The Corner

Politics & Policy

Dictators, Daughters, and Others

Today, we publish Part II of my “Oslo Journal,” here. Mainly, this is a journal about dictators and the people who struggle against them.

Some days ago, I had a post about President Trump’s speech in Saudi Arabia — particularly one line of it: “We are not here to lecture — we are not here to tell other people how to live, what to do, who to be, or how to worship.”

I received a note from Jianli Yang, the Chinese democracy leader, and former political prisoner. He said that it’s dictators who do the lecturing — actually, the controlling. They tell other people how to live, what to do, etc. They can use some counter-lecturing. Their victims need the help.

In Part II of my journal, I mention Rosa María Payá, daughter of the Cuban democracy leader Oswaldo Payá — who was murdered by the Castro regime in 2012. Oswaldo Payá’s supporters put up a plaque in his memory. Within hours, the dictatorship had taken it down.

Rosa María was at the Oslo Freedom Forum this year. So was another “daughter”: Zhanna Nemtsova, daughter of the Russian democracy leader Boris Nemtsov, murdered in 2015. They got him as he was walking across a bridge, within sight of the Kremlin.

At this bridge, Nemtsov’s supporters put up a memorial. The authorities dismantled it. The supporters rebuilt it. The authorities dismantled it. And so on.

According to Zhanna, this has happened more than 70 times. (Sometimes it’s pro-Kremlin youth groups that do the dismantling.) It’s like a weird game of cat-and-mouse.

I’d like to end this post the way I end Part II — with an observation from Garry Kasparov, the chess champion (and democracy champion). It seems such an elementary point, but it’s one I seldom hear.

The moniker “Arab Spring” came from “Prague Spring.” The Prague Spring was a miserable failure, in a sense. It was crushed by Soviet tanks. It was snuffed out by dictatorship, same as the Arab Spring, by and large. And yet, a spark was lit in 1968. And, some 20 years later, Czechoslovakia was freed by the “Velvet Revolution” and related events.

Food for thought. Have a good one.