What is a “Color” Revolution?
As Egyptians youth hail their revolution as the first “peaceful” revolution, what those politically un-informed youngsters fail to see is that The Egyptian Revolt of 2011, is just another revolution in a series of “Color” revolutions which have occurred in the past 10 years.
So What exactly is a Color revolution?
Colour revolutions is a term used by the media to describe related movements that developed in several societies in the CIS (former USSR) and Balkan states during the early 2000s.
Participants in the colour revolutions have mostly used nonviolent resistance, also called civil resistance. Such methods as demonstrations, strikes and interventions have been intended protest against governments seen as corrupt and/or authoritarian, and to advocate democracy; and they have also created strong pressure for change. These movements all adopted a specific colour or flower as their symbol.
The colour revolutions are notable for the important role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and particularly student activists in organising creative non-violent resistance.These movements have been successful in Serbia (especially the Bulldozer Revolution of 2000), in Georgia’s Rose Revolution (2003), in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution (2004), in Lebanon’s Cedar Revolution and (though more violent than the previous ones) in Kyrgyzstan’s Tulip Revolution (2005), in Kuwait’s Blue Revolution (2005), in Iraq’s Purple Revolution (2005), and in Czechoslovakia’s Velvet Revolution (1989), but failed in Iran’s Green Revolution (2009–2010) . Each time massive street protests followed disputed elections or request of fair elections and led to the resignation or overthrow of leaders considered by their opponents to be authoritarian. Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” of 2010–2011, is the first Color revolution in North Africa and the Second in the Middle East and it launched the 2011 Middle East revolutionary wave.
Many have cited the influence of the series of revolutions which occurred in Central and Eastern Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, particularly the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989. A peaceful demonstration by students (mostly from Charles University) was attacked by the police – and in time contributed to the collapse of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. Yet the roots of the pacifist floral imagery may go even further back to the non-violent Carnation Revolution of Portugal in the mid 1970s, which is associated with the color carnation because carnations were worn.
The first of these was Otpor (“Resistance”) in Serbia, which was founded at Belgrade University in October 1998 and began protesting against Miloševic’ during the Kosovo War. Many of its members were arrested or beaten by the police. Despite this, during the presidential campaign in September 2000, Otpor launched its “Gotov je” (He’s finished) campaign that galvanised Serbian discontent with Miloševic’ and resulted in his defeat.Members of Otpor have inspired and trained members of related student movements including Kmara in Georgia, Pora in Ukraine, Zubr in Belarus and MJAFT! in Albania. These groups have been explicit and scrupulous in their practice of non-violent resistance as advocated and explained in Gene Sharp’s writings.
The massive protests that they have organised, which were essential to the successes in Serbia, Georgia and Ukraine, have been notable for their colourfulness and use of ridiculing humor in opposing authoritarian leaders.
Soros foundation and U.S. influence
Opponents of the colour revolutions often accuse the Soros Foundation and/or the United States government of supporting and even planning the revolutions in order to serve western interests. It is noteworthy that after the Orange Revolution several Central Asian nations took action against the Open Society Institute of George Soros with various means – Uzbekistan, for example, forced the shutting down of the OSI regional offices, while Tajik state-controlled media have accused OSI-Tajikistan of corruption and nepotism. Evidence suggesting U.S. government involvement includes the USAID (and UNDP) supported Internet structures called Freenet, which are known to comprise a major part of the Internet structure in at least one of the countries – Kyrgyzstan – in which one of the colour revolutions occurred.
The Guardian reported that USAID, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), the International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and Freedom House are directly involved; the Washington Post and the New York Times also reported substantial Western involvement in some of these events. Activists from Otpor in Serbia and Pora in Ukraine have said that publications and training they received from the US based Albert Einstein Institution staff have been instrumental in the formation of their strategies.
Yugoslavia & Former USSR states
The ‘Bulldozer revolution in 2000, which led to the overthrow of Slobodan Milošević. These demonstrations are usually considered to be the first example of the peaceful revolutions which followed. However, the Serbians adopted an approach that had already been used in parliamentary elections in Bulgaria (1997), Slovakia (1998) and Croatia (2000), characterised by civic mobilisation through get-out-the-vote campaigns and unification of the political opposition. The nationwide protesters did not adopt a colour or a specific symbol; however, the slogan “Gotov je” (Serbian Cyrillic: Готов је, English: He is finished) did become an aftermath symbol celebrating the completion of the task. Despite the commonalities, many others refer to Georgia as the most definite beginning of the series of “colour revolutions”. The demonstrations were supported by the youth movement Otpor, some of whose members were involved in the later revolutions in other countries.
The Rose Revolution in Georgia, following the disputed 2003 election, led to the overthrow of Eduard Shevardnadze and replacing him with Mikhail Saakashvili after new elections were held in March 2004. The Rose Revolution was supported by the Kmara civic resistance movement.
The Orange Revolution in Ukraine followed the disputed second round of the Ukrainian presidential election, 2004, leading to the annulment of the result and the repeat of the round – Leader of the Opposition Viktor Yushchenko was declared President, defeating Viktor Yanukovych. The Orange Revolution was supported by Pora.
The Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan (also sometimes called the “Pink Revolution”) was more violent than its predecessors and followed the disputed Kyrgyz parliamentary election, 2005. At the same time, it was more fragmented than previous “colour” revolutions. The protesters in different areas adopted the colours pink and yellow for their protests. This revolution was supported by youth resistance movement KelKel.
Colour revolutions in the Middle East
The Cedar Revolution in Lebanon between February and April 2005 followed not a disputed election, but rather the assassination of opposition leader Rafik Hariri in 2005. Also, instead of the annulment of an election, the people demanded an end to the Syrian occupation of Lebanon. Nonetheless, some of its elements and some of the methods used in the protests have been similar enough that it is often considered and treated by the press and commentators as one of the series of “colour revolutions”. The Cedar of Lebanon is the symbol of the country, and the revolution was named after it. The peaceful demonstrators used the colours white and red, which are found in the Lebanese flag. The protests led to the pullout of Syrian troops in April 2005, ending their nearly 30-year presence there, although Syria retains some influence in Lebanon.
Blue Revolution was a term used by some Kuwaitis to refer to demonstrations in Kuwait in support of women’s suffrage beginning in March 2005; it was named after the colour of the signs the protesters used. In May of that year the Kuwaiti government acceded to their demands, granting women the right to vote beginning in the 2007 parliamentary elections. Since there was no call for regime change, the so-called “blue revolution” cannot be categorised as a true colour revolution.
Purple Revolution was a name first used by some hopeful commentators and later picked up by United States President George W. Bush to describe the coming of democracy to Iraq following the 2005 Iraqi legislative election and was intentionally used to draw the parallel with the Orange and Rose revolutions. However, the name “purple revolution” has not achieved widespread use in Iraq, the United States or elsewhere. The name comes from the colour that voters’ index fingers were stained to prevent fraudulent multiple voting.
Green Revolution is a term widely used to describe the Iranian election protests. The protests began in 2009, several years after the main wave of colour revolutions, although like them it began due to a disputed election, the 2009 Iranian presidential election. Protesters adopted the colour green as their symbol because it had been the campaign colour of presidential candidate Mir-Hossein Mousavi, whom many protesters believed had actually won the elections. These protests, also referred to as the Iranian Green Movement, however failed to bring any changes to the Iranian government.
Jasmine Revolution is a widely used term for the 2010-2011 Tunisian protests. The Jasmine Revolution led to the exit of President Ben Ali from office and the beginning of the 2010–2011 Arab world protests.
Lotus Revolution is a term currently used by various western news sources to describe the protests in Egypt that forced President Mubarak to step down in 2011 as part of the 2010–2011 Arab world protests, which followed the Jasmine Revolution of Tunisia. Lotus is known as the flower representing resurrection, life and the sun of ancient Egypt. It is uncertain who gave the name, while columnist of Arabic press, Asharq Alawsat, and prominent Egyptian opposition leader Saad Eddin Ibrahim claimed to name it the Lotus Revolution. Lotus Revolution later became common on western news source such as CNN. Other names, such as White Revolution and Nile Revolution, are used but are minor terms compare to Lotus Revolution, currently common in Arabic and Western media.