Using online petitions to gain international leverage against an oppressive government

Overview

Tactical Aim: 
Country or Region: 
Organization: 
The activists of the 14th of February
 
The Coalition Youth of 14 Feb Revolution used an online petition campaign to protest Bahrain as the host for the Formula One Race. The activists were able to mobilize almost 500,000 people worldwide to sign the petition, eventually leading to the cancellation of the race in Bahrain in 2011. The impetus for the campaign was the Bahraini government’s suppression of peaceful protest earlier that year.
 
In order to bring attention to the brutal human rights violations, the activists of the Coalition designed an online petition demanding the Formula One race withdraw from Bahrain. It called for people worldwide to stand in solidarity with the Bahraini protestors who have faced intimidation, torture, and murder at the hands of their government. 
 
To collect as many votes as possible, the Coalition organized multiple events to invite people to sign their petition. In one event, ten thousand Bahraini citizens participated in a march that called for the Formula One Race to be suspended while the human rights abuses continued. The Coalition also reached out to journalists and Arab and Western newspapers to have their voice and demands heard. Readers were encouraged to sign the petitions and to support them in not hosting the Formula One Race. The Coalition started another campaign on social media which resulted in sending more than 20,000 messages on Facebook and Twitter to Formula One promotional pages. Through the use of social media, the Coalition was also able to gain the support of some of the race’s drivers, including Damon Hill, one of the race champions. 
 
 

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

What we can learn from this tactic: 
This type of tactic is known as the Boomerang Pattern. This is a tool that activists can use when domestic channels for advocacy are blocked by oppressive governments. Therefore, domestic activists turn to the international arena in search of allies who can help apply pressure on their home government to effect change. When working in restrictive nations, sometimes the only place to be able to gain attention to issues in the international sphere. 
 
The activists in this case applied pressure on Formula One Race organizers to withdraw from holding the event in Bahrain. By using an international, well-known event as a platform to make their voices heard, they were able to gain international support for their cause. By bringing their issues to the international sphere, the activists were also able to publicly name and shame their government for their human rights abuses. Naming and shaming can be an effective tool for calling attention to a government that is not complying with their own national laws and/or the international treaties they are party to.
 
This tactic was successful because it was used in conjunction with several other tactics. The use of online activist helped draw media attention to the issue, and their Facebook and Twitter campaigned allowed them to connect with race participants. Using online platforms is a quick and easy way to increase the visibility of your cause. The activists also used more organized tactics, such as rallies and marches. These kind of large scale tactics are effective in demonstrating the power and tenacity of civil society.