Revolution By Love

'Revolution by Love' is the book name and reference to the energetic project started by a group of thirteen Middle East and North Africa (MENA) activists who were all attending a public administration program at Maxwell School, Syracuse University in the United States in April 2012. These emerging Arab youth voices came to visit the Shcool of Oriental and African Studies in London.

The pertinent question for them was not whether or not the revolutions happened with all the initial euphoria of toppling dictatorial regimes or the brave open public questioning of their governments that was impossible to consider before 2011; but, rather, what they can each do about it today and tomorrow in their own personal lives to ensure that the goals of the revolutions stick and succeed in the long run.

The book was the commemoration of what they have been doing so far in their respective countries, with thirteen chapters each dedicated to one individual's story. For them, the book is a way to share their experiences with the world and to affirm the power of self-will and choice in making a difference. Not naïve however, they admit to the post-2011 chaos, fright, despair and the threat of new despotisms taking hold in what is today a very volatile environment.

To realize the ultimate prize, which is the transition to democracy, freedom, justice and peace, they accept that patience must be exercised and respect given to the difficult process. Ultimately, it is down to the love for oneself and one’s country that action can be taken and the courage found to help rebuild and participate in revolution per se.

To quote from the team: “We wish to first break the boundaries in the mind, because it is from the inside where change happens. The more free in mind, then the more power you have. It is not about analyzing, but what can I realistically do to impact my world?”

Four of the original group came to visit London this month at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) to speak about their book, spread their message and take questions from the audience who were quite intrigued as to the catchy title and focus of this interesting social project.

The four young and bright women who attended were the Lebanese Dala Ghandour, the Tunisian Emna BenYedder, the Kuwaiti Muna Al Bulushi and the Libyan Samah El Meri. (The original group also hails from Bahrain, Palestine (West Bank and Gaza), Yemen, Egypt, Algeria, Jordan and Morocco.)

Each took ten minutes to relay her contribution to the publication; and, more importantly, what she is doing in her own country today to create a personal difference - within the wider collective efforts on the ground - to push for the decisive transformations so much needed in the Arab world.

Ghandour, for example, is a qualified lawyer specializing in family status law and a certified mediator. Since 2009, she has worked to develop mediation culture and believes in its power to resolve conflict and restore relationships. Interested mainly in empowering youth and women to participate in political process, she ran as an independent candidate for the Beirut municipality elections. She believes that “politics should not be left to the politicians!”

Ben Yedder, whose professional career role is a manager in Mergers and Acquisitions at SWICORP, has helped start an NGO in Tunisia. Her ACT – Think and Decide project focuses on raising political awareness among citizen and to encourage civil society participation in in the democratic transition process and constitutional writing process. She is also a founding member of the Citizens Association of Carthage, a resident association to foster local governance.

Al Buloushi is a middle school Arabic and English language teacher in Kuwait. She is interested in improving relations between the government and the National Assembly; and, to promote more inclusive political institutions as well as helping youngsters to understand their civic rights. Her mantra is: “The development of a country comes from the development of the individual.”

Last but not least is Elmeri. Upon the liberation of her hometown Tripoli, she became involved in civil society activities and volunteered in NGO’s with a focus on women’s issues. In June 2012, she was in charge of media monitoring of the first Libyan elections, working with the European Union Election Assessment team. Today, she is with Creative Associates International in LIbay and working on their Libya Community Driven Grants Program, as their Communications person.

All four insist that the Revolution by Love project is about harnessing the beauty and force of ‘personal engagement’ and the courage to seize the opportunities that are borne out of passion and respect for one’s people and country. They are also realistic that even with their open hearts and deep motivation, the desired seismic shifts can only happen one person, one day and one job at a time.

The book covers other issues besides the politics, that include the very important role of education and ambition for Arab youths, the religion that determines the character of the populations as well as ethnic traditions, family life, social media and the actual struggles of the Arab Spring.

As their publisher, Professor Stephen Parks, who oversaw the whole project, explained: “I wanted to provide a venue for these citizens to speak about their work at a time when US politics wants to mimimise the humanity of individuals from the MENA region.

“As a teacher, I wanted to work with them them to use the power of print and digital media to influence public debate about democratic politics; and, to ultimately use their stories to inspire their own local efforts to expand democracy back at home and here in the United States.”

The team wishes to invite other youths to join forces with them and declare their commitment to be a part of their communities and help in any way possible to realize the dreams of the generations that don’t’ wish to be forgotten.

At the moment, they are also considering translating the book in Arabic and to find a distributor in the MENA region, as well as planning for more volumes with newer voices constantly turning.

For more information about the project: www.revolutionbylove.com.

To get hold of the book, please contact Dala Ghandour at dalaghandour@hotmail.com.