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Serbian non-violence group shares know-how with Egyptian activists

The Egyptian protesters who toppled President Mubarak weren't just inspired by their Tunisian neighbors: They also got inspiration and advice from the Serbian youth movement that helped bring down Slobodan Milosevic.

A young woman hands a flower to a soldier

The Egyptian April 6 movement met with activists in Serbia

Egyptian protesters ended President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule through strategic mass mobilization and effective but non-violent resistance. Some of those activists were inspired by a Serbian group called "Otpor," which means resistance. Otpor had a significant role in the overthrowing of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000, and its member have since founded the non-governmental organization the Center for Applied NonViolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS).

Through CANVAS, the non-violent legacy of Otpor lives on and has inspired revolutionaries in Georgia, Ukraine and now Egypt. They provide guides to non-violent resistance in multiple languages, and their book "Nonviolent Struggle - 50 Crucial Points" has been downloaded tens of thousands of times and was translated into Arabic and Farsi in 2009.

The Egyptian opposition group the April 6 Youth Movement - named for their 2008 worker strike, which was violently suppressed - met with Otpor activists in Belgrade. There they gathered the important know-how they then put into action on January 28 when they peacefully took over Tahrir Square in Cairo, despite massive efforts by the police to stop them. They even use the same raised fist logo of Otpor and CANVAS.

A spreading movement?

Former Otpor member Srdjan Milivojevic is now a member of the Democratic Party in Serbia and told Deutsche Welle he's not surprised that the group's ideas live on in other revolutions.

Protesters in Egypt

Popovic praised the Egyptians for their non-violence

"I'm totally convinced that Otpor's core concept, namely the non-violent struggle against a dictatorship and the non-violent struggle for change under a non-democratic regime, is exciting to people who yearn for freedom around the world," he said.

The head of CANVAS and another former Otpor member, Srdja Popovic, said he was impressed by the Egyptians' "disciplined non-violence."

They denied the regime's hoped for escalation with their pacifism, he said. "The Egyptian protest movement has shown in an inspiring way that in these Arab countries there's an enormous potential for resistance that can develop into a pan-Arab movement," he added.

Author: Ivica Petrovic / hf
Editor: Nancy Isenson

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