Highlights from Music of Nonviolent Action Event at USIP

A recording of the June 10th event at USIP, “Rhythms at the Intersection of Peace and Conflict: The Music of Nonviolent Resistance” is now available on YouTube. Don’t have time to watch the whole event and the movie? Then check out some of the key points and highlights I have extracted from the discussion. Powerful and insightful points were made by both panelists and participants alike.

“The reason civil resistance out performs its violent counter part is because far more people, in any given society, are able to participate in nonviolent resistance…When you have large numbers of people who decide to stop obeying and are engaged in organized dissent and non-cooperation, this can sever even the most brutal opponent’s sources of power and translate into victory for nonviolent movements.” -Dr. Maria Stephan, USIP [view fill comment here]


“This [image above] is [a symbol for] nonviolent social change. This is, in other words, the intersection of peace and conflict. I think a key thing to understand about nonviolent action or nonviolent conflict is that it is not conflict resolution. It’s actually about waging a conflict, albeit through nonviolent means, in order to disrupt an unjust status quo or a negative peace – a peace that has no justice, has no social equality. The status quo may offer some “stability” but the stability may be unjust so you need to disobey, you need to disrupt the system, you need to shift your behavior patterns, and shake things up. You need to create a conflict…so that the outcome is a new status quo, a new kind of peace. Something has been transformed because people actively engaged in conflict through nonviolent means.” -Daryn Cambridge, USIP [view full comment here]

Questions audience members were asked to think about while watching the film:

  • From Arash Sobhani – How does this film make you think about the ways in which the US is misrepresented in the Middle East and how the media in the US misrepresents the Middle East to the American public?
  • From Timothy O’Keefe – How do the artists in the film balance their roles as activist and entertainer?
  • From Maria Stephan – How can music be used to enhance unity, planning, and nonviolent discipline in a civil resistance struggle?

Click here to watch the film.

“Media, art, and culture is to civil society is like oxygen is to fire.” -Honey Al Sayed, Founder of SouriaLi Radio [view full comment here]

“One of the most powerful influences and positive influences we [Americans] have had as a people is through music.” -Michael Shipler, Search for Common Ground. [view full comment here]

“The blues and rock created an integrated space in American culture when most of the institutions were segregated, racially… Black and white young people were drawn to the music because the beat, because it was about love. It wasn’t about racism or discrimination. There was this indirect effect.”  -Dr. Lester Kurtz, George Mason University. [view full comment here]

“That’s the price you pay for being happy in Iran.” -Arash Sobhani, Founder of underground Iranian band, Kiosk, on the arrest of six young Iranians who made a music video dancing to Pharrell Williams’ song, “Happy.” [view full comment here]

“We used music as a form of nonviolent resistance in Tripoli. So what we did was we put a radio, or anything that you have – a DVD player on the street – and put the music on and turned it on very loud and then run run run very fast. And then the regime will come and say, ‘Who did this?!'” -Huda Almaghour, American Friends Service Committee [view full comment here]

“What are the obstacles [to using music as a way to transform conflicts] and how do we turn up the volume?” -Aaron Shneyer, Founder of Heartbeat [view full comment here]

“New indie bands emerged after the revolution [in Egypt], after the protests in Tahrir – many new genres of music that never existed before came to being.  And now the military government – the repressive military government, as described by some – is actually using the same tactics. So many bands are coming out now and doing “hip” songs that promote nationalism. So it is interesting to see that both sides are using the same tool, in the same manner as to influence people. It acknowledges how powerful music is.” -Dina Salah ElDin, The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs [view full comment here]

“This type of work [arts-based approaches to conflict transformation] needs to be resourced…It needs to be financed…there needs to be investment in this area. Not because its touchy-feely and “kumbaya,” but because arts, music, and culture are powerful amplifiers of nonviolent action and peacebuilding.” -Dr. Maria Stephan, USIP [view full comment here]

“Picture this. If you are a young kid growing up in any country in the Middle East you either have to deal with a corrupt, secular dictatorship or fundamentalism and its not a pleasant situation to be in. And music and culture can play a big role to change this whole spectrum.” -Arash Sobhani, Founder of Iranian underground band, Kiosk [view full comment here]

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