In Libya’s 2011 uprising, protesters pumped loud music from radios or CD players in the streets in front of government buildings, then fled from the inevitable rush of security forces. The nonviolent early days of Egypt’s revolution that same year spawned a raft of new independent music groups. In Turkey, the “Song of Pots and Pans” exhorts political leaders to stop their lies and repressive tactics.

panelists

For hundreds of years, music has been integral to rebellion, resistance and revolution. USIP is highlighting the power of a melody to inspire alternatives to violence. Music and the arts are strategic tools of non-violent action and need to be financed as such, says USIP Senior Policy Fellow Maria Stephan, one of the world's leading scholars on strategic nonviolent action, in a new audio podcast.

“There needs to be investment in this area, not because it’s `touchy feely, kumbaya,’ but because arts, music and culture are powerful amplifiers of non-violent action and peacebuilding,” says Stephan, a co-author of Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict (Columbia University Press, 2011).

As part of the monthly Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum (CPRF), USIP this year co-hosted activists from Libya, Iran, Egypt, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Peru and elsewhere to discuss the dynamics of that connection with speakers including Stephan and Timothy O'Keefe - a music producer and co-founder, with USIP’s Daryn Cambridge, of Freedom Beat Recordings. O’Keefe and Arash Sobhani, an underground musician from Iran, screened a new film, “Music of Resistance: Conversations in the Middle East.” It tells the story of Sobhani’s 2013 journey through Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey to interview and jam with artists whose music has helped capture and fuel nonviolent movements that have emerged in those countries. Check out the video of the event and the trailer for the film.

In this 12-minute audio podcast, recorded and produced by USIP Research Assistant Megan Lavery, you can learn more about how music is used in non-violent action, what it means to the activists, and the background on some of the tunes. See if you recognize any of them.

Related Publications

Putin and Erdogan in Iran to Discuss Syria’s Future, Ukraine War

Putin and Erdogan in Iran to Discuss Syria’s Future, Ukraine War

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

By: John Drennan;  Sarhang Hamasaeed;  Mona Yacoubian

The leaders of Russia, Turkey and Iran are gathering in Tehran, with Ankara’s threat of a new incursion into northern Syria likely to top the agenda. While Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has both domestic and strategic reasons for the move, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi want to maintain the status quo in Syria, where both their countries have expended significant resources to prop up the Assad regime. Russia’s war on Ukraine will also feature prominently at the trilateral summit. Iran has offered to provide Moscow with drones and Putin and Erdogan are reportedly set to discuss restarting Ukrainian grain exports in the Black Sea.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & PreventionGlobal Policy

To Sustain Hopes for Peace in Ukraine, Keep an Eye on Turkey

To Sustain Hopes for Peace in Ukraine, Keep an Eye on Turkey

Thursday, April 28, 2022

By: Esra Çuhadar, Ph.D.;  Juan Diaz-Prinz, Ph.D.

Russia’s atrocities against Ukrainian civilians and its escalated warfare in southeastern Ukraine have swept aside last month’s public discussion of peace options as the countries briefly held talks in Turkey. Yet even in the darkest moments, all sides in this war, including the United States and Europe, have strong interests in maintaining channels for negotiation that can be used when opportunity re-emerges. Protecting that interest means understanding and maintaining Turkey’s role in facilitating talks—and its potential to serve more actively as a mediator.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes

Saudi-Turkish Clash Reinforces Tensions in the Maghreb

Saudi-Turkish Clash Reinforces Tensions in the Maghreb

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

By: Andrew Hanna

Morocco notched a diplomatic win this week as the United Arab Emirates opened a consulate in the Western Sahara, where Rabat has long sought international recognition of its claim over the disputed territory. It also signaled a troubling regional shift. The hostility between Turkey and the Saudi-aligned Arab states risks embroiling the Maghreb region, much as it already complicates conflicts and politics from Libya to the Red Sea region. In North Africa, as across the greater Middle East, a widening of the Turkish-Saudi confrontation is heightening the risks of destabilization and threats to U.S. regional and counterterrorism interests.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications