Transformations from Armed to unarmed Political Activism

The upcoming symposium “From Bullets to Ballots: Transformations from Armed to unarmed Political Activism” held by the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies will take place on 3-4 November 2018, in Doha.

The symposium will focus on cases where armed political movements have laid down arms to undertake political activism, drawing upon examples from around the globe.

The symposium will examine 26 cases of armed organisations transforming into political parties or nonviolent social movements.

The studies will be presented by a range of specialists, including scholars, experts, politicians and leaders of these transformations.

These cases hail from four continents, covering examples from the Middle East, North and Sub-Saharan Africa, Western and Southern Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Speakers will travel from Algeria, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, Palestine, Spain, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, The Central African Republic, Uruguay, Turkey, Chile, South Africa, Cuba, Colombia, Mali, the United Kingdom and Nicaragua.

The symposium will host a group of leaders of these transformation processes and their testimonies about the reasons behind these processes and the obstacles they faced.

This symposium is the first of its kind in the Arab region, whereby the research content will be documented in the first Arabic book dealing with the subject of shifts from armed to unarmed movements using an academic approach.

The sessions will pose important intellectual and political questions in the Arab world after the 2011 uprisings:

How do the transformations occur?

Why do they occur?

What are the conditions for sparking the transition towards nonviolence?

What are the conditions for the continuation of nonviolent political activity?

What different paths do the transformations take?

What stimulates a transformation after a military victory, a military defeat, or a stalemate in an armed conflict between a rebel group and an existing authority?

The participants in the symposium include Dr. Azmi Bishara, general director of the ACRPS, former Minister for Intelligence Services in South Africa, Ronnie Kasrils, Chief Negotiator in the Peace Talks with FARC and Former Minister of State in Colombia, Frank Pearl and the conference coordinator, Critical Security Studies program director at the Doha Institute, Dr. Omar Ashour.


Cases from Libya

1 ‫‪Anes‬‬ ‫‪Al-Sharif‬‬ ‫‪was‬‬ ‫‪a‬‬ ‫‪former‬‬ ‫‪member‬‬ ‫‪of‬‬ ‫‪Libyan‬‬ ‫‪Islamic‬‬ ‫‪Fighting‬‬ ‫‪Group ‪(LIFG‬‬) ‫‪who‬‬ ‫‪spent‬‬ ‫‪20‬‬ ‫‪years‬‬ ‫‪in‬‬ ‫‪exile‬‬ ‫‪opposing‬‬ ‫‪the‬‬ ‫‪Gaddhafi‬‬ ‫‪regime.‬‬ ‫‪

He‬‬ ‫‪was‬‬ ‫‪a‬‬ ‫‪member‬‬ ‫‪of‬‬ ‫‪the‬‬ ‫‪editorial‬‬ ‫‪board‬‬ ‫‪of‬‬ ‫‪Al-Fajr‬‬ ‫‪magazine‬‬ ‫‪in‬‬ ‫‪London‬‬ ‫‪(the‬‬ ‫‪official‬‬ ‫‪propaganda‬‬ ‫‪magazine‬‬ ‫‪issued‬‬ ‫‪by‬‬ ‫‪the‬‬ ‫‪LIFG‬‬ ‫‪between‬‬ ‫‪1995‬‬ ‫‪and‬‬ ‫‪2003).‬‬ ‫‪

During‬‬ ‫‪and‬‬ ‫‪after‬‬ ‫‪the‬‬ ‫‪revolution,‬‬ ‫‪Al-Sharif‬‬ ‫‪became‬‬ ‫‪the‬‬ ‫‪spokesperson‬‬ ‫‪of‬‬ ‫‪Tripoli‬‬ ‫‪Military‬‬ ‫‪Council‬‬ ‫‪(August‬‬ ‫‪and‬‬ ‫‪November‬‬ ‫‪2011),‬‬ ‫‪the‬‬ ‫‪political-military‬‬ ‫‪body‬‬ ‫‪that‬‬ ‫‪ruled‬‬ ‫‪parts‬‬ ‫‪of‬‬ ‫‪Tripoli‬‬ ‫‪after‬‬ ‫‪the‬‬ ‫‪defeat‬‬ ‫‪of‬‬ ‫‪Gaddhafi’s‬‬ ‫‪forces.‬‬

‫‪The‬‬ ‫‪Transformations‬‬ ‫‪of‬‬ ‫‪the‬‬ ‫‪Libyan‬‬ ‫‪Islamic‬‬ ‫‪Fighting‬‬ ‫‪Group‬‬

‫‪The‬‬ ‫‪onset‬‬ ‫‪of‬‬ ‫‪the‬‬ ‫‪Arab‬‬ ‫‪Spring‬‬ ‫‪in‬‬ ‫‪early‬‬ ‫‪2011‬‬ ‫‪ignited‬‬ ‫‪a‬‬ ‫‪glimmer‬‬ ‫‪of‬‬ ‫‪hope‬‬ ‫‪for‬‬ ‫‪real‬‬ ‫‪change‬‬ ‫‪and‬‬ ‫‪the‬‬ ‫‪overthrow‬‬ ‫‪of‬‬ ‫‪dictatorships‬‬ ‫‪that‬‬ ‫‪had‬‬ ‫‪reigned‬‬ ‫‪for‬‬ ‫‪decades.‬‬ ‫‪

This‬‬ ‫‪coincided‬‬ ‫‪with‬‬ ‫‪jihadi‬‬ ‫‪groups‬‬ ‫‪running‬‬ ‫‪out‬‬ ‫‪of‬‬ ‫‪options‬‬ ‫‪in‬‬ ‫‪their‬‬ ‫‪attempts‬‬ ‫‪to‬‬ ‫‪bring‬‬ ‫‪about‬‬ ‫‪change‬‬ ‫‪through‬‬ ‫‪armed‬‬ ‫‪action,‬‬ ‫‪which‬‬ ‫‪had‬‬ ‫‪repeatedly‬‬ ‫‪been‬‬ ‫‪thwarted‬‬ ‫‪by‬‬ ‫‪state‬‬ ‫‪security‬‬ ‫‪and‬‬ ‫‪military‬‬ ‫‪forces.‬‬

‫‪The‬‬ ‫‪popular‬‬ ‫‪uprising‬‬ ‫‪against‬‬ ‫‪dictatorships‬‬ ‫‪-‬‬ ‫‪not‬‬ ‫‪an‬‬ ‫‪option‬‬ ‫‪prior‬‬ ‫‪to‬‬ ‫‪December‬‬ ‫‪2010‬‬ ‫‪-‬‬ ‫‪thus‬‬ ‫‪represented‬‬ ‫‪a‬‬ ‫‪golden‬‬ ‫‪opportunity‬‬ ‫‪for‬‬ ‫‪armed‬‬ ‫‪movements‬‬ ‫‪to‬‬ ‫‪re-strategize‬‬ ‫‪and‬‬ ‫‪change‬‬ ‫‪their‬‬ ‫‪worldview.‬‬

‫‪Indeed,‬‬ ‫‪members‬‬ ‫‪of‬‬ ‫‪the‬‬ ‫‪Libyan‬‬ ‫‪Islamic‬‬ ‫‪Fighting‬‬ ‫‪Group‬‬ ‫‪both‬‬ ‫‪in‬‬ ‫‪Libya‬‬ ‫‪and‬‬ ‫‪abroad‬‬ ‫‪played‬‬ ‫‪a‬‬ ‫‪key‬‬ ‫‪early‬‬ ‫‪role‬‬ ‫‪in‬‬ ‫‪all‬‬ ‫‪the‬‬ ‫‪peaceful‬‬ ‫‪activities‬‬ ‫‪that‬‬ ‫‪led‬‬ ‫‪to‬‬ ‫‪the‬‬ ‫‪“February‬‬ ‫‪17‬‬ ‫‪Revolution”.‬‬

2 – Abdelhakim Belhaj is a Libyan politician and a former paramilitary leader. He was the emir of the defunct Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG).

He is the now leader of the conservative al-Watan Party and former commander of Tripoli Military Council, the political-military entity that controlled parts of the city.

From the “Fighting Group” to the “Homeland Party”: Observations on the Transformations in Libya

Belhaj provides a testimony and reflections on his own‬ experience transforming from a leader of an armed‬ organisation to a leader of political party vying in elections.

He reflects on the challenges of sustaining that transition.


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