“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world…would do this, it would change the earth.”- William Faulkner.
As the decade came to an end with the closing of the year 2019, people all over the world proved that they were not going to take injustice lying down, raising their voices for what was right. Protests in 2019 were seen in huge numbers, where people in different parts of the world, unhappy with their government policies, reforms, the current state of the economy, and corruption came together to stand against those that were responsible.
This is not the day and age where the masses lack a voice. This is a new world, where they will not be oppressed. They will fight for their rights, be it to save the planet or be it against the government.
The culture of rebellion is not new. 1968 saw an uprising against the government by the residents of Columbia against encroaching upon public recreation space. The protests were sparked by the student community which was the most affected and was fighting for its future.
In 2007, Myanmar rose up against the military decision of removing subsidies on fuel prices. While most protests were a sign of people fighting for righteousness, some protests were unjustified, such as the Boston rebellion in 1974, when the white revolted against the busing of the black and white community.
While there have been bursts of protests throughout history, what stands out for the year 2019 is the number of countries rising against oppression simultaneously. It was a tide that took over the year and refuses to recede. Let us take a look at some of these protests.
1) Hong Kong
The protests in Hong Kong were triggered by an extradition bill, according to which, fugitives wanted in countries like Taiwan and China would be handed over. People feared that this would give China autonomous control of their country and take away their freedom.
The protestors had five demands:
- Withdrawing the bill
- Police brutality and misconduct investigation
- Releasing the arrested protesters
- Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s resignation and universal suffrage for elections
- De-characterizing the protests as riots
The government has now withdrawn the bill but the death of two student protesters and police brutality has intensified the anger of the protesters. The government has not conceded to the other four demands and the protests continue, described as “The worst crisis in Hong Kong since 1997”.
Malta witnessed protests in November 2019, when blogger and journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated. People called for the resignation of the government as political links were established to the assassination. People also wanted action against corruption and the prevailing money-laundering in the tax haven.
Initially, the government adopted brutal tactics towards the protestors, but in the end, success belonged to the people, with the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat handing in his resignation in January 2020. The protests have now ended, albeit after leaving a negative impact on the businesses and the economy.
Another successful protest resulting in the resignation of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and President Barham Salih, the Iraqis commenced their protests in October 2019.
The people were unhappy with the unemployment rates, corruption and inefficiencies of the government for the last 16 years. They were also tired of the Iranians meddling in their internal affairs and wanted them to back-off.
The protests began in the Southern and central regions of Iraq but later spread throughout the country, and was not immune to police brutality. These protests have notably been the biggest civil unrest since Saddam Hussein was overthrown.
Bolivia held general elections in October 2019, and speculation was that since the incumbent did not receive a majority, he committed electoral fraud and the initial vote count was suspended. A foreign audit was conducted which could not confirm the integrity of the process and questioned the reliability of the results.
The protests were mostly peaceful, demanding an inquiry into the whole process, but turned violent in some parts of the country. The senior leaders of the movement were targeted and their families were attacked.
President Evo Morales finally resigned in November and in order to leave the administration unattended, member of opposition Jeanine Anez elected herself the President, but the people were not happy. Protests have continued since and the excessive use of force by the new government is still a matter of concern.
The Citizenship Amendment Act(CAA) was passed in India in December 2019. This act reduced the duration of stay in India from 11 years to 6 years to be eligible for citizenship, for Hindu, Parsi, Sikh, Buddhist and Jain minorities from neighboring states of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. This sparked protests and was seen as the government’s discrimination against the Muslims.
The protests still continue today, with students at the forefront in most regions. The protests have spread outside the country, with Indians in the US, Europe, Canada staging protests as well. The protests turned violent in some areas, and state-wide ‘bandhs’ had been called on several occasions, but the government is not ready to budge, neither are the protestors ready to abandon the fight for what is right.
Protests in Lebanon started in October 2019 against taxes on tobacco, gasoline and VoIP calls on platforms like Whatsapp. While this may have been the trigger, the rage that people had within them erupted in a big way against the state’s failure. The issues that have come out in the protests are corruption, increasing unemployment rates, sectarian rule, stagnant state of the economy and lack of basic facilities such as electricity, sanitation, and clean water.
While Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned amid the protests, the masses were still unhappy with the appointment of the new Prime Minister, former Education Minister Hassan Diab, who continues to lead the government today.
Egyptian protests started in September 2019, demanding the resignation of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The government and the police responded with brutality, resorting to tear gas, live bullets, and rubber bullets, and have made numerous arrests since. The number of these arrests is the biggest since 2014 when Abdel Fattah came to power.
A proposal has now been put forward by Parliament member Ahmed Tantawi for El-Sisi to denounce power in 2022, and not re-contest the elections in 20124.
The people of Chile had had enough when the fare for their subway in the capital city of Santiago was increased. This led to protests by students who were later joined by thousands of others.
The situation in Chile escalated fast and the President resorted to brutality, causing numerous deaths. The protests have now spread to other parts of the country and the people will not budge until the President resigns.
Yellow vest protests have been going on in Paris for quite some time now and the clashes between the people and the police have turned violent.
The latest issue to cause the protests was a change in the pension scheme by the government. People have also demanded a decrease in fuel prices, higher minimum wages, and a decrease in the overall cost of living.
The protests continue and they seem to be only getting worse with time.
10) Peurto Rico
The protests in Peurto Rico took place in July, where the protesters wanted the resignation of Governor Ricardo A Rosello. It started with news about two government officials’ corruption. Later, text messages from the Governor’s phone were leaked referring to a certain woman as a ‘whore’.
The people of the country were enraged and could take it no more. The protests ended with Ricardo stepping down and victory had been achieved.
Civil protests in Iran broke out in November 2019 and quickly spread across 2 cities. The demand was to overthrow their Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The protests that had started out peacefully turned violent and the Khamenei government ended up killing around 1500 Iranians.
The trigger was the increase in the price of oil, but the protest also brought out suppressed anger related to corruption in the government. The protests are still on and the country is experiencing internet shutdowns in various areas.
12) Czech Republic
The people of Prague took to the streets to demand the resignation of their Prime Minister Andrej Babis over accusations of misusing around $2 million of EU funds. The popular Wenceslas square in the city was packed with protesters in December 2019.
About 50,000 people participated in the peaceful demonstrations that were held against Babis. They wanted him to keep his vested interests in regard to his own business separate from government funds.
In October 2019, mass protests broke out in Indonesia against new legislation that moves to reduce the authority of the KPK-Corruption Eradication Commission. The protests were led by students all over the country and were not politically inspired.
Another issue raised in the protests was a law criminalizing extramarital sex. These protests have been the greatest movement led by students in Indonesia since 1998.
The Algerian protests have been called the Revolution of Smiles and it began in February 2019. People had been unhappy with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika and thus, when he announced his candidacy for President for a fifth consecutive term, enough was enough.
The problems with the Abdelaziz government stem from them monopolizing funds from natural resources for their own clientelist system. The protests are one of the few that have remained peaceful.
Following suit with the world, Columbia took to the streets when the government brought about some political and economic reforms that were not for the better.
One of the largest mass demonstrations to take place in Columbia in the recent past, the protests have mostly been peaceful, although a few violent incidents were reported.
Be it a developed country or a developing nation, everyone deserves equal rights. Gone are the days when whatever the government did was okay. Its time to stand for yourself and bring about the changes you desire. The system will only change if the masses put up a united front and strive to change the status quo.