Pandemics, Democracies & Dictatorships
Today, fear stalks the globe. The grim reaper is taking a heavy toll. The coronavirus pandemic has led to many thousands of deaths and tremendous economic dislocation. In this climate of fear, authoritarian regimes from Saudi Arabia to Hungary, from Russia to Turkey, from Iran to the Philippines use the crisis as a pretext to curtail civil liberties, expand police power and surveillance, silence their opponents, settle old scores, muzzle the press and jail dissidents. The pattern repeats in different shapes and forms among tyrants and would-be tyrants. Indian prime minister Modi has thrown journalists critical of his rule in jail. Kashmir remains under military control. In Washington, the U.S. president has declared “ultimate authority. I call the shots.” How can people in democratic societies effectively respond to the current crisis?
Nader Hashemi is Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and teaches Middle East and Islamic politics at the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. He is the author of Islam, Secularism and Liberal Democracy and co-editor of The People Reloaded, The Syria Dilemma and Sectarianization: Mapping the New Politics of the Middle East.