Tyrants in Iran, China and Russia tremble at the power of the people

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What we’re seeing across the world right now is astounding. From China to Iran to Russia, tens of thousands of people are showing up in towns and cities all over their countries, day after day, to voice their objections to their oppressive regimes — and to demand their downfall.

You might not realize the risks they’re taking. Here in America, performative politicians like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez pretend they’re being handcuffed as police politely escort them away from streets they blocked. The stakes are far greater in this axis of oppression.

It was 22-year-old Mahsa Amini’s brutal death at the hands of Iran’s morality police, after all, simply for having her hijab out of place, that sparked the fiery protests that have brought some sectors of the country to a standstill. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had to give his paramilitary police a pep talk last week to buck up their morale.

Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei speaks with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, in Tehran, Iran on Nov. 29, 2022.
AP

The members of Iran’s national team, which the US beat in the World Cup, go home to uncertainty. After they refused to sing the national anthem in solidarity with the protesters, their families reportedly were threatened. 

It’s like that in China, too, where murderous pandemic policies have sparked a revolution of sorts. Authorities there harvest the organs of political prisoners. 

In Russia, not every critic of President Vladimir Putin gets assassinated, but the regime slaps fines on even old men whose neighbors report they’ve voiced anti-war sentiment — fines more than a month’s pension. If you can’t pay, you go to jail. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin wields considerable power, but still faces opposition from his people.
AP

Yet day in and day out, protesters — mostly young people — remain resolved. In Iran, they shout, “Death to the dictator!” and “Death to the entirety of the regime!” In China, they hold up blank pieces of paper signifying what the regime won’t let them say.

Besides a lack of appreciation for the freedoms we enjoy, elitists have recently declared the American experiment dead — and pushed the defeatist idea that democracy is on the retreat.

Democracy in decline?

Recall that foreign-policy expert Ian Bremmer declared in 2019 that with China’s Xi Jinping consolidating power “on a scale not seen since Mao” and Putin reaching Stalin’s level of staying power, “it’s no longer clear that American-style liberal democracy has carried the day.” 

China’s Xi Jinping
Chinese President Xi Jinping is receiving backlash from civilians who want him to step down.
AP/Andy Wong
Chinese government
A person taking part in an anti-Chinese government protest, amid China’s “zero-COVID” policy on Nov. 29, 2022.
REUTERS/David ‘Dee’ Delgado

“Journalists” reported on polls conducted in unfree countries and told us some of these leaders didn’t just have control, they had widespread support. Their power was unstoppable.

The idea some people don’t want Western-style freedom became more widely held after the Iraq War folly. Bremmer asked if “US-style democracy” is “the right path for all” and advised policymakers to drop “the explicit American packaging.”

But in fact, freedom is a universal human desire — and freedom fighters around the world take inspiration from America. When I once asked Iranian resistance figure Maryam Rajavi about her intellectual influences, she said, “I read many books about the changes and revolution in many other different countries,” including America, where “George Washington stood up to the British at that time while he didn’t have anything, he didn’t have so many forces.”

Tyranny cannot last forever.

Kelly Jane Torrance is The Post’s op-ed editor.

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