What does personal freedom entail? For a citizen to have full personal freedom within a state, they must have freedom of movement, private property ownership and security, freedom of expressing dissenting opinions, and the right to a fair unbiased trial. These are the unwavering pillars of the data set provided by the Legatum Prosperity Index. This organization’s release of the Personal Freedom rankings measures how much the governments of different countries allow their citizens to live their lives without overbearing limits imposed on them. The Index uses a multifactorial ranking system, since it is not as easy as simply stating whether a nation provides personal freedom to its citizenry or not. Seeing that it considers multiple criteria that must be met in order for personal freedom to be considered present, the Legatum ranking is particularly nuanced. A government may provide freedom of movement, but at the same time have an unfair judicial system. Within such a system, the more stipulations that are met, the higher a country’s ranking for personal freedom will be. Taking into account the variables of tolerance for immigrants and minorities, civil liberty and free choice, and satisfaction with freedom of choice, the index takes each of these as weighted coefficients and combines them into an overall score. With the Index’s conclusions in mind, we have taken a closer look into three of the countries considered to have some of the fewest personal freedoms for their populaces.
Civil Conflict in Yemen
Yemen has been on the brink of civil war for years now between the Houthi rebels who follow a branch of Shi’a Islam called Zaidism and the Yemeni government, as well as some members of the Sunni branch of Islam. The government is considered weak and large areas of the country are now under Houthi control, which is actively working to gain more territory and power. The government cannot provision sufficient resources to its citizens because it has few to offer. Yemen has been a stronghold for several terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda, from which to stage their violent acts, and the result has been a country left shattered. While the ranking of Yemen may be a fair one, it should be noted that it is here not simply because the government is not allowing its citizens personal freedom. There are other factors involved and, moreover, it seems to be the case that presently the Yemeni government does not even have the tools and infrastructure on hand necessary to ensure such freedoms.
Human Rights Abuses in Sudan
Sudan recently split with its lower half in 2011, when South Sudan gained autonomy and independence. The former Sudan had two distinct ethnic groups, often categorized as “Arab” and “African.” South Sudan was populated with different ethnic African groups and with their many different languages and beliefs. The political power and resources were concentrated in the North, leaving South Sudan extremely marginalized. When it was one country, Sudan was plagued with violence and civil war. Omar Al Bashir, the current President of the post-separation Sudan, has an arrest warrant out for him that was issued in 2009 by the International Criminal Court for planning and executing mass killings and rapes in Darfur. Nonetheless, he is still the president today. For such reasons, Sudan was ranked as the third most corrupt country in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index in 2014. Power here is still concentrated in the hands of a small group of elites, and resources are barely provisioned outside of the capital. The fact that the country’s sitting president is wanted for crimes against humanity is iconic of why it has the ranking it does. A lack of resources, corruption, violence, and an overall lack of freedom of expression all serve to make Sudan one of the least free countries in the world. One of the basic tenets of personal freedom is your freedom to express your beliefs and opinions. With Omar Al Bashir as president orchestrating genocide within his own country of those that were different ethnically and religiously, it can be concluded that citizens’ personal expressions are not even considered by the leadership.
Persecution in Egypt
As with Yemen and Sudan, personal freedoms in Egypt have been diminished by government policies there. A military coup in 2013 has ultimately resulted in minimal freedom among the press and many religious observers. Freedom of speech in Egypt is minimal, and many predominate religious groups are oppressed in favor of the state-supported teachings. Indeed, fellow Muslims who dissent from these mandated interpretations of the Koran receive the worst of the persecution. Although recent personal rights legislation has been passed, the military-dominated government controls court proceedings and almost all facets of the media.
Factors in Diminished Personal Freedom
The first thing that may stand out about the bottom three countries for personal freedoms is a common lack of religious freedom. The root of the problems in these countries is not religion, however, but is rather one of sets of beliefs which are diminishing the ability to express any others. When borders are sloppily created and certain ethnic and religious groups are emphasized over others, there will potentially be an imbalance of power. The marginalized groups, which may even constitute large parts of the population, will begin to rebel. This, combined with poverty, a lack of education, little to no infrastructure, and regular violence, leaves such countries in a situation wherein survival is more important than abstract personal freedoms that are seen as paramount in more stable countries. The rulers’ priorities in unstable regions is usually simply to maintain power. When you have groups within your borders that are constantly fighting, the first thing they attempt to suppress as a means of control is freedom: freedom of press, freedom of movement, and freedom of expression alike. These freedoms are scary to dictators, as they are all things that can threaten their authority. Trying to maintain power at the expense of citizens’ safeties and freedoms is always unjust, and, until remedied, will freeze a nation’s development and progress indefinitely.
Countries Most Lacking In Freedom
|Country||Least Personal Freedom Ranking|
|Democratic Republic of the Congo||16|