Civil resistance is political action that relies on the use of nonviolent resistance by civil groups to challenge a particular power, force, policy or regime. Civil resistance operates through appeals to the adversary, pressure and coercion: it can involve systematic attempts to undermine the adversary's sources of power, both domestic and international. Forms of action have included demonstrations, vigils and petitions; strikes, go-slows, boycotts and emigration movements; and sit-ins, occupations, and the creation of parallel institutions of government. Civil resistance movements' motivations for avoiding violence are generally related to context, including a society's values and its experience of war and violence, rather than to any absolute ethical principle. Cases of civil resistance can be found throughout history and in many modern struggles, against both tyrannical rulers and democratically elected governments. The phenomenon of civil resistance is often associated with the advancement of democracy.
Civil resistance is a long-standing and widespread phenomenon in human history. Several works on civil resistance adopt a historical approach to the analysis of the subject. Cases of civil resistance, both successful and unsuccessful, include:
- Mohandas K. Gandhi's role in the Indian independence movement in 1917–47
- Martin Luther King Jr.'s role in the Civil Rights Movement in 1955–68
- the Sudanese Revolution against military regime (leader Ibrahim Abood )-1958- 1964.
- Aspects of the Northern Ireland civil rights movement in 1967–72
- a variety of raids on U. S. draft boards to protest the war in Vietnam, 1967-1971
- the Sudanese Revolution against military regime (Jaffer Numairy )-1969- 1984.
- the Revolution of the Carnations in Portugal in 1974–5, supporting the military coup of 25 April 1974
- the Iranian Revolution in 1977–79, before Khomeini's advent to power in February 1979
- the Polish Solidarity Trade Union used civil resistance to protest against the Soviet controlled government, even after delegalization and numerous crackdowns.
- the People Power Revolution in the Philippines in the 1980s that ousted President Marcos
- the campaigns against apartheid in South Africa, especially before 1961, and during the period of 1983–94.
- the mass mobilization against authoritarian rule in Pinochet's Chile, 1983–88
- the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989 in China
- the various movements contributing to the revolutions of 1989 in central and eastern Europe, and to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991
- the campaign against Serbian domination in Kosovo, 1990–98, that was followed by war
- the revolutions in Serbia in 2000, Georgia in 2003, and Ukraine in 2004, all of which involved successful resistance against an incumbent government that had refused to acknowledge its defeat in an election and had sought to falsify the election results
- the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon in 2005, following the assassination of former prime minister Rafic Hariri on 14 February 2005, and calling for Syrian military withdrawal from Lebanon
- the demonstrations, mainly led by students and monks, in the Saffron Revolution in Burma in 2007
- the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests following evidence of electoral manipulation in the elections of June 2009
Egypt, 25 January 2011:
marchers in Cairo with ‘OUT’ signs on the 'Day of Anger' against President Mubarak. On 11 February he left office.
- the Arab Spring uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, starting in Tunisia in December 2010, and resulting, in 2011, in the fall of rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. In some countries the movements were followed by war (e.g. Syrian Civil War and War in Yemen) or by a return to military rule, as in Egypt in 2013 following the Egyptian Revolution of 2011
- the 15-M or Indignados movement, which included the peaceful occupation of squares all over Spain in May–June 2011, and a mosaic of other forms of civil disobedience by many of the groups that were created, or strengthened, after the squares occupations. In particular the Platform for People Affected by Mortgages, or PAH.
- the Gezi Park protests in Turkey in 2013, in opposition to urban development plans, and also to government encroachments on freedom of expression and on Turkey's secularist traditions
- the early phases of the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine in 2013–14, demanding closer integration with European Union countries, and the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych
- the 2014 Hong Kong protests, also known as "Occupy Central" and the "Umbrella movement", opposing the 2014–15 Hong Kong electoral reform in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
- Women's marches in USA from January 2017 Women's March onwards to resist President Donald Trump's sexist statements.
Numerous other campaigns, both successful and unsuccessful, could be included in a longer listing. In 1967 Gene Sharp produced a list of 84 cases. He followed this with further surveys. In 2013 Maciej Bartkowski authored a long list of cases in the past 200 years, arranged alphabetically by country.