Since the beginning of the January 25th uprisings in Egypt, videos and images feature street battles in Tahrir Square, clashes between protesters and police, and widespread violence. Yet Hosni Mubarak’s ouster is largely considered “nonviolent.” The purpose of this project is to use research and coursework to explore and define nonviolent resistance, and visually retell the story of Tahrir to convey the importance of nonviolence to younger audiences.
Studies show that aggression in children stems from aggressive actions they observe. To avoid future violence, we need to pay particular attention to what we teach our children – not only in educational institutions but also in our daily actions and decisions. Children who see violence on the streets in Egypt or in the news media in America see justifications for violence as an appropriate mechanism to solve problems. This project is an effort to promote an understanding of a nonviolent alternative for people of all ages.
In the Middle East, reading for leisure among children is uncommon and seen as a luxury. One in every four Egyptians is illiterate, indicating a lapse in early childhood education. Graphic novels and cartoons are actually fairly popular in Egypt, since they make stories more accessible for people who can’t read. The Montgomery Story, a graphic account of Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent campaign tactics was translated into Arabic in 2008 and widely distributed among the protesters in Egypt earlier this year to show people what nonviolent resistance meant in the context of the American Civil Rights movement. It was an inspiration for many people to uphold the peaceful ideals of a nonviolent resistance movement, and my account of the Cairo Story similarly embraces nonviolent tactics. Protest leaders also circulated this guide: How to Protest Intelligently, which Kamila mentions, with graphics explaining what people should bring to the protests and how they should face the police. Visual representations ensure that the message is clear and reaches as many people as possible, without exclusion based on language, age, or education level.
I chose to tell this story in graphic novel format because I want to reach a multigenerational audience: younger learners who might be entertained by the story of the uprisings from a new perspective as well as people who are looking to learn more about the strategy and theoretical background to the momentous uprisings. Since I am limited to English, sharing this story and research is limited to English-speaking audiences; however, I am open to the possibility of translating it into Arabic in the future to reach more of the children who would actually have been affected by seeing violence in these uprisings firsthand.
The story follows the life of a fictional character, Kamila, who experiences the Egyptian uprisings through her brother, Khaled, who is connected to unemployed, university-educated youth who would have had an organizational role in the protests themselves.
To supplement the Cairo Story, I have also collected background information and research into the theory of nonviolent resistance, focusing on how to advocate for and implement nonviolent resistance strategies to participants in a movement for democracy. My blogroll is a good platform for more sources about the Egyptian uprisings, including a site about the role of social media, Tweeting Egypt, developed by a fellow student in Dr. Diane Singerman’s seminar on Egyptian Politics, Protest & Social change at American University.