The Man Behind the Arab Spring
Serbian activist Srdja Popovic’s successful blueprint for non-violent protest
Senior writer Liel Leibovitz has a profile of Srdja Popovic today in the Atlantic, explaining how the 39-year-old Serbian activist—who as a student worked to oust Slobodan Milošević—has actively laid the groundwork, through seminars and widely-disseminated guides, for successful protests in Georgia, Ukraine, Lebanon and, most recently, Egypt. Many of the young Egyptians who assembled in Tahrir Square had attended a 2009 training session held by Popovic’s organization, CANVAS.
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.”
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