Can There Be A Zero-Martyr Revolution?

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The age of cloaked activism where freedom fighters object to degrading regimes from behind screens and an alias, where personal liberties are called for while hiding behind a shrouded avatar, where youth shrug off discrimination while stating “I can’t risk my stability, my family, and everything just to say it’s unfair,” is over.

The gnawing need for freedom of expression, yearn for dignity and self-respect has finally hit a chord. People are taking to the streets, crowds pulsating with rage, leaders trembling in their dogmatic army boots. Do we hear the nation roar?

The Tunisian uprising claimed the lives of 219 freedom fighters, who are really people just like you and me.

The Egyptian revolution ravaged 297 civilians in the name of “civil unrest”; more are dropping as we speak. Other Arabic countries will probably pursue their own bloody revolutions.

The martyrs, as they are called, state the significance of such uprisings, but can revolutionary changes take place without these losses? Can youth set their demands without risking being beaten and shot by regime representatives or corrupt governments?

Brutal and Dylan, civilians just like the rest of you, take the debate to heart. Can revolutions in the Middle East be undertaken without any blood shed? Or are we too uncivilized as a nation to contemplate such a thought?


Aren’t we over the Crusades? Do we still need a blood bath every time we need to state an opinion or affect change? Well, I don’t think so, or more like I don’t want to believe so.

I’ve made a fool of myself several times discussing something that I would love to see happening and that everyone who heard me talk about it basically laughed at: The Zero-Martyr Revolution.

So here I go again: I don’t think that there is anything worth a human life. I don’t believe in dying for a cause. That for me is a form of surrender. I’d rather rebel against the injustice and stay alive till I see the change happen, and if it doesn’t happen, I’d rather live with the pride (not the shame) of someone who tried but didn’t succeed, and keep on trying.

I’m not underestimating martyrs here; I have all the respect in the world for them. But I think those lives are unrightfully taken, and whoever was responsible for that should pay for it.

It’s not enough to be proud of our martyrs; a visa to heaven is not enough! Those are people who DIED! DIED! We can’t be this blasé about a human life taken!


Martyrs are a necessity in such revolutionary changes, especially in fights against doctrinaire regimes that don’t flinch by killing masses who don’t agree with them. The Arab world is riddled with severe sectarianism and ideological battles. To die for what you believe in or more importantly what you don’t believe in has been a Middle Eastern reality that we cannot shy away from. Dying in the name of demanding freedoms is a necessity.

Martyrs are a necessity in such revolutionary changes, especially in fights against doctrinaire regimes that don’t flinch by killing masses who don’t agree with them.


It’s been a necessity for such a long time, but isn’t it about time to change that? That’s what I’m talking about. I want to rebel against death! I’m not accepting blood baths in my revolution! I’m stopping death! Let’s not die for a cause, let’s live for our cause. Let it be the revolution of life, not the revolution of “let’s die so generations to come will have a better life scarred with the memory of us dead.” Let’s make the change and live to enjoy it and be there to teach our children about life not about death.


Toppling a regime that often kept citizens detained in their own countries will cost us something. According to 2005 UN reports, around 30,000 Egyptians under Hosni Mubarak’s regime were subjected to “widespread use of torture against detainees” which were attributed to political and security reasons. These detainees were “stripped and blindfolded; suspended from a ceiling or doorframe with feet just touching the floor; beaten with fists, whips, metal rods, or other objects; subjected to electrical shocks and doused with cold water [and] sexually assaulted.”

Many of these political prisoners succumb to death after such tortures. Mubarak’s State of Emergency rule turned the country into a prison.

Let’s not forget Tunisia, a country of 10.5 million but over 31,000 prisoners. Although the Tunisian Ministry of Information stated before the uprising that it had no political prisoners detained, the number, according to Human Rights Watch, is estimated to be over a thousand.

Political prisoners are jailed under the “anti-terrorism legislation”, but in reality many are jailed for reasons such as exercising the right to freedom of expression, assembly or association or even accessing groups or information about Islam. These prisoners face torture, falsified evidence against them, long sentences and inadequate trials. They are refrained from meeting family members and lawyers and when jailed, face the cruelties of a sadistic prison that doesn’t offer proper accommodation or medical care. According to Tunisia Monitoring Watch, 43 former political prisoners have succumbed to their death due to lack of medical care while in custody. These are fatalities during such regimes; mere numbers obtained by the media or activists groups. In reality the number can be far greater.

So what is better: death under a dictatorship or death while overturning such a dictatorship? If a few hundreds of lives are spent to kill such regimes then we should not object. Whether we like it or not, lives will be lost, the question is which battle should they be lost in?

Algeria, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia are slowly murdering free thinkers and youth who believe in democracy for their own selfish reasons, lives lost silently behind bars and detention centers. Now lives are lost on the streets, in front of the world’s eyes and for everyone to see. I’d rather have publicized deaths than silent ones who no one will ever know about.


Well, do we really need to get to the point where people are in such desperation that they’d set themselves on fire? How cheap has human life become? We have become too lazy to rebel. I mean, we’ve been, as a nation, screwed over and over and over so many times, and yet we are still a nation who just sits there and claps!

Let’s look at Iraq (and no I’m not OK with the war on Iraq). Iraqis didn’t dare overturn Saddam. He has done a perfect job as a dictator, Hitler would be very proud! He’s been gone for almost 8 years, but the Iraqis are still under his influence. They have been kept in the dark for so long that now, after all of this, they are still willing to die for a leader, just by virtue of that leader’s sect. Way to go Saddam! We have forgotten that death is the last resort after exhausting all other options. We have become so willing to die that we’ve turned into a suicidal nation!

We have become so willing to die that we’ve turned into a suicidal nation!

Now let’s talk LGBT. Will it take an Arab version of Stonewall to get us moving? Look at how many of us have been killed in Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and the UAE. How many have been imprisoned all over the Arab world? How many have been kicked out of school and workplaces? How many have been killed in the name of family honor? How many suicides have been committed? How much more do we need? Homophobia, transphobia, patriarchy, racism, sectarianism and more, every single day! Enough!

Let’s start our revolution! And no, not in a violent way, in a smart and effective way, without giving up another precious life, but by improving the quality of human life. Let’s make the change by spreading awareness, by educating ourselves and the people around us. Let our revolutionary statement be: We won’t die, we will live! My idea of revolution is spreading awareness, widening horizons and fighting violence. I want a pacifist and open-minded society, where intolerance is something you read about in history books and get disgusted by, just like we do now when we read about the Spanish Inquisition, or Hiroshima.


Passive activism sounds like an ideal proposal, but to me, at least, it does not look like an option we will be using anytime soon.

The Stonewall revolution started with LGBT members fighting back police and officials who discriminated against and prosecuted sexual minorities. The crowds came hand in hand to fight the police. Liberals and some democrats joined hands in the revolution.

Sadly in the Middle East, LGBT rights are trivialized if not completely ignored. The majority of the Arab world still sees us as a mental infliction, a perversion, a case of lack of faith, or whatever their reason for our state may be.

Of all the infamous raids against homosexuals, the 52 men arrested in 2001 on the Queen Boat in Egypt, the arrest of 100+ homosexuals in Ghantoot in the UAE in 2005, and the recent arrest of 127 queer men that took place in a private gay party in Bahrain. Did the public object to the arrests? Did the arrested parties fight back? Did the media highlight the issue as a scandalous event or a violation of human rights?

We have everyday examples of Stonewall; the difference is the people involved never fight back. They hide, escape or deny. No one challenged these arrests on the grounds of human rights violations, no one fought back ruthlessly. Therefore passive revolt can do next to nothing in the Middle East. We need blood. We need death. We need to deliver the message, be it for liberals, atheists, different sects, religions, or LGBT individuals. We need to shout hard and loud, fight tooth and nail for what we believe in, and regrettably lose some lives. No freedoms are gained without a fight.


We can start our action without blood. If we win over the population, then we won’t need to fight. It’ll just be a matter of litigation, right? Violent revolutions can be a thing of the past, if we encourage intellectual debates, discussions and educational speeches, if we try to convince “The Other” of our opinion rather than terrify them.


Dylan, part of me desperately wants to believe in your passive revolution, but remember illiteracy in the Middle East has reached staggering numbers. According to the 2006 UNESCO World Literacy Monitoring report, between 65 and 70 million adults in the Arab world over the age of 15 are illiterate, more than half of which are women. And even if there was an education it was usually poor and inadequate. How can you intellectually challenge people who haven’t finished school or gone through an adequate school system? In order to have passive revolutions we need to educate, eradicate the presence of religious extremism and encourage diversity – a plan that will not be accomplished in centuries. But, like you Dylan, I will dream and hope.


As we continue to debate our ideas, what do the rest of you think? Do you believe that a systematic but slow process of passive revolution will take place? Or do you think that we have to take to the streets, armed with machetes, bricks, sticks and all and demand what is rightfully ours?

- Contributed by Dylan & Brutal

Guest Contributor

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