Protests against repressive regimes have shown the greatest resistance in decades as citizens demanded freedom

Protests throughout the year showed the strongest resistance to oppressive regimes in decades.

Tensions in China, Iran and Russia boiled over at various points throughout 2022, pushing protesters to their breaking point over war, COVID-19 or simply denial of basic civil rights.

The protests also reached the West with greater visibility than ever before, providing a platform for protesters to spread their message and get the world across why they wanted change.

The more visible elements of some protests have subsided, but the people of these nations continue to voice their displeasure, marking a radical shift in their political landscape and leading to an uncertain future as governments seek to regain loyalty and control that may have been lost from them forever.

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IRAN

No protest has shaken the world more this year than calls for change in Iran, which have continued for more than 100 days following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. Morality police accused Amini of violating the country’s headscarf (hijab) laws, took her into custody and took her to hospital an hour later.

Police claimed Amini merely fell into a coma, but her family claimed she saw clear evidence that she had been beaten.

Her death sparked the greatest opposition to the Ayatollah regime. Videos and photos of the protests regularly reached the West, surfacing on social media sites such as Twitter.

The protests also began just ahead of the 2022 United Nations high-level week, during which leaders from various nations travel to the UN headquarters in New York City to address the General Assembly.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was invited to speak and his arrival sparked enormous controversy. Many urged President Biden to deny his visa application and prevent him from entering the country. Raisi spoke, and the leader positioned Iran as a victim of Western abuses.

A police motorcycle burns during a protest against the death of a young woman who was arrested for flouting the country's conservative dress code, in downtown Tehran, Iran.

A police motorcycle burns during a protest against the death of a young woman who was arrested for flouting the country’s conservative dress code, in downtown Tehran, Iran.
(AP photo)

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An exhibition opposite the UN headquarters showed 2,000 of some 30,000 victims who died during Iran’s 1989 death commissions in which Raisi was said to have taken part and played a prominent role.

Celebrities in Iran have joined the protests, including a number of soccer players who have been punished for their vocal support.

According to Iran Wire, officials sentenced Amir Nasr-Azadani to death for alleged connection to the murder of a police colonel and two militia volunteers.

The protests eventually spread to over 140 cities and towns across Iran, with security forces reportedly killing up to 500 people and arresting tens of thousands. A number of children have also died during the protests as the regime struggled to contain them.

“The Iranian people have proved to themselves and to the world that they are willing to risk their lives to gain the most basic freedoms,” Lisa Daftari, Middle East researcher and editor-in-chief of The Foreign Desk, told Fox News Digital. “For 43 years, this regime has oppressed its people and denied them the most basic human rights.

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“They hope that the rest of the world will also support their movement,” Daftari continued. “More than anything, Iranian protesters and those who support them around the world are hoping that 2023 will see more awareness and, more importantly, more public support for their movement.

“Connecting the dots, it’s unfathomable why a women-led freedom movement doesn’t have broader support around the world. It’s about human rights, freedom and world security.”

CHINA

After a fire at a high-rise apartment building in Xinjiang, citizens have been demanding accountability and an end to the Chinese Communist Party’s “zero-COVID” policy, which has led to local governments shutting down entire cities and ordering lockdowns and widespread testing after few had discovered cases of COVID-19.

The fire killed 10 people, many of whom blamed quarantine protocols for making it difficult for residents to flee the building. The resulting anger spilled onto the streets in the largest and most direct opposition to Chinese Communist Party (CCP) rule since the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989.

Yaqiu Wang, a China researcher for watchdog group Human Rights Watch, told Fox News Digital that the protests did take place over the incident, but they showed the pent-up anger and frustration the Chinese people had towards their government.

“People were really, really frustrated that it had been three years,” Wang said. “During the previous lockdowns, many people were denied access to medical care and emergency medical care and some even died from it… unable to get to hospital due to the COVID restrictions.

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“Other people couldn’t get anything to eat [or] medical care, because if everyone has to get food from the delivery app, it is of course overwhelmed [by] all of that… and of course people lost their jobs for months. They couldn’t even afford to buy groceries anymore,” Wang said. “Well, I think just three years of pent-up anger and frustration, then it was triggered by the fire and everyone felt it.”

The sheer volume of social media accounts documenting the protests overwhelmed China’s censors and algorithms, breaching China’s famous “Great Firewall” to reach Twitter and other Western platforms. The task proved so difficult that China reportedly spammed Twitter with posts about porn and escorts to make it harder for users to find protest videos when searching by city name.

Chinese citizens had turned to virtual private networks (VPNs) to hide their locations and allow them access to Western social media, showing just how sophisticated protesters have gotten.

Chinese media saw the start of the “blank page protest,” with the user posting an image of a blank page and tagging the post with keywords like “good,” “yes,” and “right,” which would otherwise elude censorship, and feel that the Citizens are “voiceless but also powerful,” according to The New York Times.

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The protests achieved their goal and led to Beijing rolling back “zero-COVID,” but the abrupt change prompted a sharp surge in COVID-19 sub-variants. Over 250 million people in China may have had an infection by Christmas, prompting some nations to start imposing travel restrictions again as China tries to open its borders.

RUSSIA

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine proved unpopular when it began with protests spreading from Moscow to Khabarovsk, a city about 4,000 miles east of the capital. A watchdog estimate put the number of arrests at just over 19,000, of whom about 400 were convicted in “anti-war criminal cases”.

Within two weeks of the start of the war in Russia, broadcast news personalities began to protest. Regulators in Russia have accused Dozhd or TV Rain of “inciting extremism, abusing Russian citizens, massively disrupting public peace and security, and encouraging protests,” according to the BBC.

Marina Ovsyannikova interrupts a live newscast on Russian state television "channel one" holding up a sign that says "NO WAR.  stop the war  Don't believe the propaganda.  They lie to you here." at an undisclosed location in Russia, March 14, 2022, in this still image taken from a video upload.

Marina Ovsyannikova interrupts a live newscast on Russia’s state television Channel One and holds a sign that reads “NO WAR. stop the war Don’t believe the propaganda. at an undisclosed location in Russia, March 14, 2022, in this still image taken from a video upload.
(Channel One/via REUTERS)

Putin quickly signed law allowing authorities to jail journalists for up to 15 years for reporting “fake” news about the military and the invasion, with officials refusing to even call it “war” or “war.” label “invasion”. Instead, they referred to the “special operation”.

People also attacked military recruiting stations and set them on fire with Molotov cocktail attacks. The attacks resumed after Putin ordered a “partial mobilization” to bolster the dwindling number of his armed forces.

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Recruitment efforts showed once again just how dissatisfied people were with the war, as significant numbers of men fled the country rather than risk serving on the front lines.

As police cracked down on the protests, the more visible elements faded, but people became more creative. Rachel Denber, deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, told Fox News Digital the protests have shifted as Russian authorities tightened their response.

“I think to understand how Russians are expressing their opposition to the war and mobilization, I think you have to look at it much broader than street protests,” Denber said.

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“They find ways to support people who are trying to evade conscription,” she explained. “They sometimes engage in individual street actions, which I think is a form of street protest and for which, you know, they face administrative or criminal charges.”

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