While front-line activists in the streets engage in visible acts of bravery and resilience, civil resistance educators, trainers, and mentors sometimes remain backstage, playing a quiet, longer-term role in nonviolent movements. Their work consists of educating activists about civil resistance, and teaching them how to use analytical tools to become strategic thinkers, choose smart tactics, and adopt suitable strategies to their own contexts. Considering that, as Hardy Merriman has argued, there is “virtually no infrastructure or standardized educational processes for learning about this field,” civil resistance trainers play a crucial role in movement building.
Over the past few years, I have been working as a civil resistance trainer and educator in various parts of Pakistan including Azad and Jammu Kashmir. At times, my work to spread knowledge about civil resistance for human rights, peace, and democracy has brought me to cross red lines drawn by patriarchal principles in Pakistani society (and so many other places in the world). Like perhaps many others involved in civil resistance training, my work has often led me to reflect on questions like: What compels people to join a nonviolent movement? And why do some movement participants become disengaged in their pursuit of justice and freedom?