Freedom at Issue:

Insights on the global struggle for democracy

August 2013

Tyler Roylance

As the United States and its allies consider military action to punish the use of chemical weapons in Syria, Iranian regime media have made hay of new evidence that Washington enabled Saddam Hussein’s chemical attacks on Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. Readers are also reminded that the United States used weapons like napalm and toxic chemical defoliants in Vietnam, among other historical infractions. In other words, America is accused of glaring hypocrisy. But inconsistent behavior should be condemned only when the swerve in question is toward error or wrongdoing. When the change is from bad to good, it should be welcomed.

Yoseph Badwaza

Photo Caption: Hailemariam Desalegn, current prime minister of Ethiopia
Photo courtesy Frontline Defenders

Ethiopian Prime Minister The death of Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi in August 2012 after two decades in power sparked hope that the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) would undertake reforms to open up the political system and loosen the harsh restrictions imposed on civil society, the media, and opposition parties. However, one year into the administration of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, Meles’s successor, not much has changed in the highly repressive country.

Arch Puddington

The March on Washington was a prequel to what today might be called a civil society campaign for democracy.

The current situation in Russia has reignited the debate over whether it is acceptable for repressive, nondemocratic countries to host international sporting events. After all, many of these events, such as the Olympics and soccer’s European Cup, cite respect for human rights and the rejection of any form of discrimination as part of their mission statements and governing statutes. But if current trends are any guide, dictatorships will remain free to disregard those values and still host international events.

The June protests have opened a long overdue debate on how the government can adequately address issues like healthcare, education, and social services in a way that meets popular expectations.  The magnitude of the protests and the widespread demands they summoned forth suggest that Brazilian institutions have serious flaws and serious change will be required to bring them in line with the country’s new social and economic realities.

The recommendations by Bahrain's National Assembly to quash the August 14th protests and expand the legal justification for further suppression of political dissent constitute a serious new threat to human rights in Bahrain, particularly freedom of expression and assembly, and are a troubling development in a legal system that already has a substantial record of rights violations.

Arch Puddington

Caption: Bayard Rustin and Dr. Eugene Reed at Freedom House
Photo Credit: Library of Congress
All who love liberty and equal rights should raise a glass in celebration of Bayard Rustin’s designation as a Medal of Freedom recipient.

The fall of Hosni Mubarak raised hopes for a democratic transition in Egypt, but these hopes have been dashed by successive governments. Human rights abuses increased during the interim rule of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), persisted under the elected government of President Mohamed Morsi, and have continued since the military-backed government of Adly Mansour took power on July 3. In the past month, Egypt’s democratic institutions have suffered a significant decline, according to Freedom House’s Egypt Democracy Compass.

What happens in the next few months may determine whether Tunisia becomes a functioning constitutional democracy or finds itself embroiled in escalating political confrontations driven by appeals to the street rather than the ballot box.

Arch Puddington


This week marks the second anniversary of the arrest of former Ukrainian prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko. A polarizing personality, Tymoshenko was a key leader of the forces that took power after challenging the results of deeply flawed 2004 elections in what became known as the Orange Revolution. In the 2010 presidential election, she was narrowly defeated by Viktor Yanukovych, leader of the Party of Regions, whose earlier presidential bid had been thwarted by the Orange protests.

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