Why are political prisoners feared by governments?

15 03 2011

Phillip Donavan, who organizes Political Science Degrees Online, and who can be reached at phillip.donavan@gmail.com, has contributed a post on the fear that propels governments to lock up political opponents. In Thailand, there remain hundreds of political prisoners, mainly those convicted of lese majeste.

There are many of them all over the world, some more famous than others because of the length of time they’ve spent in confinement and the importance of the causes they support. They all have one thing in common – they are imprisoned only for the crime of going against the administration that governs their country. Their ideology of what is politically and morally correct for the people of the land differs significantly from that of the regime that rules, and it is for this reason alone that political prisoners are put behind bars.

Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma and Nelson Mandela in South Africa are the more famous of them, but there are others whose stories have not made it to mainstream media and who still wage a lonely war against tyrannical regimes that do not want their voices to be heard by the outside world. And even though there are mass protests and demonstrations against the locking down of political prisoners, countries with governments that rule with an iron fist see no other choice if they wish to remain in absolute power.

Political prisoners are locked up and kept under close watch because they hold the power to topple the governments they speak against; the regime knows that all it takes to spark off a revolution is a few incendiary meetings – mob fury takes over, and before you know it, the country is being held hostage by the so-called “rebels”. The government does not want even the slightest possibility of this happening, so they lock up the dissidents under some false pretext so that the world does not criticize them for their violation of human rights.

The thing about political prisoners is that they’re mentally very strong – they don’t break even after years in prison, and they remain dedicated to their cause no matter what. It’s this unwavering dedication that dictators and despots fear – they know that their rule is not popular with the people, and that if they show even the slightest leniency, there is a danger of them being overthrown.

Voices are raised for the cause of political prisoners around the world, but as long as the governments that imprison them turn a deaf ear to the pleas for their release, they must suffer for the cause they so strongly believe in.


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