Women and Nonviolence in Pakistan — a different story

Pretty interesting opinion piece in the NY Times today by William Dalrymple, author  of Return of a King: The Battle for Afghanistan, 1839-42 I was caught thrice, once by the mention of line of poetry with which Malalai of Maiwand rallied Pashtun forces against the British.  Though Dalrymple does say so it is surely a landay, women’s two line couplets which have survived for centuries in Pashtun Afghanistan, often re-mixed to suit contemporary events, many of which have recently been collected and translated for readers of English. See here for a review.

“My lover, if you are martyred in the Battle of Maiwand,
I will make a coffin for you from the tresses of my hair.”

Secondly, he makes much of the female tradition of leadership and power in Pashtun areas, from where Malala Yousafzai has recently become so well known.  And thirdly, by a mention of nonviolence in the Gandhian tradition.  People often dismiss such efforts because “non violence doesn’t work.” Of course it can been seen around the world how well violence is working for one and all.

The region also has a great tradition of peaceful resistance. In the 1930s, the North-West Frontier, under the Pashtun leader Badshah Khan, became an unlikely center of Gandhian nonviolence against the British Raj. A prominent group of activists called the Khudai Khidmatgars, or Servants of God, drew direct inspiration from Gandhi’s ideas of service, disciplined nonviolence and civil disobedience to defy the colonial authorities. They also championed education, in order to marginalize the influence of the conservative ulema — the religious scholars. As the leading modern writer on the movement, Mukulika Banerjee, has shown, the Khudai Khidmatgars have been virtually erased from the nationalist historiography of post-partition Pakistan.

NY Times: Dalrymple

Nonviolent Action Global Database

What a wonderful resource I stumbled into while researching a posting on citizen action against chemical polluters in China.

Global Nonviolent Action Database

“Nonviolent action” is one of the names people sometimes give to the conflict behavior reported in this database. Other names are “people power,” “civil resistance,” “satyagraha,” “nonviolent resistance,” “direct action,” “pacifica militancia,” “positive action,” and more.

We mean a technique of struggle that goes beyond institutionalized conflict procedures like law courts and voting, procedures common in many countries. We study the methods of protest, noncooperation, and intervention that typically heighten a conflict – and the use of these methods without the threat or use of injurious force to others.

Our definition is not located in the discourse of morality and ethics, although some people may choose to use nonviolent action for ethical reasons. Instead, we focus descriptively on what people do when they use this specific “technique of struggle.”

This definition is roughly in alignment with that of the leading researcher in the field, Gene Sharp, who writes: “Nonviolent action refers to those methods of protest, resistance, and intervention without physical violence in which the members of the nonviolent group do, or refuse to do, certain things. They may commit acts of omission – refuse to perform acts which they usually perform, are expected by custom to perform, or are required by law or regulation to perform; or acts of commission – perform acts which they usually do not perform, are not expected by custom to perform, or are forbidden by law or regulation from performing; or a combination of both.” (1980) Social Power and Political Freedom, Boston: Porter Sargent Publishers, p. 218.

Sociologist Kurt Schock writes in his book Unarmed Insurrections: People Power Movements in Nondemocracies, that nonviolent action “involves an active process of bringing political, economic, social, emotional, or moral pressure to bear in the wielding of power in contentious interactions between collective actors. Nonviolent action is noninstitutional, that is, it operates outside the bounds of institutionalized political channels, and is indeterminate, that is, the procedures for determining the outcome of the conflict are not specified in advance. . . . Rather than being viewed as half of a rigid violent-nonviolent dichotomy, nonviolent action may be better understood as a set of methods with special features that are different from those of both violent and institutional politics.” (2005) Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, p. 6. The intention of this database is to assist researchers and activists to better understand the special features of nonviolent struggle that make it different from both violent and institutional politics.

There is more to the definition, and plenty more to look through at the Swarthmore College enterprise.  Really wonderful  — including a map, flagged with nonviolent actions around the world.  A-Maze-Ing!


Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel Acceptance Speech

Complete Nobel Peace Prize address by Aung San Suu Kyi, for her 1991 award.  Includes lovely Burmese harp rendition, by Metta Shwe Saung of “Loving Kindness and the Golden Harp,” by Aung Lin.  [She starts at about 10:00, but don’t miss the harp….]

 The Text

Edited version and article at the telegraph.co.uk

Nobel Prize. org  with Aung San Suu Kyi featured

Fasting in Israeli Prisons

At long last Palestinian resistance to Israel has shown something beyond guns and bus bombings.  The venerable traditions of Gandhi, King and Chavez.  I am willing to suffer — that you may understand.


The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.

Each day since April 17, scores of Palestinian prisoners have joined a hunger strike that officials say now counts more than 1,500 participants. And on Thursday, the Palestinian Authority’s minister of detainees said that if Israel did not yield to their demands for improved prison conditions, the remaining 3,200 would soon join in.

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How Empires Fall (Including the American One)

A TomDispatch Interview With Jonathan Schell
By Andy Kroll


Very good stuff here, not only Schell’s book The Unconquerable World, but this interview with him at TomDispatch.