Corruption and political freedom, common issues during 2019 protests

Photo: Reuters

While many people were fighting for their own causes, there were two issues most had in common.

Probably, the year 2019 will be remembered as the year of protests. While many people were fighting for their own causes, there were two issues most had in common.


Allegations of government corruption have helped to spark massive waves of protests across Chile, Egypt, Iran, and Lebanon.

In Lebanon, protesters argued that while they are suffering under an economic crisis, the country’s leaders have been using their positions of power to enrich themselves, through kickbacks and favorable deals. People have been calling for all ministers and public officials to be held accountable for what people perceive to be stolen public funds.

People in Iraq have also been calling for the end of a political system that they say has failed them. One of the main points of contention there is the way government appointments are made on the basis of sectarian or ethnic quotas, instead of on merit. Demonstrators argue that this has allowed leaders to abuse public funds to reward themselves and their followers, with very little benefit to most citizens.

In late September thousands of people took part in demonstrations nationwide across Egypt. The protests were triggered by a series of viral videos claiming high-level corruption in the Egyptian military.

And in Chile, protests began in October in the capital, Santiago, over proposed hikes in subway fares. Protests soon spread around the country, with Chileans demanding income equality, better health care and more money for education. At least 22 people have been killed.

Political freedom:

Hong Kong has been home to arguably one of the biggest and most sustained protests linked to political freedoms in 2019. The protests started in April after the government of Hong Kong proposed a bill that would have allowed extraditions to mainland China. The mass action in Hong Kong led to the withdrawal of the controversial legislation, but the protests themselves continued. Among their demands, protesters wanted complete universal suffrage, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality and amnesty for demonstrators who have been arrested.

October saw massive mobilizations and demonstrations occurring in Barcelona and the rest of Catalonia after Spain’s Supreme Court sentenced 12 Catalan political leaders and activists. Shortly after the sentence was given, people in Barcelona received a message on a popular encrypted messaging service telling them to go to Barcelona’s El Prat airport, mimicking a tactic used by Hong Kong protesters.

And in India protests have been held after the government of India’s unilateral decision to revoke Article 370 of the Constitution which guaranteed special autonomy to Jammu & Kashmir and split the state into two separate union territories. All these amendments and changes were made amidst a complete communication blackout, curfew on movement and mass detentions of political leaders and activists in the region.

Sources: BBC, Amnesty International, Voa News.

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