In a report titled “Inside the Egyptian revolution” published on 13 April 2011, Reuters wrote of a character that was never mentioned before in the media in relation to the January 25th Revolution, and whom Reuters claim was involved in the planning process, this candid character is; Saad Bahaar – سعد بحار.
In early 2005, Cairo-based computer engineer Saad Bahaar was trawling the internet when he came across a trio of Egyptian expatriates who advocated the use of non-violent techniques to overthrow strongman Hosni Mubarak. Bahaar, then 32 and interested in politics and how Egypt might change, was intrigued by the idea. He contacted the group, lighting one of the fuses that would end in freedom in Tahrir Square six years later.
The report goes on to detail how Saad and three of his friends have setup the “Academy of Change”: أكاديمية التغيير
In the meantime, the trio of thinkers had morphed into an organization called the Academy of Change — based in London and ultimately moving to Qatar. The Academy became a window for Egypt’s activists into civil disobedience movements outside the Arab world. To disseminate the new methods of resistance, it wrote books about nonviolent activism with a focus on the Arab world: “Civil Disobedience,” “Nonviolent War the 3rd Choice” and “AOC MindQuake” that were published in 2007.
A year later the Academy published “Shields to Protect Against Fear”, a manual on techniques to protect one’s body against attacks by security services during a protest. “The idea of non-violent protest is not martyrdom,” Adel said. “We knew to get ordinary Egyptians, and Arabs, to face their governments and security, they have to have tools to protect themselves. This boosts the morale and enthusiasm to go to the street.”
The ideas espoused by the Academy spread through Egypt.
Reuters’ report continues to reveal Saad’s Academy relation to Kefaya, Ahmed Maher, & April 6 Youth, but then Reuters details another very worrying aspect, which is: “Saad Bahaar’s relation with Mohamed ElBaradei!!!
The report claims that El Baradei (or people working with him) asked for Bahaar’s help to topple Mubarak. Reuters wrote:
The former head of the International Atomic Energy Association and Nobel peace prize winner had inspired some of Egypt’s younger generation that change was possible. Several of them had created a Facebook page backing ElBaradei as the country’s next president. But how were they to achieve their goal given Mubarak’s repressive regime? They turned to the Academy for help.
The Academy directed them to its online training manuals, which the Facebook activists tried for a while. But despite their internet savvy, many felt that relying entirely on online training was too theoretical. Couldn’t the Academy give them practical training?
Those who had signed up to the Facebook page were divided into groups of 100. Bahaar trained eight of the groups in different parts of the country using, among other tools, PowerPoint presentations that explained how you maximize the power of a protest movement. Every protester had a family, and around the family was a wider community, Bahaar explained. If a protester was arrested or beaten by the police, his or her family might be radicalized. Similarly, if a policeman engaged in brutality, his family and social network might not be supportive. By maintaining disciplined non-violent activity, the regime’s power could be progressively weakened.
Why wasn’t Bahaar himself arrested? He says this was partly because he was working underground but also, he thinks, because the security services didn’t judge his non-violent approach a threat.
After the publishing of the report, we scourched the internet looking for any mention of Saad Bahaar, but with no avail! all we found were the following links:
- An old blog under the name of Change Art: The writer is writing under the name “Saad Bahhar” the lastest post dates back to November 2008
- The English Website for “The Academy of change”: containing their Books and other downloadable material, however the Academy website does not include Saad Bahaar as one of the Academy’s founders, instead it lists Hisham Morsi, Ahmed Adel Abdelhakeem & Wael Adel as the founders of the AOC.
- The Arabic Website for “The Academy of change”: containing their Books translated to Arabic
- The Facebook page of “The Academy of change”: listing it’s Headquarters in Doah, Qatar, notable to mention is that the Facebook page had little over 6,000 followers.
Other than Reuters report, no other news network mentioned Bahaar. Bahaar’s relationship with El Baradei or the planning of the 25th of January revolution remains unclear.
Update 01: June, 2011
wagingnonviolence.org Published an article titled: Academy for Change’s Saad Bahaar on Egypt’s revolution
The article talks about a conference at Cairo University called “The Nonviolent Revolution in Egypt: Learned Lessons” in which one of the speakers was Saad Bahaar!
The post describes Bahaar as:
“A trainer with the Academy for Change, a group of Egyptian expats that has published resources on nonviolence in Arabic and helped train activists in Egypt prior to the revolution”
And the articles quotes Bahaar as saying:
“Since 2004, many attempts were made to make change but we couldn’t. We studied the Serbian model, applied in 160 countries including the U.S., and we made the Kifaya Movement that means “Enough” in English. It crossed an invisible line and criticized Mubarak himself, which was a taboo. We did many nonviolent trainings. We read Gene Sharpe’s writings, we found German scholars on the science of nonviolence, people started to translate these into Arabic, I translated Gene Sharpe. We had to change the culture of violence and the culture of fear. We learned from Sharpe you have choices, either give power your obedience, or withdraw your support for the regime, be disobedient. But, the rule is, strategies cannot be copied, they have to be adapted for the demands of the location.”
Update 02: November, 2011
Once again Reuters brings news of Saad Bahaar in relation to Mohamed El Baradei, but this time revealing that Saad Bahaar have left El Baradei’s Presidential campaign!
Under the title: ElBaradei’s Egypt presidential campaign faces divisions Reuters wrote:
Mohammed ElBaradei’s Egyptian presidential campaign suffered a blow on Saturday as campaigners quit in protest at the handling of his election race, saying the former U.N. nuclear watchdog head has become isolated from his grassroots base.
Reuters goes on to detail how members of El Baradei Campaign are increasingly becoming frustrated with his isolation from the ordinary Egyptians and what they called, flawed campaign management. The article reveals that volunteers in Sharqiya,said they resigned after their campaign leader was dismissed in an “arbitrary decision” by the directors.
And this is where Saad Bahaar is mentioned, the report said the following:
“This campaign is failing because there is a gap between Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei who ordinary Egyptians consider distant and cut off from them,” said Mohammed Gouda, who headed the Sharqiya campaign. Two other campaigners, Saad Bahar and Ahmed Hassan, were dismissed for backing Gouda.
Campaigners in the city of Port Said also quit, while leaders in nine other provinces said in a joint statement they had halted activities until ElBaradei meets them. They also demanded a “transparent and just” probe over the dismissals.
“Volunteers work independently and without integration, like isolated islands. This will be a problem during presidential polls,” said Saad Bahar, one of those dismissed. Bahar was responsible for coordinating field work across the country.