The Power of Grassroots Mobilization: From Arab Spring to STAND
By Communications Task Force Blogger Zoya Waliany
We all know the story of the event that set ablaze the Arab World—the lone action of martyrdom by Tunisian Mohammed Boazizi. In an act of desperation due to his inability to run his business because of governmental restrictions, he set himself on fire, and thereby sparked the beginning of a global revolution.
Inspired by Boazizi’s actions, Tunisians were able to end the Ben Ali regime a mere 10 days after Boazizi’s death this January. His actions, though devastating for his family, are lauded by several and are credited as spurning what many are calling a “people’s revolution,” deconstructing tyrannical Arab regimes around the Arab world.
This “people’s revolution” is comprised of thousands of Arabs turned activists, both young and old, fighting for a change in their respective countries. Tired, frustrated Arabs, most notably the youth, have taken to the streets to demand that their voices be heard. From the corners of Cairo to the alleyways of Tunisia to the neighborhoods of Syria to the squares of Libya, Arabs are peacefully protesting, demonstrating with powerfully worded signs, chanting slogans, utilizing social media, and taking a stand.
The valiant actions of the Arab protestors are inspiring and trendsetting. Tunisia led to Egypt led to Libya and the list continues to this very second. Arabs are not only inspired because they see their peers standing up for their rights and trying to make a difference, but also because they see their peers achieving results. Tunisia toppled its government; Egypt toppled its government; Libya toppled its government. The Arab protestors are making things happen.
Similarly, student activists like the upSTANDers in America are making things happen. Student activists at the grassroots level of policy work are also taking to the streets, peacefully protesting, demonstrating with powerfully worded signs, chanting slogans, utilizing social media, and taking a stand.
We too have seen results, including the implementation of a no-fly zone over Libya, dozens of appointments of special envoys to focus areas like Burma and Darfur, and the passage of SCR 71, setting a precedent for genocide prevention legislation. The Arab Spring undeniably parallels the genocide prevention movement of student activists and reveals the power of grassroots mobilization—or put simply, making our voices heard. Just as the Arab protestors are able to influence their governing systems, student leadership can have a tremendous influence on our policy makers. When we protest, lobby, utilize social media, and demonstrate, our policy makers have no choice but to listen.
I’m not implying that Representative Michelle Bachmann bares resemblance to Gaddafi, nor am I encouraging self-immolation. However, the Arab Spring absolutely highlights the power of the people. This power is comprehensible in any language, not just Arabic; we too may draw inspiration from the courageous acts of the Arab protestors. We must recognize that our genocide prevention movement is our “people’s revolution” and continue our march all the way to our Tahrir Square.