One minute of darkness for enlightenment [Archives:2005/898/Viewpoint]

November 28 2005

In the world of today, military and violent revolutions have proved to be less effective than the peaceful ones. Organized community movements create a real difference in systems without a lot of bloodshed, and sometimes not even a single drop. In Georgia, a peaceful coup removed Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze from power. After three weeks of protests over disputed election results, roses had the final say.

Less recently is the Islamic movement in Turkey. The “One Minute of Darkness for Enlightenment” civil protest in February 1997 was an extraordinary example of how organized movements could make a difference. It started with a small group of intellectuals who wanted to make a difference. At that time such civil society movements were unheard of in Turkey and so the activists who planned for the coup had to opt for other means. The main idea is about connection and networking. While the groups of activists gathered in small numbers they stayed connected with each other in order to synchronize their movement. To throw light on their movement without causing violence the groups decided to switch off the lights for one minute all at the same time. People started to wonder what was going on and soon the word spread and many more people started joining the peaceful movement and started switching their lights off all together in the same time. When the movement supporters grew in numbers the leaders decided it was time to be heard, so they invented another mechanism. Beating drums all together at one go, all the houses in Istanbul, Ankara and many other governorates were rocking with the sounds of drum beats. Soon the government yielded and there was an extended hand for change, the drum beaters have been heard.

It was not an overnight transition. It took years for a peaceful movement to make a difference, so is natures toll. Yet, it is amazing how societies are able to organize themselves in such a splendid way. In a world of increasing violence there is immense need for civil transitions. Some predictions about the future of Yemen are very scary. What happens if the new regime is not a popular one? What happens if there is no agreement on a new regime and the country lands up in civil war, again?! Unfortunately it requires a lot of education, planning and organization to have a peaceful transition in Yemen. But most of all it requires commitment and dedication. Are the intellectual Yemenis both in the government and civil societies ready for such a turning point in this country's life? I am afraid not. It might take another hundred years for the Yemeni community to learn how to organize themselves and understand that perhaps one minute of darkness would lead to eternal enlightenment.