Vivienne Walt,Naina Bajekal,Billy Perrigo,Ciara Nugent
TIME.- Around the world today, one in three people lives under an authoritarian regime, while many others are experiencing a decline in their democratic freedoms. But the slide towards autocracy has pushed millions to stand up and demand a say in how their lives are governed.
TIME spoke with four people who have fought to defend democracy in their countries, about what inspired them and what it takes:
Armenia: Nikol Pashinyan
Opposition politician who led the protests that toppled Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan in April and shortly after became the nation’s leader
It was love for my people that forced me to get out of my comfortable office as head of a parliamentary faction and spend about 20 nights in the woods, the streets, in a tent, in protest at the government led by Serzh Sargsyan. I had no personal motivations. All I wanted was to win freedom and happiness for my homeland and people. I said that if citizens took to the streets in the hundreds of thousands and power did not change, I would no longer engage in political activities. From the very first day, we kept saying we would not resort to violence against anyone, even if we were met with brutality. From the podium, I said we would be guided by a biblical verse: if someone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek too. We knew we would never retreat.
In the end, the people triumphed, and I will honor my commitment to ensure that the people’s victory stands. I am convinced that we will move forward in building democracy, fighting corruption, establishing an independent judiciary and rule of law, and protecting human rights and economic competition. For us, democracy is not a component of regional interests or foreign-policy orientation but a reflection of values and convictions. I believe Armenia will be one of the world’s strongest democracies.