For its Person of the Year 2011, Time Magazine chose “The Protester”. This distinction, selected by the editors of the magazine, goes to the person that has had the most profound impact on society during the past year, and this year’s picture was dedicated to more than just one person. The protester symbolizes the international struggle for democratic liberty that has been fought in the streets of brutality. They have expressed dissent against authoritarian leaders, against a hostile economy and against the lack of political transparency. The magazine profiles fearless protesters and journalists caught in the middle of fierce clashes, from the Occupy Wall Street movement in Zuccotti Park to the rigged election in Russia.
2011 was not a year for peace and reconciliation; it unquestionably distinguished itself as the year of democratic transition and heroism. Ever since the revolts in Tunisia in January, the skies over the Arab Spring have opened up. Through the convenience of technology and the collective disapproval of long reigning leaders, anti-government protesters have successfully cracked down on their governments.
The violent uprisings in Egypt, Libya and Syria have resulted in the demise of two malevolent dictators, in Libya and Egypt, overthrown by the longing for social equality and justice. The gates of democracy – once tightly shut – have become unlocked. For the nations whose governments have toppled, the stage of transition is ending, but the real challenges are yet to come. Think of the freed women and men who have never been able to voice their opinions in public and who have never shown their faces. Trying to establish a functional democracy in a country where the institutions do not exist will be the greatest challenge.
There is still a long way to go.Syria, ruled by the deceitful Assad regime, has been put into isolation by the United Nations. Their intent: to threaten Assad into resigning for the best interests of the Syrian people. Syrian human rights defenders are being persecuted and murdered by thugs and authorities. As the president’s prospects worsen each week, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Assad will not hang on to power for much longer. Not when protesters are hungry for the truth. Not when people will bleed for the desire of freedom. For as long as there is oppression and hate, their sacrifices will ultimately prevail.
What began as a suicide by a fruit cart vendor in a small village inTunisiabecame the catalyst for inspiring change across the planet. Who knew that one death would oust corrupt tyrannies, permanently scar regimes and marshal in a wave of zealous activists? The legacy of the protester will continue for as long as there is dissent around the world. Their sacrifices live on.