Nov 16th Join our dissidents
for an intimate conversation

Nov 16th

Join our dissidents
for an intimate conversation

The Renew Democracy Initiative is proud to present Frontlines of Freedom, a groundbreaking project bringing together 52 dissidents from 28 oppressive countries. As RDI Freedom Fellows, these activists have signed onto an open letter highlighting their hopes and fears for American democracy and reminding Americans of the US’s potential to serve as a global democratic inspiration. Working with RDI, CNN Opinion is running an original series – “Voices of Freedom,” featuring 13 of these dissidents who share their struggles for democracy in written and video form. Read on for their stories.

A CNN original series, Voices of Freedom, highlights the stories of 13 of these dissidents


is facing unprecedented threats.


is facing unprecedented threats.

An attack on the Capitol.

© Bgrocker |
© Brandilyon |

A battle over
our history.

Creator: DAVID RYDER | Credit: REUTERS

Crippling polarization.

Most Americans
today haven’t had


But for billions of people
living under authoritarian regimes,


A mob attacks pro-democracy protesters
at Yuen Long MTR station.

Hong Kong
July 21, 2019

Riot police fire rubber bullets and
stun grenades on protesters.

Minsk, Belarus
October 25, 2020

Military vehicles run over protesters.

Caracas, Venezuela
April 30, 2019

How far would you go


Creator: JEKESAI NJIKIZANA | Credit: AFP via Getty Images

This is Evan Mawarire.

He’s a Zimbabwean pastor who spoke out against widespread corruption, poverty, and human rights abuses by the government of Robert Mugabe.

On April 19, 2016, Evan posted a video to Facebook denouncing the government for turning its back on the country’s values. He urged citizens not to turn their back on Zimbabwe.

Play Video

Evan’s video inspired tens of thousands of others, all using #ThisFlag, and all calling for a democratic Zimbabwe.


Three months later, Evan was the face of a massive democracy movement, with protests taking place around the country.


ARRESTED: 2016, 2017, 2019.

Through it all, the government could never silence Evan.

Fighting for democracy


"The American republic may have its flaws, but there is nothing wrong with American democracy that cannot be fixed by American democracy.”

– Garry Kasparov, RDI Chairman, Russia

“It is dangerous and irresponsible to believe that the US can abrogate its duties as the leader of the free world without consequences in the regions of the world where democracy is still struggling to establish a foothold.”

– Andrei Sannikov, Former Presidential Candidate. Belarus
– Alexander Vindman, Lt. Col. (Ret.). USA

At only 16, I had been accused of being an anti-revolutionary and sent to the notorious Evin prison. I was tortured, physically and emotionally, and then I was married off to one of my interrogators, who was assassinated 15 months after the marriage.

– Marina Nemat, Author, Iran

These dissidents have risked prison, death, and worse in pursuit of a fraction of the freedoms that many people take for granted.

Their experience has led them to sign onto an open letter to Americans.

Throughout their lives, they have all been inspired by American democracy.

Now, they are terrified for it.

Here’s what American
democracy means to them.

What does American
democracy mean to you?

"The symbol of American democracy is still the most potent global force for freedom, and without it the world – including my home country -- faces a dark future."

– Fatou Jaw-Manneh, Journalist & Political Commentator, The Gambia

American democracy is an inspiration for the world, but that reputation is faltering.

Americans are so torn apart by politics that many are willing to sacrifice democratic values for political gain.

The discussion of controversial ideas is increasingly under threat.

Denying the results of free and fair elections poses a fatal threat to democracy.

America’s crippling polarization aids dictators who use it to justify their own oppressive rule.

The appropriate response to any democratic crisis must be to reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental principles of democracy.

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