Using street conferences to raise awareness around civilians being sent to military trials

No To Military Trials uses “street conferences” to raise awareness around the issue of using military trials against civilian populations in Egypt. A street conference is a public gathering in a public space to raise awareness about a specific issue by providing testimony from victims affected by the issue. The goal of this tactic is to bring the issue to the public in a new way, beyond what is discussed in traditional avenues like the mainstream media.

The initiative started in July 2011, just a few months after the 18-day uprising which led to the ousting of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. The ousting of Mubarak resulted in the rise of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) as the sole arbiter in running the country. SCAF began the practice of bringing civilian activists to military courts for trial. In an effort to raise awareness of this human rights issue, No to Military Trials called for public gatherings to feature activists who have been subjected to military trials by the SCAF. By raising public awareness, No to Military Trials is building public support for an end to military trials for civilians and a return of this jurisdiction to civilian judiciary.

Once a street conference is organized, No to Military Trial announces the street conference through Facebook, Twitter and mass e-mails. Posters and flyers are printed and distributed around the city. During the street conference, civilians who were subjected to military trials share their stories with the public.

No to Military Trials has felt a shift in public opinion on the issue of military trials as a result of their activities. Attendance at the street conferences and support for their campaign has continued to grow.

One challenge that No to Military Trials faces in the implementation of this tactic is the backlash from the SCAF. They have had to endure negative reactions from government-sponsored media outlets because of their efforts to stop civilians being sent to military trials.

This street conference tactic is a creative way to raise awareness and promote a human rights issue in a context where the mainstream media cannot be utilized to share a message. Many human rights campaigns face backlash from their adversaries and the mainstream media, but they still need to be able to build support for their cause. Organizing a street conference is one innovative tactic that can be used to bring a campaign’s message directly to the people!

Photo titled "No to military trials to civilians" by Maggie Osama. Found on flickr. Creative Commons license. Description: People gathered infront of the military prosecutor at C28 in Nasr City in solidarity with Journalist and activist Rasha Azab and Adel Hammouda, editor in chief of Al Fagr Newspaper for publishing an article on military torture cases.

New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.