The Power of Nonviolent Change: Argentina’s Mothers of the Disappeared

Articles Creative Resistance Language:   

Is nonviolent resistance really effective enough to fight repressive measures and powerful weapons of dictatorships? There is ample literature, providing explanations as to why nonviolent campaigns are powerful tools for democracy. Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth, for example, analyzed 323 nonviolent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006 and found out that nonviolent people power was as twice as effective as the violent campaigns*. One well-known example in history is the story of Argentina’s Mothers of the Disappeared.

Between 1976 and 1983, a military dictatorship ruled Argentina. Human rights were violated. Many journalists were killed.  Thousands of people working to improve the country disappeared. Many of their relatives disappeared.  Fear was used by the military government to maintain its grip on power.  On April 30, 1977 about a dozen mothers of those who had disappeared gathered in the Plaza de Mayo (May Square).  Gradually, as others joined them over the next months and years, they articulated their basic call: “They took them away alive, we want them returned alive.” Their relentless persistence was not without cost, including beatings, detentions and the killing of some of their members.  Nevertheless, their courageous and loving witness contributed significantly to the nonviolent struggle for the eventual restoration of democracy in Argentina.

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*International Security, volume 33, issue 1, pages 7-44

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