milosevic (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/749469.stm)

The Rise of Youth Movements in the Post-Communist Region (http://cddrl.stanford.edu/news/cddrl_visiting_scholar_olena_nikolayenko_analyzes_ postsoviet_youth_movements_20090619)

The Year Life Won in Serbia: The Otpor Movement Against Milosevic (http://www.tavaana.org/archive.jsp?restrictids=nu_repeatitemid&restrictvalues=2071502000341290865421550)

Note: Srdja Popovic, a former Otpor leader who now runs Canvas, which stands for Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies.

Using humor to put an oppressive government in a lose-lose situation

The nonviolent civil-resistance movement initiated by Otpor! In Serbia used satire and other unconventional ways of successfully spreading its message of resistance against the tyrannical regime of Slobodan Milosevic.

The Milosevic regime ruled over Serbia and Yugoslavia for about 13 years. To maintain control, the Milosevic regime was infamous for arbitrary arrests, beatings, imprisonment and even murder of avid opponents.

Otpor!, Serbian for “Resistance”, was founded in 1998 by a group of 15 students at Belgrade University. They initially got together to protest against new laws that would hinder the freedom of the media as well as the autonomy of the universities. However, the group continued to grow by actively mobilizing citizens against the oppressive regime.

In 2000, before the fall of Slobodan Milosevic, a government initiative to support agriculture involved placing boxes in shops and public places asking people to donate one dinar (Serbian currency) for sowing and planting crops. In response, Otpor! arranged its own collection called “Dinar za Smenu” (Dinar for a Change). This initiative was implemented several times and in different places in Serbia. It consisted of a big barrel with a photo of Milosevic. People could donate one dinar, and would then get a stick they could use to hit the barrel. At one point, a sign suggested that if people did not have any money because of Milosevic’s politics, they should hit the barrel twice.

When the police removed the barrel, Otpor! stated in a press release that the police had arrested the barrel. They claimed that the initiative was a huge success as they had collected enough money for Milosevic’s retirement, and that the police would pass the money on to him.

In this way, Otpor! left both Milosevic and his supporters with no space for reaction. If the police did not take away the barrel, they would be seen as weak and ineffectual. And even when they did remove it, Otpor! continued to make jokes. No matter what the regime did, it lost.

Through their use of satire, Otpor! was able to remove fear from those who opposed Milosevic’s government. Moreover, they were effective in uniting the oppositional forces and effectively applying nonviolent means of resistance. The use of satire enabled Otpor! to expose and mock the government in its activities. This was a piece of a larger movement that eventually empowered the citizenship to overturn Milosevic, despite mass beatings and arrests.

Due to the non-violent nature of this method, an oppressive government is likely to respond to protestors in a brutal manner. It is important to understand the dangers of retribution. Moreover, because Otpor! began as a small-scale movement, it became more effective over time, creatively used many tactics as its support base broadened.

The use of humor through satirical methods is a powerful tactic that can be transferred to many other contexts. To learn more about the other tactics used by this movement, refer to the Otpor! tactical notebook listed below.

“Humor is the first step to break taboos and fears. Making people laugh about dangerous stuff like dictatorship, repression, censorship is a first weapon against those fears…without beating fear you can not make any change. So humor is very effective.” – Sami Gharbia of Global Voices online

Fantasy Island: Democracy Edition (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2010/03/maldives-democracy-popovic)

Otpor’s Popovic talks about Democracy Island, addresses critics (http://wagingnonviolence.org/2010/04/otpors-popovic-talks-about-democracy-island-addresses-critics/)


Željko Zidarić
28th-May-2012, 08:36 PM
Posted on Fri Feb 04 2011 (http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2011/2/4/apworld/20110204153003)

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP): Former revolutionaries who helped topple Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic, and then went on to assist others shake off their dictatorships, praised on Tuesday the largely peaceful anti-government protests in Egypt.

The protests in Egypt are similar to the ones in Serbia in 2000 that ended Milosevic's 10-year autocratic rule, said Srdja Popovic, former leader of Otpor, or the Resistance movement.

"On one side, we have an undemocratic regime," Popovic said. "And on the other, we have strong and liberal youth."

With its colorful publicity stunts to draw attention to their ideas, Otpor was the force behind Milosevic's downfall. The student group then helped topple dictatorships in Ukraine and Georgia.

The now-disbanded group's symbol - a clenched white fist on a black background - could also be seen on flags carried by protesters on Cairo streets.

Popovic said an Egyptian youth group adopted the symbol last year and now seems to abide by the Otpor rules published in a book on nonviolent resistance.

After ousting Milosevic, Otpor transformed itself into a political party, but soon disbanded because they failed to enter Parliament after the 2003 elections.

Milosevic died in 2006 of a heart attack during his genocide trial at the U.N. war crimes court in The Hague, Netherlands.


Željko Zidarić
28th-May-2012, 08:41 PM
April 13th, 2011 (http://resistancestudies.org/?p=1144)

(Reuters) - In early 2005, Cairo-based computer engineer Saad Bahaar was trawling the internet when he came across a trio of Egyptian expatriates who advocated the use of non-violent techniques to overthrow strongman Hosni Mubarak. Bahaar, then 32 and interested in politics and how Egypt might change, was intrigued by the idea. He contacted the group, lighting one of the fuses that would end in freedom in Tahrir Square six years later.

The three men he approached — Hisham Morsy, a physician, Wael Adel, a civil engineer by training, and Adel’s cousin Ahmed, a chemist — had all left Egypt for jobs in London.

Inspired by the way Serbian group Otpor had brought down Slobodan Milosevic through non-violent protests in 2000, the trio studied previous struggles. One of their favorite thinkers was Gene Sharp, a Boston-based academic who was heavily influenced by Mahatma Gandhi. The group had set up a webpage in 2004 to propagate civil disobedience ideas in Arabic.

At first, the three young Egyptians’ activities were purely theoretical. But in November 2005, Wael Adel came to Cairo to give a three-day training session on civil disobedience. In the audience were about 30 members of Kefaya, an anti-Mubarak protest group whose name means “enough” in Arabic. Kefaya had gained prominence during the September 2005 presidential elections which Mubarak won by a landslide. During these protests, they had been attacked by thugs and some women members had been stripped naked. Bahaar joined Adel on the course and his career as an underground trainer in non-violent activism was born.

Adel taught activists how to function within a decentralized network. Doing so would make it harder for the security services to snuff them out by arresting leaders. They were also instructed on how to maintain a disciplined non-violent approach in the face of police brutality, and how to win over bystanders.

“The third party, the bystander sitting on the fence, will join when he realizes that security forces’ use of violence is unwarranted,” Bahaar said in one of a series of interviews with Reuters. “Security will harass you to provoke an angry violent response to justify a repressive crackdown in the name of law and order. But you must avoid this trap.”
The process took time. As Wael Adel put it during an interview in a rundown Cairo cafe in March, there was a process of “trial and error” before Egypt’s non-violent warriors were strong enough to begin to take on a dictator.

Kefaya, for example, did run some more campaigns – including one for judicial independence in 2006. But it failed to stir mass protests or expand beyond the middle class elite. There was also internal disagreement between its younger activists and older politicians. By 2007, it had lost its momentum and many had quit.


In the meantime, the trio of thinkers had morphed into an organization called the Academy of Change — based in London and ultimately moving to Qatar. The Academy became a window for Egypt’s activists into civil disobedience movements outside the Arab world. To disseminate the new methods of resistance, it wrote books about nonviolent activism with a focus on the Arab world: “Civil Disobedience,” “Nonviolent War the 3rd Choice” and “AOC MindQuake” that were published in 2007.

A year later the Academy published “Shields to Protect Against Fear”, a manual on techniques to protect one’s body against attacks by security services during a protest. “The idea of non-violent protest is not martyrdom,” Adel said. “We knew to get ordinary Egyptians, and Arabs, to face their governments and security, they have to have tools to protect themselves. This boosts the morale and enthusiasm to go to the street.”

The ideas espoused by the Academy spread through Egypt. The calls for change reached industrial areas where large groups of workers have long suffered low wages and bad work conditions. Mounting economic hardship mobilized workers in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla El Kobra, home to the country’s biggest textile factory. The workers had been in contact with Kefaya activists and other independent labor activists. The groundwork for a sustained mass mobilization was being prepared.

The first real victory sprung from Mahalla in December 2006 when over 20,000 textile workers staged a six-day strike over unpaid bonuses. The protesters — peaceful but stubborn — confused police forces accustomed to clashing with disorganized crowds. The government offered concessions to avoid losses from a halt to production.

Then came a setback. In April 2008, workers in Mahalla went out on strike again, over rising prices. An online call by Kefaya’s former activists to support the Mahalla strike on fizzled out. Meanwhile, in Mahalla, the protest turned violent. Activists claim plain-clothes police destroyed public and police property and then blamed it on the protesters. Bloody clashes between police and Mahalla citizens lasted three days. Police fired live rounds and teargas, while enraged crowds threw rocks. At least three people were killed, hundreds were wounded and scores arrested.

More discipline was needed. Bahaar began to widen his efforts, traveling to disparate locations farther away from the capital to extend grassroots awareness of peaceful civil disobedience.

Meanwhile, ex-Kefaya activists formed the April 6 Facebook group, using the internet to gather supporters. The group adopted the Otpor clenched-fist logo and some members travelled to Serbia for civil disobedience training.


February 2010. Mohamed ElBaradei was back in Cairo. The former head of the International Atomic Energy Association and Nobel peace prize winner had inspired some of Egypt’s younger generation that change was possible. Several of them had created a Facebook page backing ElBaradei as the country’s next president. But how were they to achieve their goal given Mubarak’s repressive regime? They turned to the Academy for help.

The Academy directed them to its online training manuals, which the Facebook activists tried for a while. But despite their internet savvy, many felt that relying entirely on online training was too theoretical. Couldn’t the Academy give them practical training?

Enter Bahaar.

Those who had signed up to the Facebook page were divided into groups of 100. Bahaar trained eight of the groups in different parts of the country using, among other tools, PowerPoint presentations that explained how you maximize the power of a protest movement. Every protester had a family, and around the family was a wider community, Bahaar explained. If a protester was arrested or beaten by the police, his or her family might be radicalized. Similarly, if a policeman engaged in brutality, his family and social network might not be supportive. By maintaining disciplined non-violent activity, the regime’s power could be progressively weakened.

Why wasn’t Bahaar himself arrested? He says this was partly because he was working underground but also, he thinks, because the security services didn’t judge his non-violent approach a threat.

Others were not so lucky. Khaled Said, 28, was beaten to death by police in Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city, in June 2010. His family said he had posted a video showing police officers sharing the spoils of a drugs bust. Said’s body was barely recognizable and the act of brutality galvanized further protests — in particular, the anti-torture Facebook page “We are Khaled Said,” created by Google executive Wael Ghonim and underground activist AbdelRahman Mansour.
The page played a pivotal role in spreading non-violent strategies such as “flash mob” silent protests, where groups of people suddenly gather in a public place and do something unusual in unison for a short time before dispersing. Instructions for a nationwide “flash mob” were posted on the page. Participants were told to dress in black and arrive at specific locations in small groups to skirt the ban on large public gatherings. They formed single files along main roads with their backs turned to the street. After a certain hour they marched away.

“The Khaled Said page drew countless willing supporters, many apolitical, because its focus was ending human rights violations and that is an issue that affects all citizens. The page set gradual, easy-to-handle tasks. People felt safe and joined,” said Ahmed Saleh, one of the organizers working with the ElBaradei youth campaign and Khaled Said page.
Like Mahalla’s 2006 strike, the flash mob was a new type of protest unfamiliar to security forces. Its cadres were organized, civil, and well diffused across Egypt — and seemingly leaderless. The police didn’t know how to react. Participants were trained in non-violent techniques — both online, by the “Khaled Said” page founders, and on the ground, by Bahaar.


In late 2010, the Khaled Said page decided to call for something more ambitious — a nationwide march to demand the dissolution of parliament, the disbanding of the state security agency, seen by Egyptians as the state’s main arm of torture, and the resignation of the interior minister.

The date chosen for mass action was January 25, Egypt’s national police day. Mansour — who was conscripted into the army on January 17 — posted the call for the nationwide march on December 28. Protesters were urged to march to Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other public spaces across the country. The page was not yet calling for Mubarak to go. It was Tunisia’s popular uprising, which reached its climax on January 14 with the ousting of President Zein El Abedine Ben Ali, which turned Egypt’s protests into an uprising.

The protest drew people of all ages and backgrounds. By 8 p.m. a unified, single chant inspired by Tunisia rang around Tahrir (Arabic for “freedom”) Square: “The people demand the fall of the regime.” By then, many understood at least a few of the tactics of non-violent disobedience. “You don’t need to train every single protester, only a small group of activists well connected with people in their local areas. Ideas spread like a virus,” says Bahaar.

Protesters conversed with riot police sent to cordon off the Square. The aim was simple: win over those in uniform. Women gave out food and biscuits to hungry conscripts and officers.

Young people quickly regrouped after being dispersed. Some climbed security personnel carriers to drag down officers firing teargas and water cannons, raising the crowd’s resolve to push security back and gain more ground. A pattern of whistling and rhythmic banging of stones on metal fences in Tahrir spontaneously developed when they needed to rally reinforcements to hold the fort. Protesters would also whistle to signal their success in forcing security to pull back.
Encouraged by the mass protests, the Khaled Said page posted a second online call for Friday, January 28, naming the event a “revolution” to overthrow the regime.

April 6 activists and youth from the Muslim Brotherhood formed the crucial front lines of protesters who broke security cordons and later faced attacks from pro-Mubarak loyalists. The youth of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s most organized opposition force whose members are accustomed to working within disciplined ranks, played a critical role in organizing activists into security teams to guard Tahrir Square’s multiple entrances. They searched those who came into the square for weapons or fluids that could be turned into Molotov cocktails. They wanted neither infiltrators nor supporters to turn to violence.

To help demonstrators hold true to non-violent resistance, the Academy posted online an eight-minute film covering similar ground to its 2008 manual. This explained how people could protect their chests and backs with makeshift shields made of plastic and thick cardboard, and how to mitigate the effect of teargas by covering their faces with handkerchiefs doused in vinegar, lemons or onions.

For the most part, people were having fun. They also took pride in their ownership of the square. Music was put on. Volunteers and protesters swept it, collected garbage and built outhouses.

“Non-violent action is not just about non-violence, but also about joy and happiness,” Adel said. “The festive atmosphere was a key element to drawing the high numbers that Egypt had rarely seen. People felt safe so they came out. They saw in Tahrir what Egypt could possibly be in the future and they wanted to be part of this new Egypt.”
The protests were not entirely peaceful. In particular, scuffles broke out after a group of thugs thought to have been organized by Mubarak’s henchmen charged through the square on horses and camels on February 2, beating and whipping protestors in what came to be known as the “Battle of the Camel”. Many demonstrators fought back, throwing stones at Mubarak loyalists to keep them from entering the square. But there was no wholesale riot and discipline returned.

“The key to a successful non-violent revolt is its ability to constantly reinvent and correct itself,” Adel says. “If violence or conflict breaks out, quickly resolve it while finding ways to avoid it.” Trained cadres shouted “peaceful, peaceful!” to restrain their hotter-headed colleagues. Soon after, the army, which had not been involved in the clashes, said it would not fire on unarmed civilians.

Nine days later Mubarak was gone.

Željko Zidarić
28th-May-2012, 08:54 PM
The secret architect of the Arab Spring casts an eye on Occupy Wall Street.

The Atlantic (http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/03/the-revolutionist/8881/) - Srdja Popovic @ TED (http://www.ted.com/speakers/srdja_popovic.html)


Fabrizio Giraldi/Luzphoto

LATE LAST YEAR, while visiting the United States to accept his nomination as one of Foreign Policy magazine’s top 100 global thinkers, Srdja Popovic took time to talk with a number of Occupy Wall Street activists in New York. He left those conversations with a mixed impression.

“The good news,” Popovic, a wiry Serb, told me, “is that for the first time in many years, something has awakened the enthusiasm and the activism in this country, which is not typically an activist society.” Yet he added that Occupy had to make sure it got three things exactly right: a clear vision of tomorrow, a clear plan for pursuing that vision, and a clear understanding that whatever happens in New York or Boston or Denver is connected to a larger global movement that stretches from the alleyways of Cairo to the beaches of the Maldives. “Talking about the 99percent and the 1percent can be applied in so many ways,” Popovic said. “But this is not just a story about capitalism. It’s a story about unjust societies around the world.”

Popovic is something of an expert on unjust societies, and in particular their rectification and reconstruction by nonviolent means. Just over a decade ago, Popovic was a student activist in Belgrade working to oust Slobodan Milošević. After that odds-defying campaign ended with the Yugoslav president’s one-way trip to The Hague, Popovic spent a few years in electoral politics before founding the Centre for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies, or CANVAS, and began training activists interested in copying the Serbian model of bottom-up regime change. CANVAS has worked with people from 46 countries, and graduates of Popovic’s program include organizers of the successful movements in Georgia, Lebanon, Egypt, and the Maldives. The young Iranians rioting against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2009 downloaded 17,000 copies of Popovic’s guide to nonviolent action. The Syrians currently standing up to Bashar al-Assad are the latest in the long line of advice-seekers. With little fanfare, Popovic, who is 39, has become an architect of global political change. And no one is more surprised about this than Popovic himself.

“It all started as a hobby,” he told me. A freshwater-biology student with a yen for politics, he organized march after march to protest Milošević’s increasingly authoritarian rule. But the marches had no effect: the president stifled criticism, defanged the press, and repeatedly waged war on Serbia’s neighbors, converting the inevitable surges in nationalism and anxiety into greater political power for himself. It was then that Popovic and a group of close friends had the idea of making regime change fun.

They painted Milošević’s face on a barrel and invited people on the street to bash it as hard as they could with a bat. The gimmick presented a quandary for police: Go after the angry citizens and their bats, and you risk provoking rage. But try to haul the offending object away, and you guarantee a front-page newspaper photo of an officer placing a barrel under arrest—which is exactly what happened, enhancing the mystique of Popovic and his friends. Marching under a banner featuring a tightly clenched fist, they gradually accumulated more than 70,000 supporters, and in September of 2000 they helped drive 72percent of all eligible Serbian voters to the polls. A few weeks later, Milošević was out.

Popovic was elected to parliament as an ally of the reformist Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic. But when Djindjic was killed by a police officer working for the Serbian mob, Popovic lost his passion for electoral politics. He missed the freedom of the grass roots, the marches in the streets, the theatrics. So in 2003, he quit politics and started CANVAS.

Almost immediately, aspiring activists from all over the world came calling. “It was amazing for me to see that people from Zimbabwe or Belarus are getting inspired by the Serbian political revolution,” he told me. Putting together a curriculum for a five-day seminar, Popovic began teaching everything he knew. “We cover 20 different issues,” he said, “from understanding nonviolent struggle to the nature of political power, pillars of support, how power is expressed in society, and then moving on to how you build your vision of tomorrow.” The training is far from abstract, focusing on matters such as fund-raising, resource management, and campaign tactics. CANVAS offers its training to activists for free, and sends easily reproducible materials—DVDs, PDFs—to those who can’t make the trip to Belgrade.

A few months after its founding, CANVAS registered its first success, when a number of its Georgian trainees helped lead the protest movement that elected the young Mikheil Saakashvili president. A year later, the group played a similar role in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution. In each case, analysts in the East and the West alike had predicted that efforts to democratize the former Soviet regimes would prove futile, and that what had worked in Belgrade was doomed to fail in Tbilisi and Kiev.

Imran Zahir, a Popovic trainee, heard a comparable warning when he joined the struggle to end the oppressive rule of Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom. “We were told these ideas wouldn’t work in such a small place,” Zahir said, or that the island’s Islamic culture would not be receptive to Popovic’s tactics. But heeding his tutor’s mantra that fun can overcome fear, Zahir linked his cause with musicians and other cultural mainstays, and in 2008 watched the regime topple. “We became the only 100percent Muslim democracy to elect a conservative democratic party over the Islamist party coalition in the first free and fair elections,” he told me.

Popovic was now being called “the professor of revolution.” To many, this wasn’t a compliment; a number of disgruntled regimes even accused him of being a tool of the CIA.

In 2009, a delegation of young Egyptians who called themselves the April6 Youth Movement—a reference to a renowned local labor strike—attended a CANVAS training session. In homage to their mentor, the Egyptians had adopted the clenched-fist emblem; when the uprising began in Cairo, the fist was flying everywhere as Popovic’s trainees stunned the world and helped usher in the Arab Spring.

Still, for all his method’s success, Popovic feels that those who should be paying the most attention—academics, politicians, journalists—instead continue to view politics largely as a game played by governments and decided by war. “Nobody, from very prominent political analysts to the world’s intelligence services, could find their own nose when the Arab Spring started. It is always this same old narrative: ‘It happened in Serbia by accident. It happened in Georgia by accident. It happened in Tunisia by accident. But it will never happen in Egypt.’ And this is the mantra we keep hearing—until it happens.”

His method, Popovic is quick to concede, is far from foolproof. Like everyone else, he admitted to watching Egypt with trepidation, uncertain how to advise his former students once their revolution had succeeded. CANVAS is about effecting change, not about converting movements into parties and policies or guaranteeing long-term stability. But even if Egypt falls into theocracy, he argued, the lesson from Tahrir Square will remain the same: that the next time a dictator is brought down somewhere, it’s likely to be by a ragtag bunch of nobodies with some organizational skills, not by established movements with clear hierarchies and agendas and foreign military support.

Liel Leibovitz is a senior writer for Tablet magazine and the author, most recently, of Fortunate Sons (with Matt Miller). He teaches digital media and politics at New York University.

Željko Zidarić
28th-May-2012, 10:14 PM
By Nicholas Schmidle,
New America Foundation (http://newamerica.net/publications/articles/2010/democracy_with_a_view_28718)
March/April 2010 | Mother Jones

I first met Srdja Popovic last spring at a bustling café in the Maldives, where he had just helped overthrow the government. Sipping espresso and smoking cigarettes, he spoke in passionate bursts as he told me about how he had guided the local opposition-now the ruling party of this tiny nation in the Indian Ocean- in the ways of peaceful revolt. Yet even with five revolutions already under his belt, Popovic insisted that he sought only to educate rebels, not lead them.

"You cannot take the revolution in a suitcase and take it to one place," Popovic told me when I caught up with him again in a restaurant in wintry Washington, DC, where he'd been meeting with pro-democracy organizations. Popovic has been credited with giving activists the tools to oust unpopular regimes from Ukraine to Lebanon- earning him and his small band of nonviolent storm troopers a name as Che-like globe-trotting agitators. "We have the notorious reputation of being capable of toppling dictatorships all over the world," he said with nonchalance. "We are the world's best known troublemakers."

But that notoriety has also made it more difficult for the tall, sinewy 37-year-old to slip into places where his services might be of use. While he boasts that he's never been arrested outside of his native Serbia, nor deported or even denied a visa, he acknowledges that there are "a few countries that I would be prohibited to go." Iran, he says with a smirk, "would love mefor dinner."

Luckily, Popovic is on the verge of acquiring a place where the world can come to him. If all goes according to plan, this spring a tropical atoll in the Maldives will become home to "Democracy Island," a campus where activists can study nonviolent resistance amid coconut trees, white sand, and lagoons the color of Cool Mint Listerine.

Srdja Popovic (pronounced sir-JA POP-o-vitch) grew up in Belgrade, the son of journalists. In the 1980s, he got into rock and roll, which in the former Yugoslavia was "subversive in itself." But it wasn't until after the fall of communism and Slobodan Milosevic's rise to power that Popovic got serious about politics. One day in October 1998, he and 10 student activists huddled in a Belgrade café and formed an opposition group called Otpor ("Resistance"). They chose a clenched fist as their symbol. For the next two years, Otpor rallied the silent majority of Serbs to call for Milosevic's ouster. The regime accused Popovic and his cohorts of being terrorists and agents of the United States. On October 5, 2000, massive demonstrations swept through Serbia, and Milosevic stepped down.

After that, Popovic won a parliamentary seat in Serbia's first free and fair election. He advised Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic until his assassination in early 2003. By then, Popovic was growing restless. He wanted to take his brand of popular rebellion on the road. "I am not a politician; I am a revolutionary," he says. "I see the world as a big battlefield between those who believe in the power of the people and those who try to control the power of the people."

With another Otpor founder, Popovic founded the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (canvas) in Belgrade. There were already plenty of organizations-the National Democratic Institute, the International Republican Institute, Freedom House-observing voting and focusing on electoral politics. canvas offered something new. Instead of talking about civil society and institution building, it drew on the Serbian experience to give pro-democracy activists the nitty-gritty tools for nudging intransigent leaders and, if necessary, toppling governments without firing a shot. It is the only pro-democracy group, says Popovic, where practical knowledge "is transferred to activists by those who have actually achieved freedom through nonviolent struggle."

CANVAS'S "Core Curriculum" has been translated into six languages, including Farsi and Arabic, and its online "canvasopedia" features sections on nonviolent "weaponry" such as sit-ins and strikes. While he and his colleagues work closely with pro-democracy activists, Popovic says that they don't take to the streets or try to stage-manage events. "We never tell people what to do," he says. "We only share what was done successfully."

CANVAS got off to an impressive start, training the pro-democracy campaigners in Georgia, Ukraine, and Lebanon who went on to lead the Rose, Orange, and Cedar revolutions, respectively, canvas staff has also worked with activists from Azerbaijan, Palestine, Egypt, Western Sahara, Zimbabwe, and Burma. "It's made an important contribution," says Timothy Garton Ash, a professor of European Studies at Oxford and the coeditor of Civil Resistance and Power Politics, a study of nonviolent action. "It is absolutely to be admired and replicated. I've seen it myself in Ukraine."

The Popovic model has also caught autocrats' attention. In 2007, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez compared the clenched-fist logo adopted by local student demonstrators with that used by Otpor. (canvas has met with anti-Chavez activists, but Popovic says the organization has never worked inside the country.) Following the Orange and Rose revolutions, Belarusian TV suggested that Otpor-inspired forces were conspiring to bring down President Aleksandr Lukashenko. After one of Popovic's colleagues was photographed during a fleeting encounter with George W. Bush a few years ago, Tehran accused the two of plotting to take it down.

Popovic is quick to say that canvas is "100 percent independent from any government" and funded entirely by private donors. Paranoid regimes don't buy that, and neither do some American leftists, who have accused canvas of being part of a CIA-linked "Imperialist International" that targets Washington's enemies. "One of the many sad legacies of the Bush era is that people see conspiracies even where there aren't conspiracies, particularly regarding pro-democracy struggles against regimes the US happens to oppose," says Stephen Zun es, a professor of international studies at the University of San Francisco who has collaborated with canvas in training Egyptian and Western Sanaran activists.

Likewise, Popovic says such claims are baseless. Not only would American support jeopardize canvas's nonpartisan stance, but for him, it's personal: In 1999, nato warplanes bombed the Belgrade offices of Serbian state TV, where his mother was an editor. She wasn't there that evening, but 16 of her coworkers were killed. "Do you think I would ever collaborate with the government that tried to kill my mom?" he once asked.

Democracy Island grew out of Popovic 's recent success in the Maldives, where, in 2008, a former political prisoner named Mohamed Nasheed defeated the country's longtime strongman in a multiparty election held after three years of nonviolent agitation, canvas had worked closely with Nasheed's Maldivian Democratic Party, and in gratitude, the 42-year-old president has agreed to help it and a handful of environmental and human rights ngos establish a campus in the archipelago.

Besides attracting rabble-rousers, Popovic wants Democracy Island to be a legitimate academic institution where Maldivian and foreign scholars, activists, and politicians can get a master's degree in nonviolent political change. Nasheed told me that he saw Democracy Island as a place where "like-minded people could come and exchange ideas"-but "everything has to be peaceful."

Before he left, Popovic drained his beer and leaned toward me. The biggest challenge, he said, is not toppling one tyrant or another; it's spreading the word of change. Democracy Island is a good start, but he's just as excited about the potential of online organizing. He noted that during the protests in Iran last summer, dozens of blogs posted canvas literature in Farsi. "This is the beauty of the new media. There is no way to control it."

Copyright 2010, Mother Jones


Željko Zidarić
28th-May-2012, 10:37 PM

Day 1: Vision (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Pjv641toRc)

Day 2: Humour (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5ltbPOgync)

Day 3: Numbers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sUBnB8MMdcs)

Day 4: Exporting revolution (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPq3MtXp8lg)

Day 5: Obedience (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LxbM9ouL0O0)

Day 6: Communications (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-TJI5qCKL6A)

Day 7: The people (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHa3EDHyzBs)

Day 8: Hope (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJc3nzwgMDY)

Day 9: Power (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lYwDYQV-9lc)

Day 10: Making your movement “in” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-pNtPqhKrI)

Day 11: Principles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5W8Rvaw5zO0)

Day 12: Group identitiy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wndFJa5eRZw)

Day 13: Strategy (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xC_UAitHs60)

Day 14: Dilemma action (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcbrZAZCjXw)

Day 15: How to make opression backfire (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZbis7jd-1g)

Day 16: Tactics (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cXAWSHF-Z4)

Day 17: Skills and conditions (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Te0CgR4ioZI)

Day 18: Dictator’s vocabulary (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMUc_g-oQbY)

Day 19: Role of leadership (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kz5pIIz06lw)

Day 20: Social distance (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3GZ_nhAovCw)

Day 21: One big misconception (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLm1ehZyBAY)

Day 22: Elections as a trigger (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jcxvKUs35vc)

Day 23: Avoiding violence (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvC0rhCXy_U)

Day 24: Final christmas message (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3fLhbxae9s)