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A dissident, broadly defined, is a person who actively challenges an established doctrine, policy, or institution. When dissidents unite for a common cause they often affect a dissident movement.

The word has been used since 16th century in the context of religion. The noun was first used in the political sense in 1940, with the rise of such totalitarian systems as the Soviet Union.[1][2] These dissidents formed the most visible opposition to communism up to the 1980s.

In the 21st Century, new types of political dissidents have emerged in the Western world. They include researchers and activists investigating "forbidden" sociological fields such as human biodiversity, or the allegedly harmful population trends caused by mass immigration, or various types of anti-white violence by minority groups that are claimed to be politically protected to an extent.

Religious dissenter

Ex-Muslims or reform Muslims have increasingly faced persecution in Western countries for their views, both from conservative or radical Muslims, and to a lesser extent from their left-wing allies. An example is Ayaan Hirsi Ali.

Eastern bloc dissidents

The term dissident was used in the Eastern bloc, particularly in the Soviet Union, in the period following Joseph Stalin's death until the fall of communism. It was attached to citizens who criticized the practices or the authority of the Communist Party. The people who used to write and distribute non-censored, non-conformist samizdat literature were criticized in the official newspapers. Soon, many of those who were dissatisfied with the Soviet Bloc began to self-identify as dissidents.[3] This radically changed the meaning of the term: instead of being used in reference to an individual who opposes society, it came to refer to an individual whose non-conformism was perceived to be for the good of a society.[4][5][6] An important element of dissident activity in "Soviet Russia" was informing society (both inside the Soviet Union and in foreign countries) about violation of laws and human rights: see Chronicle of Current Events and Moscow Helsinki Group. Some famous Soviet dissents were Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Andrei Sakharov.

Republican dissidents in Ireland

The term dissident has become the primary term to describe Irish republicans who politically continue to oppose Good Friday Agreement of 1998 and reject the outcome of the referendums on it. These political parties also have paramilitary wings which espouse violent methods to achieve a United Ireland.

Irish republican dissident groups include the Irish Republican Socialist Party (founded in 1974 – its currently-inactive paramilitary wing is the Irish National Liberation Army), Republican Sinn Féin (founded in 1986 – its paramilitary wing is the Continuity IRA), and the 32 County Sovereignty Movement (founded in 1997 – its paramilitary wing is the Real IRA). In 2006 the Óglaigh na hÉireann emerged, which is a splinter group of the Continuity IRA.[7]

Dissident technologies

Dissident activists were early adopters of encrypted communications technology such as Tor and the dark web, to resist authoritarian regimes, avoid censorship and protect their anonymity.[8][9][10]

Tor was widely used by protestors of Mubarak's regime in Egypt in 2011. Tor allowed dissidents to communicate anonymously and securely, while sharing sensitive information. Syrian rebels also used Tor to share with the world the horrors they witnessed in their country.[11] Moreover, government dissidents in Lebanon, Mauritania, as well as Arab Spring nations widely used Tor in order to stay safe while exchanging their ideas and agendas.[12]

U.S. dissidents

The term "dissident" has been applied to people in the United States to denote people who have exposed US government secrets, as in the example of Chelsea Manning who revealed the videos of Baghdad airstrikes and other information to the world through Wikileaks, or Edward Snowden who exposed the US government spying on the internet activity of people and government officials of other countries, including allied countries, as well as its own citizens, such as in the case of the PRISM and XKeyScore programs.[13][14][15]

Political dissent in the USA took a new turn after 2010, when a small but vocal right-wing minority began to protest and expose long-standing progressive and left-wing policies that the dissidents say have been undermining the country for many decades. Some political dissidents define themselves as opposing the alleged Shadow Party, others have more limited aims to expose what they consider forbidden truths that are condemned as highly politically incorrect by left-wing authorities or media figures. These dissidents' views are rarely publicized in mainstream media organs, or only to condemn them.

Middle Eastern dissidents

Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi-American dissident journalist who was murdered and dismembered inside a Saudi embassy in Turkey by Saudi-Arabian authorities. Various other human rights activists from Saudi Arabia have been silenced inside and outside the country. Deportation is used to remove non-Saudi opponents from the Kingdom.

Other countries such as Iran, the United Arab Emirates and others also suppress, imprison, and kill dissenters.

See also


  1. Harper, Douglas. "dissident". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 2009-03-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Dictionary.com.
  3. Chronicle of Current Events (samizdat) (Russian)
  4. Universal Declaration of Human Rights General Assembly resolution 217 A (III), United Nations, 10 December 1948
  5. Proclamation of Tehran, Final Act of the International Conference on Human Rights, Teheran, 22 April to 13 May 1968, U.N. Doc. A/CONF. 32/41 at 3 (1968), United Nations, May 1968
  7. "Who are the dissidents?". BBC News. 2009-03-10. Retrieved 2009-10-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Bartlett, Jamie (June 2015), How the mysterious dark net is going mainstream, TEDGlobalLondon<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Hern, Alex (23 August 2017). "The dilemma of the dark web: protecting neo-Nazis and dissidents alike". The Guardian.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. David Kushner (October 22, 2015). "The Darknet: Is the Government Destroying 'the Wild West of the Internet?'". Rolling Stone.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Cryptopolitik and the Darknet". Survival. 58 (1, p7–38. 32p).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Croke, Paul (15 July 2015). "Dark Net: Secret basement of the Internet". Baltimore Post-Examiner. Retrieved 20 December 2017.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "Interfax: Assange, Manning, Snowden are new dissidents". Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES); The George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs. 26 June 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "White House 'extremely disappointed' with Snowden asylum". RT (TV network). 4 August 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2015. The spokesman stressed the US doesn't view Edward Snowden as a whistleblower or dissident, reminding that the NSA former contractor is accused of leaking classified information in his home country.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Wills, Amanda (1 August 2013). "New Snowden leak: NSA program taps all you do online". CNN News. Retrieved 5 April 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links