Carl Gershman

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The violent suppression 10 years ago on July 5 of a protest march in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region in western China, was a pivotal moment in the struggle of the Uighur people to defend their rights. For the Uighurs, the crackdown meant the end of any hope that the Chinese authorities might heed their call to redress mounting grievances over economic marginalization and political and cultural repression. And for the Chinese government, it signaled the urgent need to intensify repression of the Muslim Uighur minority, which it justifies in the name of fighting terrorism.

The stepped-up repression is being carried out through a series of military, political, economic and surveillance programs that constitute the most comprehensive system of population control and oppression anywhere in the world today.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russia’s newest anti-NGO law, under which the National Endowment for Democracy on Tuesday was declared an “undesirable organization” prohibited from operating in Russia, is the latest evidence that the regime of President Vladimir Putin faces a worsening crisis of political legitimacy. Putin may claim that the National Endowment for Democracy and other nongovernmental organizations are “a threat to Russia’s basic constitutional order,” and his labeling them as dangerous enemies, along with the Russian democrats he calls “national traitors,” is his typical way of rallying political support by appealing to nationalist fears and hostilities. But it is the regime itself that has been undermining Russia’s constitutional order through repression, corruption and international aggression; and the pressures are now building toward what many in Russia believe is a major political turning point.…  Seguir leyendo »

The 80th birthday Monday of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, is an occasion to celebrate the life of an extraordinary individual. Since his flight from Tibet to India in 1959, the Dalai Lama has built religious, educational and political institutions to serve and unite the Tibetan community in exile. He has travelled the world to promote the Tibetan cause and expound the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism. And he has formulated a conciliatory “Middle Way Approach” to resolving the Sino-Tibetan conflict that respects China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity even as it seeks to preserve Tibet’s culture, religion and identity. These accomplishments, and the Dalai Lama’s infectious laugh and warmth, explain why he is such a beloved and respected figure throughout the world.…  Seguir leyendo »

Monday is the 25th anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia. To mark the occasion, a bust of Václav Havel, the leader of that revolution, Czechoslovakia’s first post-Communist president and one of the most significant intellectual and political leaders of the Cold War era and its aftermath, will be unveiled Wednesday in the U.S. Capitol. Only three other international figures have been honored in this way — Britain’s Winston Churchill, Hungary’s Lajos Kossuth and Sweden’s Raoul Wallenberg — and Havel eminently deserves to be among them.

When he addressed a joint session of Congress just three months after the revolution, Havel spoke with deep feeling about his country’s indebtedness to the United States, including for President Woodrow Wilson’s great support for the founding of Czechoslovakia in 1918, U.S.…  Seguir leyendo »

Russian President Vladimir Putin has had some success recently using his support for the Assad regime in Syria to strengthen Moscow’s position in the Middle East. But his progress on this front is much less important than Moscow’s growing troubles in its “near abroad,” as it refers to the strategically vital area to its immediate west.

In a replay of the classic East-West rivalry of the Cold War, but with the United States conspicuously on the sidelines, Russia has used economic and security threats to draw post-communist countries into its Eurasian Customs Union and to block the European Union’s Eastern Partnership initiative, which seeks the reform and possible eventual integration of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine into E.U.…  Seguir leyendo »

With the death of Oswaldo Payá, a key leader of the Cuban democratic opposition, Cuba has suffered what the writer Yoani Sanchez called “a dramatic loss for its present and an irreplaceable loss for its future.” The circumstances surrounding Payá’s death Sunday have sparked controversy similar to that caused in October by the death of Laura Pollan , the leader of the much-acclaimed Ladies in White, just weeks after she was attacked at a protest march by a government supporter.

The Cuban government said that Payá died in a traffic accident near the city of Bayamo when his car slammed into a tree, killing him and another passenger and injuring two others.…  Seguir leyendo »

A specter is haunting the world's remaining dictators - the specter of the Jasmine Revolution.

In Zimbabwe, 46 people were arrested and charged with treason for attending a lecture on the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. In Equatorial Guinea, a state radio broadcaster was forced off the air and suspended just for mentioning events in Libya. Two independent U.N. experts report a "dramatic surge" in executions in Iran, where opposition leaders Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi and their wives have been placed under house arrest for supporting a demonstration in solidarity with the Middle East uprisings. In China, the harshest crackdown in recent years is underway in response to an anonymous online call for a "jasmine revolution".…  Seguir leyendo »

A year ago today, when Chinese police violently suppressed a peaceful protest by the Uighur minority in Urumqi, the capital of the western region of Xinjiang, the world essentially looked the other way. This is the message of "Can Anyone Hear Us?" a report that the Uyghur Human Rights Project recently issued on the unrest. Drawing on eyewitness accounts, the report details the firing on protesters that led to hundreds of deaths, as well as mass beatings, the arbitrary detention of thousands and a 10-month communications shutdown that cut off the region from the outside world. At a Washington conference last week where the report was released, an eyewitness testified that he saw police handing out steel batons to mobs of Han Chinese, confirming reports that security forces fomented anti-Uighur violence.…  Seguir leyendo »

Now that the White House has announced that President Obama will receive the Dalai Lama, it is important that he be welcomed not only as a moral and religious leader respected throughout the world but also as a fellow democrat who shares America's deepest values.

This is not an aspect of the Dalai Lama that is well understood, especially by those who see him as the spiritual leader of a traditional people. Yet he is a devoted democrat who has defended the universality of the democratic idea against the "Asian values" argument of various autocrats and who has tried, even before he fled Tibet in 1959, to modernize Tibet's system of government.…  Seguir leyendo »

Today marks the 25th anniversary of President Ronald Reagan's "Westminster address," in which he called upon the world's democracies to launch "a global campaign for freedom" that he predicted would "leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash heap of history." As presidential speeches go, this one has had unusual staying power, and not just because it foresaw the collapse of communism. It captured a moment of renewed democratic optimism after the Vietnam debacle and set in motion the institutionalization of democracy promotion as a core element of American foreign policy.

Democracy promotion remains a key U.S. priority; the opening sentence of the National Security Strategy adopted in 2006 declares that America's policy is "to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."…  Seguir leyendo »