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The Struggle for Universal Suffrage in Hong Kong

by Noah Simon | July 9, 2014

Hong Kong Activists Stage a Sit-in on July 2 (Screenshot from YouTube)

Hong Kong Activists Stage a Sit-in on July 2 (Screenshot from YouTube).

Civic groups and citizens of Hong Kong struggling for universal suffrage have begun to heighten their campaign.

On July 3, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy lawmakers staged a mass walkout from a parliament session against the Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, accusing him of “willful ignorance of the people’s call for real democracy”. Many lawmakers held banners and demanded Leung’s resignation.

One day earlier, police arrested over 500 protesters who staged a sit-in following the city’s annual pro-democracy rally. Police sprayed fire extinguishers at protesters and forcibly removed them from the ground. Demonstrators were arrested for illegal assembly, and for obstructing police officers.

The rally drew one of the largest crowds in the city’s history. An estimated 510,000 participated in the rally, which marks the year Hong Kong’s sovereignty was transferred back to China from Great Britain in 1997.

These events follow a recent unofficial referendum held by the group “Occupy Central”, in which roughly 800,000 citizens expressed their support for the public nomination of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive.

In earlier statements, Occupy Central’s leaders Dr. Benny Tai, Professor Chan Kin-man and Reverend Chu Yiu-ming estimated around 10,000 possible participants would occupy Hong Kong’s central business district. Given the massive turnout for the pro-democracy rally and the unofficial referendum, the number of potential sit-in participants could greatly exceed 10,000.

Anticipating the Shut Down of Hong Kong

Many in Hong Kong and elsewhere in China fear economic and security repercussions in the event of a shut down. The Global Times, a Beijing newspaper, claims that Hong Kong could turn into Ukraine or Thailand if Occupy Central supporters flood the business district.

Benny Tai, the founder of the movement, does not believe Occupy Central poses a catastrophic threat to the economy. In terms of economic repercussions, Tai compares a city shut down to a typhoon. Tai says, “The whole city may have to be closed down. There would be maybe one day people would not go to work. That would not be really substantial. We have many typhoons every year”.

With over 500 arrested during the pro-democracy rally on July 1, more arrests could be imminent if Occupy Central decides to shut down Hong Kong’s business hub. Chan Kin-man, another leader of the Occupy movement, has already made it clear that supporters should not resist arrest. Chan says, “We will line up and march to the police station to surrender. We are not going to challenge [the] rule of law. We will accept the punishment”.

Domestic and International Opposition

Several firms have spoken out against a potential city shut down. The world’s largest four accounting firms ran a newspaper ad publicizing their concern about Occupy Central.

Recently, HSBC told investors to sell stock of Hong Kong companies because of the planned protest. In their quarterly report, HSBC analysts wrote Occupy Central “could sour relations with China and may hurt the economy”.

In June, “Silent Majority”, a pro-Beijing group based in Hong Kong, published a video depicting complete chaos in the event of a Hong Kong shut down.

What Comes Next

Occupy Central has said a possible occupation of the city’s central business district would take place in late August when Beijing will release a framework for the 2017 Chief Executive election.

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More information on Occupy Central’s campaign for universal suffrage in Hong Kong can be read here.

The Use of Nonviolent Action in Response to Tragedies

by Noah Simon | May 26, 2014

Nigerian Women March Against Boko Haram Violence

Nigerian Women March Against Boko Haram Violence (Wikimedia Commons)

Following several national disasters and tragedies in recent months, citizens have used nonviolent action to convey an array of grievances towards governments. Many have staged demonstrations, sit-ins, marches, and strikes to denounce government inaction, corruption, and lack of transparency. Often times, the public responses that follow these tragedies serve as platforms for citizens to promote and advance existing struggles against governments.

Turks Gather in the Wake of the Soma Mine Accident

Public demonstrations were organized immediately after a mine explosion in western Turkey that killed 301 people on May 13.

Students planned a march to the Energy Ministry in Ankara to denounce the Soma mine disaster on May 14. However, police fired tear gas and water cannons at a group of 800 students, preventing them from leaving their campus. A sit-in was also held in the garden of the Soma Coal mining company.

In a Taksim metro stop, a group of youth lay on the ground to symbolize the dead.

On May 14, an angry crowd heckled and booed Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan during his visit to Soma. During this visit Yusuf Yerkel, an adviser to Erdogan, kicked a protester who was being held down by two soldiers. The incident was photographed and made headlines around the world.

On May 15, several unions and organizations staged a one-day strike. Many union members believe that the privatization of the mining sector in Turkey led to dangerous working conditions, claiming that mining companies are prioritizing profits over workers’ safety.

A statement from Amnesty International said that accident could have been averted, and that Turkey was “playing with people’s lives” as it failed to adequately investigate past work-related accidents.

On May 21, workers and families staged a sit-in outside of the courthouse in Soma asking for an investigation into security measures at mining sites. For several days, production at some mines owned by Soma Coal Mining Company stopped. Some workers have now returned as they cannot endure further days without collecting paychecks.

Nigerians Reprimand Their Government After Kidnappings

Before the April kidnappings of over 300 of girls at a school in Chibok that drew immense media coverage, citizens in Nigeria were already demonstrating to raise awareness about violence carried out by Boko Haram. On March 6, women held a “mother of all protests” demonstration in Lagos, Abuja, and several other cities following a Boko Haram attack in Yobe.

A group called Women Arise, led by Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin, an “activist and social crusader”, organized the demonstration.

Following the April 14 kidnappings, citizens and family members demonstrated daily, calling for greater government effort to return the girls safely.

Many protesters directed their anger at the government inaction after the kidnappings.

On May 4, Patience Jonathan, the First Lady of Nigeria allegedly ordered the arrest of two women who had organized demonstrations in Chibok. The women were released the following day, but the arrests have led to further government criticism and continued demonstrations.

On May 14, demonstrators marched in Lagos to mark the one-month anniversary since the girls were kidnapped.

While the search continues for the missing girls, demonstrations continue. On May 22, the Nigerian Union of Teachers closed schools across the country to allow teachers to participate in nationwide rallies.

South Korean Families Seek Justice After Sewol Ferry Sinking

On May 9, relatives of the passengers aboard a ferry that sank last month organized a sit-in outside of the president’s office in Seoul. Many parents held portraits of the children they lost in the disaster. Police blocked the demonstrators, preventing them from entering the presidential building. Over 200 were arrested for trying to reach the presidential office.

The relatives campaigned for justice to be brought for those responsible, as well as an explanation for what they believed were inexcusable delays during the initial rescue attempts.

President Park Guen-hye addressed some of these issues during an address on May 18. The president vowed to disband the Coast Guard, and instead use a different agency in an effort to carry out rescue operations more swiftly.

President Park also vowed to fight against poor safety standards that result from corrupt government and business regulations. Investigators highlighted this corruption culture as a cause of the disaster, citing that the Korean Shipping Association ruled the ferry to be safe despite the fact it was overloaded with cargo.

Families March to the Malaysian Embassy in Anger During the Search for Flight MH370

In China, families of the Malaysia airlines flight passengers organized demonstrations during the height of the search for the missing aircraft.

On March 25, the relatives of flight MH370 passengers marched in Beijing to the Malaysian embassy. They accused the Malaysian government of withholding information about the flight, and demanded proof that it crashed in the Indian Ocean.

Police stopped a group of buses transporting protesters, but the protesters got out and pushed their way through police lines. Protesters threw water bottles at the embassy and tried to storm the building. Dozens were holding banners demanding truth from the Malaysian government.

The BBC called it “a very rare street protest in Beijing”. The demonstration was particularly noteworthy because street demonstrations are illegal in China. However, the demonstration was carried out with impunity.

On May 20, Inmarsat, a global satellite communications company, published records of the missing flight. The company decided to release the information publicly after persistent pressure from the families of the MH370 passengers.

Teachers of Norway: Event on Nonviolent Action

by Carly Alvarez | April 28, 2014

Picture of oratorio singers mid-song

On April 9, Boston College hosted a musical performance and panel discussion inspired by the Norwegian teacher’s resistance to the German occupation of Norway during World War II. Through noncooperation and defiance, determined teachers in Norway successfully blocked Nazi indoctrination of the Norwegian school system.

“Nowhere through all these discussions,” Hakon Holmboe, one of the resisting teachers, said, “did the idea of nonviolent resistance come in. Instead of an idea, it developed as a way to work- a way to do something.”

Professor Severyn Bruyn, a lifelong scholar of nonviolent struggle and professor at Boston College for over 30 years, planned and organized the event.

Dr. Bruyn was deeply moved by the success of the Norwegian teachers, particularly in their ability to defeat a notoriously brutal and violent opponent.  He composed an oratorio and wrote lyrics based on Dr. Gene Sharp’s interviews with key teachers in the struggle, which are recounted in the article Tyranny Could Not Quell Them.

The McGee Ensemble, consisting of four opera singers and one pianist, provided the audience with an emotional expression of courage and determination, closing the performance with the teacher’s victory.

“We defeated our invaders without killing them. We suffered but carried on to win a nonviolent war. We won back our freedom. We saved a lot of lives by civilian defense.”

The musical component to the event engaged and educated the audience on the teacher’s role in resistance prior to a panel discussion on the potential of nonviolent action.

“I thought that the libretto was an interesting and moving way to present the resistance of the Norwegian teachers. The music reflected both the anxious fear and intense determination of the resisters and their eventual triumph was presented with a soaring musical finish”, an audience member told us.


Our Executive Director, Jamila Raqib, joined Dr. Bruyn on the panel along with Mr. Pat Scanlon of Veterans for Peace and Boston College professors John Michalczyk and Lorenz Reibling.

Ms. Raqib emphasized the neglected role that nonviolent history has had in societies around the world.  “Nonviolent history is often ignored in favor of highlighting war and violence. Efforts like this performance today remind us that another history exists. It is our responsibility to recover that history and share it in various ways, including through the arts. An understanding of this history will allow current and future generations to learn from it and understand the great power they have in refusing to submit to injustice, oppression or tyranny”.

Professor Reibling currently teaches a class on German resistance against Nazi occupation and emphasized the need to study similar historical cases.

“For me it is a splendid example not only of nonviolence but also very effective resistance. My underlying belief is that principles are taught not so much by words but by acceptance. Meaning, if you accept forms of violence or certain forms of oppression or certain forms of abuse, that is what you teach. You teach the next generation, predominantly your children, by accepting certain things as immutable, as things that can’t be changed. In most cases in my opinion, nonviolent resistance is much more effective than violent resistance”, he said.

Boston College students were encouraged to attend the event, and many were previously unfamiliar with this example of applied nonviolent action. Two students who attended said the following:

“I believe the story was shocking, in that the resisters were ordinary citizens and they went through such trials, as well as awe-inspiring, in that it was such a grand-scale display of both the power of the human spirit and the duty educators feel towards the intellectual and moral growth of their students.”

“These teachers chose to resist the perversion of the children they were sworn to protect and, as a child of a teacher, I cannot think of a more noble nor impactful example. Had they yielded to the Nazi Regime, it would have left lasting effects on the Norwegian people for generations to come. This event brought much needed light to their struggle, resistance, and hard-fought triumph over the oppressive rule of the Nazis in Norway.”


Note: A video of the event will soon be made available on our website.



International Repression of the Press

by Carly Alvarez | March 11, 2014


Six separate photos of journalists with black tape covering their mouths, each holding a sign that reads #FreeAJStaff

Last year was the second worst year on record for journalistic freedom, with 211 journalists imprisoned for their work, according to a report by the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ). Turkey, Iran and China had the highest recorded number of imprisoned journalists. The totals of the three countries combined account for more than half of all reporters imprisoned worldwide in 2013.

The organization Reporters Without Borders also showed a significant increase in the percentage of journalists kidnapped, with additional increases in physical threats, attacks, and forced exiles. Government targeting of journalists and bloggers continues into 2014, threatening the reporting of oppression and corruption throughout the world.


Turkey has applied broadly defined anti-terrorism laws to imprison dozens of journalists. For the second consecutive year, the CPJ ranked the country as the world’s leading jailer of journalists.  News coverage of last summer’s anti-government protests, known as the Gezi Park protests, drew harsh criticism from Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan who claimed the international community, specifically CNN, the BBC, and Reuters presented biased coverage sympathetic to the opposition.

In addition to holding the most recent record for imprisonments, the Turkish government is active in banning material from the Internet. On February 18, President Abdullah Gul approved a new law that allows Turkish authorities to block websites without a court order while simultaneously forcing Internet providers to keep user’s data for two years and make it available to authorities on demand.

Last month, prominent journalist Mahir Zeynalov left Turkey for his native country Azerbaijan after reports of a government decision to deport him. Zeynalov was charged with posting tweets against high-level state officials, including Prime Minister Erdogan, and is currently banned from re-entering the country.

A representative for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) stated that Zeynalov’s deportation “is a further setback for the dire state of media freedom in Turkey. Freedom of expression does not stop at statements deemed proper by those in power, and limiting this right will further tighten the control of media”.


Despite President Hassan Rouhani’s promises to increase press freedom, limited progress has been made since he took office last August. The CPJ reported 35 imprisonments in the country in 2013.

Within the past year, over 10 journalists and bloggers have been arrested and at least three newspapers have been forced to close under pressure from authorities.

Iran has a historically difficult relationship with foreign media, and strictly monitors the entry and activity of foreign journalists within the country. If a reporter makes claims that the government rejects, they have regularly had their press credentials revoked. This was most notable in 2011, when the government revoked the press credentials of 11 foreign correspondents covering anti-government protests.

On January 26, 774 journalists in Iran signed an open letter to President Rouhani, appealing for the reopening of the Association of Iranian Journalists. The Association has been closed since August 2009, and would be crucial in protecting the interests of the press.

Journalists and brothers Khosro and Masoud Kordpour were sentenced to prison terms of six years and three and a half years on charges of “gathering and colluding against national security”, “insulting the supreme leader”, and “spreading propaganda against the system”.  Khosro is facing the additional charges of “enmity against God” and “corruption on earth”, both of which could result in the death penalty.

Amnesty International Iran researcher Drewery Dyke said,  “The authorities have cited vaguely-worded offences but in reality Khosro and Masoud seem to have been jailed just for their work as journalists, a disgraceful but not especially rare state of affairs on Iran”.


China is placed third on CPJ’s list with 32 reporters, editors, and bloggers imprisoned in 2013.  In recent weeks, the Chinese government has been repeatedly accused of cracking down on foreign reporters.

Chinese authorities were recently accused of media repression during the trial of high profile Chinese activist, Xu Zhiyong. Prosecutors claimed that Xu “gathered a crowd to disturb public order” after participating in a series of anti-corruption protests demanding officials must publicly announce their assets. According to a report by Freedom House, the State Council Information Office ordered websites to remove Xu’s open letter to the President, as well as his closing statement, “For Freedom, Justice, and Love,” which the trial judge did not allow to be fully read in court.

CNN reporter David McKenzie attempted to walk towards the courthouse during Xu’s hearing and was kicked, pushed, and punched by Chinese security. Before being forced into a van and driven away from the site, McKenzie repeatedly stated that he was legally allowed to film in public areas.

On February 9, two Taiwanese journalists from Apple Daily and Radio Free Asia, both known for their critical coverage of the Chinese government, were denied visas to accompany Taiwanese officials for an important bilateral meeting.

According to CPJ, China’s influence over freedom of press is so strong that it has additionally affected journalism in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Hong Kong has reportedly taken a step back from reporting on Chinese issues as critically as it once did, with many reporters censoring their work to avoid threats from Beijing.


Egypt has recently gained international attention for charging 20 journalists, including 8 working for Al Jazeera news network, on accounts linked to terrorism and spreading false news that endangers national security. The recent arrests have sparked an international campaign to free those detained, with thousands of journalists joining the #freeajstaff viral Twitter protest movement.

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose candidate Mohammed Morsi won the presidential poll last year, has continued to organize anti-government protests despite the Egyptian government declaring the group a terrorist organization in late December.

The Brotherhood’s illegal terrorist status, combined with Egypt’s restrictive protest laws, makes it particularly challenging for journalists to cover pro-Morsi demonstrations.

An Egyptian photographer was recently arrested at a police checkpoint after authorities viewed images of a protest captured on his camera. Another local photographer voiced the difficulty of journalism in Egypt, “It is not only that the violence has made it almost impossible to take close-up pictures at protests, but it has become difficult to even carry a camera in the street.”

Al Jazeera continues to reject the charges against its staff and is calling for their immediate release ahead of their scheduled March 24 trial.


More than 100 journalists have been attacked or detained since the nationwide Euromaidan protests began in Ukraine in late November. The Institute of Mass Information, a Kiev based press freedom group reporting on the attacks, stated that in the majority of cases journalists blamed Ukrainian riot police unit, Berkut, as the source of the violence.

On December 24, prominent opposition journalist Tetyana Chornovol was driven off the road and brutally attacked hours after posting pictures of what she claimed was the expensive out-of-town residence of Interior Minister Zakharchenko.

Less than a month later, another Euromaidan activist and journalist, Igor Lutsenko, was abducted and tortured by an unidentified assailants.

On January 31, Russian journalists Nikita Perfilyev and Anton Zakharov were abducted in Kiev after returning from covering a local protest. The journalists explained that after they were severely beaten, they were ordered to stop covering the opposition protests and leave Ukraine immediately.

While the Ukrainian government denied association with these violent acts, opposition activists claimed they were part of a strategy to silence dissent. In all cases Human Rights Watch documented, journalists said they were wearing a brightly colored vest marked “Press,” or a helmet with the same marking, to clearly distinguish them from protesters.


In 2012, Myanmar abolished a restrictive law that previously forced reporters to submit their work to state censors before publication. Despite the abolition, government censorship continues to permeate Burmese journalism. On January 7, journalists demonstrated in support of their imprisoned colleague, holding banners that read, “We don’t want threats on press freedom”.

On February 6, four reporters and the chief executive of a privately owned weekly newspaper, Unity Journal, were arrested for publishing a story on a chemical weapons factory in central Myanmar. According to state media, the journalists were accused of violating the 1923 State Secrets Act by “entering a prohibited area” and “disclosing state secrets.”

Although government officials have dismissed the claims of chemical weapon production at the noted facility, police have confiscated all of the circulated newspapers containing the article.

Thailand-based magazine, The Irrawaddy, published a report stating that Myanmar President Thein Sein recently directed his ministers to prepare for the possibility of mass protests and violence this year. According to the magazine, Mr. Thein Sein told his ministers to be “united and strong” in the event of anti-government demonstrations, pointing to “lawless demands, violence and coercion” that have occurred in neighboring Thailand and Bangladesh over elections.

The Use of Motorcades and Vehicles as Physical Intervention

by Noah Simon | February 24, 2014


An Automaidan Rally in Ukraine

An Automaidan Rally in Ukraine (Wikimedia Commons)

Automobiles have been identified as tools of protest in many political and social conflicts in the past. Gene Sharp identified a motorcade as a type of procession (method number 42) in his list of 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action. Vehicles have recently been used for physical intervention to obstruct roads and make critical areas impassable, to barricade areas for greater protection, and to transport supplies and people efficiently.

Vehicles as Barricades in the 2000 UK Fuel Protests

The use of trucks, tractors, and large vehicles proved to be effective during the UK fuel protests in the late summer and early autumn of 2000. In response to rising fuel costs and taxes in the UK, truck drivers, farmers, and members of the public launched a protest in 2000 to pressure the government to take action. They argued that rising fuel costs and taxes made it challenging to remain competitive in their respective industries.

Protesters used vehicles to blockade fueling stations and prevent oil tankers from entering and leaving refinery sites. The constant blockades led to large fuel shortages, causing severe disruptions of fuel supplies throughout the UK. Just six days into the protest, approximately 3,000 gas stations were closed.

Oil companies often complained of a lack of safe routes for their tankers, as they could not get adequate protection from police to bypass blockades. Emergency services and public transportation became strained and were forced to operate below capacity.

By September 14, the majority of protesters called off their blockade after the government announced they would meet with protesters to listen to their views and demands. Protesters suggested that they could resume the blockades if the government did not revise fuel tax policies before a 60-day deadline. Six days before the deadline, Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced numerous revisions that eased fuel taxes, especially for truck drivers and large vehicles.

While many protesters were not fully appeased by the tax relief, the use of vehicles to blockade oil refineries and gas stations had tremendous economic repercussions. The London Chamber of Commerce estimated that during the protests, blockades and slow-downs resulted in businesses losing up to £1 billion (£250m a day) because of fuel shortages and traffic congestion.

Ukraine, Automaidan, and Convoy Laws

Throughout the recent Euromaidan protests, vehicles were used for multiple purposes. Ukrainians formed a group committed to the use of motorcades, known as “Automaidan”. On December 29, 2013 roughly 1,000 vehicles transported protesters to President Viktor Yanukovych’s house where they shouted various demands and grievances. Automaidan protesters proceeded to drive to the residences of other government officials to hold additional demonstrations in the same afternoon.

Vehicles were also used as barricades in protest camps in the Euromaidan movement. As part of a campaign to blockade government buildings in Kiev to prevent officials from working, some protesters left their cars outside of building entrances.

It is clear the use of vehicles by protesters caused the government great concern. Among the anti-protest legislation introduced for a brief time in mid-January, the government outlawed convoys of more than five vehicles.

Ukrainian police forces also have been armed with anti-vehicle ammunition, known as ‘car stopper’ bullets. The bullets are comprised of brass or aluminum and are designed to stop vehicles by penetrating parts and mechanisms.

Taxi Drivers in France Fight for Fair Competition

Taxi drivers in Paris have recently coordinated multiple actions, blocking major roads to protest against competition with unlicensed cab drivers that work for car-service companies such as Uber.

On February 10, taxi drivers began an indefinite strike until the government agreed to reform the registration for car-service companies. Drivers began causing serious disruptions around Paris’ two main airports after they parked their cars on highways. The obstruction closed off two highway exits and caused traffic delays that spread into central Paris.

Police forces were able to ease some of the congestion by forcing cab drivers to move their cars, but the next day drivers resumed their protest. On February 11, over sixty drivers were arrested for blocking traffic, and were later released without charges. Some drivers also tried to block competing car-service companies from picking up their customers.

Taxi drivers decided to temporarily halt their strike on February 13 in response to a government decision to suspend the registration of car-service (“minicab”) vehicles for two months. While the decision does not fully resolve drivers’ demands, it has brought them closer to establishing rules addressing their concerns for fair competition with other car services.

Examining the Potential of Vehicles in Protests

As the protests during the 2000 UK fuel crisis demonstrate, using vehicles to blockade areas, or to slow down roads and create gridlocks can prove to be highly effective actions that are costly for governments or other opponents. Facing areas with up to 50 trucks blocking entrances, the UK government found it difficult to remove protesters without military or specialist police units.

Additionally, the recent protests of taxi drivers in Paris show that when police coerce motorists to move their vehicles, they can simply regroup in different locations and form new blockades.

In Ukraine, Automaidan members established safe routes to transport protesters to major rallies, coordinated the delivery of supplies, and set up blockades throughout the country. Their actions were often publicized in advance on Facebook and Twitter so that different groups within the Euromaidan movement could collaborate with them. Automaidan displays that motorists can organize the use of vehicles as a component of a larger strategy for their struggle.


Do Laws Prohibiting Protest Work?

by Noah Simon | January 28, 2014

Protesters Gather in Ukraine, January 2014

Protesters Gather in Ukraine, January 2014 (Wikimedia Commons / Mstyslav Chernov )

In recent weeks and months, several nations introduced legislation to suppress, minimize, or completely outlaw public demonstrations. Many Western powers, international human rights organizations, and activists condemned these recent laws against protest. In the long-term, these laws could present serious challenges to guaranteeing freedom of expression and assembly if they are upheld. However, in the short-term, these laws have not deterred citizens from gathering in large numbers in spite of increased punishments and frequent arrests.


On January 28, the Ukrainian parliament repealed anti-protest legislation passed only two weeks earlier. In the midst of Euromaidan protests, a Ukrainian court introduced these laws which limited forms of public assembly. Among other penalties, blocking public buildings would lead to a six-year jail sentence. Citizens could also be detained for 15 days for installing tents and stages without authorization, or wearing clothing that conceals one’s face during demonstrations.

The laws were received by Euromaidan protesters with outrage as they continued rallies in Kiev’s Independence Square. Three days after the passing of anti-protest laws, roughly 200,000 gathered in Kiev to continue demonstrations. Many put pots on their heads or wore masks in defiance of the laws that prohibited such attire at public gatherings.

The government expanded its effort to curb protests on January 21 when citizens in Kiev received text messages telling them they were “registered as a participant in a mass disturbance”. The text was sent based on location in an effort to warn Ukrainians against entering protest areas in Kiev.

The anti-protest legislation failed to deter Euromaidan protesters from gathering in Kiev. In fact, since the implementation of anti-protest laws, the number of participants increased back to the hundreds of thousands that first gathered in November. Internationally, the laws caused grave concern among Western powers who urged the Ukrainian government to seek a peaceful solution with protesters. Moreover, the restrictions on public assembly fueled the anger of many Ukrainians who are continuing their struggle for political change.


In November 2013, the Egyptian government adopted legislation that granted security forces complete discretion to ban and disperse protests. The law prohibits any public gathering of more than 10 people without prior government approval from the Interior Ministry, and specifically bans all demonstrations at places of worship. The latter condition had particular relevance, as protesters have routinely utilized Friday prayer at mosques to commence anti-government marches and demonstrations.

Supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi have persisted to demonstrate daily in the face of the protest ban, which has led to hundreds of arrests and a high number of casualties.

 The first major defiance of the law occurred in November, when a group of pro-democracy activists including protest leaders Ahmed Maher, Ahmed Douma and Mohamed Adel participated in an unauthorized protest outside the upper house of parliament. The three members of the April 6 Youth Movement were found guilty of contesting the restrictive legislation and sentenced to three years in jail in late December.

On December 27, supporters of Morsi staged a large demonstration where five people were killed, and over 250 were arrested. Many demonstrations were also held during the initial hearings of Morsi and Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and in the days leading up to the constitutional referendum (which was boycotted by Morsi supporters).


In November 2013, Spain introduced an anti-protest law that penalizes those who participate in unauthorized street protests, interrupt public events, or publish images of police. Fines for participating in unauthorized protests can reach up to 600,000 euro and can be issued merely for “offensive slogans” against Spain.

Thousands gathered to demonstrate against the new anti-protest law in Madrid on December 14. Violence broke out between some protesters and police, leaving more than 20 people injured.

On December 24, men and women gathered across Spain to demonstrate against a draft bill that would limit abortion rights. A video released of a police officer beating a young woman in Madrid that night went viral. There were over 500 participants in the Madrid demonstration.

In January, protests increased in frequency and attendance. In Burgos, many demonstrated nightly against the city’s plans to reduce the size of a major road in half, decreasing the amount of parking spaces.

Days later, protests spread to Madrid and several other cities, as the demonstrations in Burgos resonated with existing protest movements against austerity policies and government reform.


The right of freedom of public assembly is guaranteed in Turkey’s constitution, but the government has used various measures to punish protesters.

In recent years, the Turkish government has used its anti-terrorism law to arrest those who participate in protests, including journalists. In December 2013, over 250 protesters were charged in the aftermath of the Gezi Park protests. The charges against them include “taking part in illegal demonstrations” and “disrupting public services”, while some of those charged were also accused of having affiliations with terrorist groups.

Despite a large number of arrests the organization of demonstrations has persisted in Turkey, especially in light of recent government corruption scandals. On January 11, tens of thousands gathered in Ankara in protest of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government. More recently, hundreds of Turks gathered to protest against an internet censorship bill on January 18. Police fired rubber bullets, tear gas, and water cannons in efforts to disperse these crowds.

In October 2013, The Turkish government introduced a new regulation that would allow police to arrest those “who possess the risk of conducting a protest” for 12 to 24 hours without the approval of a judge. The suspect can be held for up to 24 hours without any court decision. Regulations also include fines for resisting arrest and damaging public property.

On October 30, this regulation was enforced: 35 “potential” protesters were arrested on suspicion of protesting during an economics congress meetings attended by President Abdullah Gul and PM Tayyip Erdogan. The 35 were reported to be from the Turkish Youth Union (TGB).


In July 2013, the government of Bahrain implemented stricter penalties for protest. These penalties were added as amendments to the 2006 Law on the Protection of Society from Acts of Terrorism. The law bans sit-ins, rallies, and gatherings in the capital. In broad terms, the law deems many acts of protest as “acts of terrorism”.

While numbers of participants in demonstrations have decreased in comparison with the 2011 Bahraini uprising, anti-government protests continue in spite of the new penalties.

On December 8 many gathered to demand the release of political prisoners and chanted slogans against the ruling Al Khalifa family. Days later, tens of thousands marched throughout Bahrain to mark 1,000 days of protest since the 2011 uprising. The march ended without any incidents of violence. While many demonstrations have been isolated, in all of December 2013, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights claims there were 745 protests.