Beautiful Rising’s beautiful spring

Photo by Theis Dencker

Beautiful Rising has had a very busy spring. We held a workshop at the World Social Forum in Tunisia, convened troublemakers from six countries throughout the Arab world in Amman, and met with Syrian and Turkish creative activists in Istanbul. We’ve heard success stories, and been thrilled to discover new tactics and ideas for effective organizing in diverse and challenging circumstances. Read on for highlights…

World Social Forum

On March 27, during the World Social Forum in Tunis, the city that ignited the Arab Spring, Beautiful Rising’s Rae Abileah led a workshop entitled “Creative activism under challenging political circumstances.” The workshop was packed with people — from Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Belgium, Sweden, Turkey, Algeria, and beyond — all there to share stories of creative resistance and learn from one another. Questions ranged from how to plan jail support for activists engaging in civil disobedience, to how to encourage conservative audiences to join a flash mob.

Participants teased out key lessons from their campaigns and creative resistance. Sofiane Belhadj and Zied Touzani spoke about utilizing cartoons and coordinated Internet customer pressure to overturn Internet censorship in Tunisia. Thinzar Shunlei Yi showed real-time photos of protests in Yangon condemning violent police attacks on students. Meanwhile, Norman Tumuhimbise shared his story of releasing pigs doused in yellow paint inside the Ugandan Parliament to protest massive government corruption.

Read Rae’s full dispatch from Tunis highlighting stories of creative resistance from Myanmar to Zimbabwe.

Arab Regional Workshop

Photo by Theis Dencker

After Tunis, Beautiful Rising held our second listening workshop, from April 12-15 at ActionAid’s Global Platform in Amman, Jordan. Fifteen frontline activists from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, and Tunisia came together to document action stories, build cross-movement networks, and, as co-facilitator Andrew Boyd put it, “make Beautiful Rising their own.”

With co-facilitators Nisreen Haj Ahmad, Rae Abileah, Theis Dencker, Andrew Boyd, and Diana Haj Ahmad, the participants explored the constraints and challenges activists face in the Middle East/North Africa (MENA) region through breakout groups, the Beautiful Rising card game (in beta), and a theater workshop.

From discussions of political contexts in the Arab region to highlighting challenges of organizing under current regimes and successes from specific campaigns, each participant identified a story that they then began to write — starting a future contribution for the Beautiful Rising toolbox. These included new strategies (“Divestment”), tactics (“Currency hacking” and “Radical travel”), principles (“Maintain momentum” and “Personalize and polarize”), theories (De-colonizing NGO funding”), and case studies (“Stolen Gas Campaign”, “Birthright Un/Re-plugged”, and “Highway Dummies”).

We were inspired to see a coordinator of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and an organizer with the global climate justice movement to divest from fossil fuels pair up to write a piece on divestment, and discover common principles and different challenges. “This is the magic of working across silos,” said Rae Abileah, “and distilling out best practices from our lived experience.”

Read more about the Amman workshop in this blog post by Tunisian participant Zyna Mejri.



Next up was Istanbul, where in between cups of tea and games of backgammon, Andrew and Rae launched the Turkish edition of Beautiful Trouble - Bela Iyidir. As is tradition at launch parties for new language versions of Beautiful Trouble, talented local musicians sang the Table of Contents — in this case with Turkish and Persian musicians and traditional instruments.

Andrew and Rae also facilitated a nonviolent action training for Turkish activists, and met with Syrian activists at The Day After to hear their stories of creative organizing and ideas on how best to build Beautiful Rising.

The Road Ahead

Beautiful Rising’s next stop is Harare, Zimbabwe, for our third workshop, from June 2-5. Later in 2015 look for us in Uganda and Bangladesh — email us at swa(at) if you have activists contacts in these countries who may be interested in getting involved.

Thanks for reading. As always, we’re @BeautRising on Twitter and Beautiful Rising on Facebook and we hope you’ll keep us updated on your work too!

-The Beautiful Rising Team

Posted by Mara Ranville
May 13, 2015