Amidst a global turmoil is a phenomenon of political demonstrations occurring around the world this year; and they all have one common goal, to fight for a better future.
President Alexander Lukashenko has been ruling the country for 26 years and won the presidential elections in August this year. He secured 80% of the vote based on exit poll results. However, the opposition candidate Svetlana Tikhanovskaya asserted that she polled 60-70% in places the votes had been counted accurately. This reveal by the champion for political change subsequently led to her detainment and later her exile.
Election fraudulence, suppression of opposition, brutalities and abuses against protesters by the state evoked people to gather in streets. It has since evolved into strikes, road blockades, and marches with around 200,000 partakers. Tear gases, rubber bullets, stun grenades, water cannons, and thousands of arrests succeeded. Presently, over 13000 people have been arrested.
SARS (Special Anti-Robbery Squad) was formed in 1992 to combat robbery and theft, kidnappings, cattle rustling, and use of firearms. However, it has consistently been linked with a profusion of gross human rights abuses.
Objections and demonstrations from the public against SARS emerged in 2017. However, after videos of misconduct circulated, a new wave of protests began in October 2020 calling for the abolishment of SARS. Since the protests commenced, 100 people have lost their lives and around 800 have been arrested. On October 20th, police launched fire at protestors camping at Lekki Toll Gate. The death toll is disputed as the official toll is declared at 1 but witnesses stated about 12 and news outlets reported 42. It is denominated as the ‘Lekki Massacre’.
A top court in Poland recently banned abortions in cases of fetal abnormalities. This prompted protests, strikes, road blockades, and rare incidents of church vandalism. The country ruled by a right-wing government also sparked outrage previously for introducing anti-LGBT laws. The government has deployed riot police against demonstrators and have utilized tear gases, pepper spray, and physically assaulted the protestors.
The primarily Catholic country was already one of the most restrictive countries in Europe on abortion laws. In 2017, 98% of terminations out of roughly 1000 were due to fetal defects as it is the only approach to easily obtain an abortion in the ultra-conservative country. However, women’s groups suggest around 80000 – 120000 Polish women carry out abortions illegally or seek them abroad.
The constitutional monarchy has witnessed a series of demonstrations calling for people-oriented, democratic reforms. The Thai monarchy is protected from ‘insults’ by draconian laws (Lèse majesté). Mainly led by students, this protest began in February following the dissolution of the anti-military, opposition Future Forward Party (FFP). The party was particularly popular amongst young voters, earning 6.3 million votes in elections in March 2019.
However, a second, and stronger wave with over 100,000 demonstrators commenced in July. This stemmed when the government issued a decree banning demonstrations as well as crackdowns on activists. Pro royalists have also joined the demonstrations defending the royals, although they are relatively much smaller in number.
Indonesia has witnessed rallies against the new ‘omnibus’ law passed last month. This bill eases business, labour, and environmental laws to attract foreign investment and stimulate the economy. However, it nullifies sectoral minimum wages and lowers severance pay to 19 months from 32. Businesses would also be permitted to narrow weekly holidays to a minimum of one. Lastly, acceptable overtime will be increased to a maximum of four hours a day/18 hour a week. Relaxing environmental laws also entails severe impact on the island nation with a sinking capital.
The law intends to create nearly three million jobs for young people and an additional six million for those who lost their jobs due to the pandemic. However, the enabling of exploitation has elicited condemnation from local trade unions and activists groups as well as international organizations.
The country has been experiencing a wave of protests and general strikes demanding the government to repeal the law. The Indonesian police have arrested around 400 protestors.
Note: This article only mentions a few of the demonstrations currently transpiring. To learn about others, visit: https://carnegieendowment.org/publications/interactive/protest-tracker
Written by Samah Noor Nausheer