When it’s all said and done, it is quite a wonder that there aren’t any Western countries on the list of 25 least tolerant countries in the world.
It all started with the election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States. Suddenly, every closet racist in America and their aunt had a focal point for their rage, generously fueled by the various birthers and Tea Party members spouting hate and nonsense every chance they got. After eight years of constant yelling, the public became desensitized to the point that majority of people just stopped reacting to the intolerance spreading through the society. The devastating civil war in Syria and millions of refugees only added another layer of perceived threat and xenophobia to already existing “evil Mexicans stealing people’s jobs, while dealing drugs, raping, and killing at the same time”. Quite an industrious nation, those Mexicans.
Of course, placing all the blame to the right would be unfair. The left did its fair share of antagonizing the people and polarizing the society at large. Various social justice warriors prancing around colleges, demanding their safe spaces and claiming that free speech triggers them, so it should be banned for all, but them. Yes, I am looking at you, Gawker, although you are just the tip of the iceberg.
The first harbinger of the fall was Brexit. The narrative was nothing new, the same old story told hundred times throughout the history, us vs them. The Polish plumbers and Romanian street cleaners were ruining Jolly Old England. People like Nick Farage and Boris Johnson promised everything they could think of, just to get Brits to vote for their scheme, boasting that as soon as they rid themselves of Brussels, everything will be as it was in the good all days. As soon as Brexit vote passed, much to their astonishment, they did what any self-serving politician worth their salt would do. First, they tried to go back on their promises and when that failed, they simply washed their hands of the whole affair, hiding behind The Will of the People, like every other populist before them.
But Brexit was only the warm-up for the real deal. The presidential campaign which saw Donald Trump become a White House resident had many similarities with the Brexit, only on a much more massive scale. Although to be honest, Farage didn’t need to bother with The Wall, since he had the British Channel already in place. Everything else was done following the same recipe, refugees coming to build their mosques, gay lobby pushing their agenda, heinous globalization (especially rich coming from a man who benefited quite well for the same globalization), the whole shebang. And yet again, despite all the media and pundits’ prognosis, the unthinkable happened. Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States. His first 100 days in office were marked with measures we came to expect from the likes of Putin, Orban, and Erdogan, not from Western democratically elected representatives. Although, the United States are rarely listed among the 10 Most Tolerant Countries in the World.
With Marine Le Pen’s disaster at the French presidential elections, the tide seems to be stemmed, at least for a while and France won’t be on road to join the list of 25 least tolerant countries in the world. It would seem that the old saying is true, we’ll always have Paris.
With such examples of intolerance in America and Europe, bastions of multiculturalism and human rights, what can be expected from less developed parts of the world? It just goes to show that no country is free of intolerance, although some examples are more well-known than others. In order to create the list of the worst offenders, we used data from the Legatum Prosperity Index, which measures countries’ prosperity index. Among other things, they take into account personal freedoms (on which we have based our ranking), which include basic human rights, and tolerance and are good indicators of how countries treat their minorities. For country specific info, we used Human Rights Watch site.
We start with Cameroon, a former German, British, and French colony. The current president Paul Biya has held that position since 1982. Currently, the country is involved in fighting an insurgency in the North, led by Boko Haram.
The human rights in Ethiopia are under siege, as the government continues to use torture and unlawful arrest of journalists and political opponents.
After a failed Arab Spring uprising, Bahrein had tightened up its security, further encroaching on personal freedoms and tolerance, but this time backed up by Saudi Arabian tanks.
The most populous Muslim country in the world still struggles to come to terms with the 1965-66 massacres. But political opponents aren’t the only one suffering from the intolerance, as the government stepped up its persecution of sexual minorities since 2016.
After almost four decades in power, José Eduardo dos Santos announced his plans for retirement, beginning in 2018. The announcement gave rise to the hopes that political oppression of his opponents and human rights activists will end with his departure.
The landlocked Central Asian republic of Tajikistan continues its crackdown on political opponents, independent journalists and especially on members of LGBT community.
The history of small island nation stuck between Mozambique and Madagascar has been marred with political violence ever since it became independent. As with many other Muslim-majority countries, apostasy from Islam is illegal and punishable by death, while same-sex sexual activity is considered unnatural and unlawful, with a potential five-year sentence.
Pakistan is de facto ruled by the military, which is trying to balance between secularism and satisfying extreme Islamism groups that are threating violence every time they deem Muslim way of life is endangered. Understandably, this doesn’t bode well for either tolerance or human rights in the country.
17. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia’s case is somewhat curious. The country’s stance on human rights and tolerance has been a subject of many critics, yet it managed to get itself elected into United Nations’ Human Rights Council. To make things even worse, it has been appointed to the Women’s Rights commission, a move that drew a widespread outrage.
Since 1994, Belarus has been ruled by one man: Alexander Lukashenko. His stance on political opponents and human rights activists, often charged with bogus allegations and handed severe prison sentences, have been criticized by many, but to no avail.
The kingdom of Swaziland is one of the last countries on the planet where a king rules by decrees. King Mswati III led a legislative attack on already weak media scene in 2014, further reducing the country’s media freedoms. To make things worse, HIV epidemics is rampaging through Swaziland and it is estimated that out of 1.2 million inhabitants, some 210,000 are HIV positive.
Unlawful arrests, harsh penalties for protests, including peaceful ones, and even killings and disappearance of prominent trade union activist have become everyday events in Algeria. The country refuses to cooperate with the United Nations’ Human Rights Council and bans all international watchdog organizations from operating within its borders.
Chad’s place on this list of least tolerant countries in the world is mainly due to President Idris Deby’s stance on his political opponents. Currently serving his fifth term as the president, President Deby has initiated a harsh crackdown on all those who oppose his rule.
Compared to the Mao days, China has come a long way when it comes to personal freedoms. As its economy grew, the government somewhat relaxed its grip on its citizens, but it is still far from the standards set by the developed nations.
Post-Saddam Iraq that ranked 11th on our list of least tolerant countries in the world still struggles with defining itself and it is at a perilous crossroad between democracy and slipping into radical Islamism. The war against ISIS has seen government and Kurds working together for the first time in a long while, but once the common enemy is eliminated, the future of the common life seems uncertain.
10. The Democratic Republic of Congo
The First and Second Congo Wars left the country in ruins, with some 6 million deaths occurring in 1996 – 2003 period. The fragile peace has been threatened once again in 2016, when incumbent president Joseph Kabila refused to hold an election, despite the fact that his term has expired. Amidst international and domestic pressure, he agreed to have them in 2017.
As we mentioned before, Russia has slipped several places on the list of least tolerant countries in the world. The persecution of political opponents, religious and sexual minorities have become endemic and with the recent developments in Chechenia, there is no sign of the situation improving anytime soon.
8. The Central African Republic
This country is another example of constant warfare destroying the society and its values on our list of least tolerant countries in the world. The landlocked African country struggles with almost every aspect of a modern society, tolerance and human rights included.
It is hard to talk about tolerance in a country where people face the death penalty for apostasy, and slavery is still practiced. Minorities, like Haratines and Afro-Mauritanians, have almost no representatives in the country’s government, despite the two groups being almost two-thirds of the population.
In a lawless situation like the one in Libya following the deposition of Muammar Gaddafi, human rights and tolerance are usually the first victims. The country is divided among the competing groups who all are taking advantage of the situation to harass the citizens, especially refugees.
Iran’s strict stance on human rights, inspired by the Sharia law, has resulted in many condemnations from the Western world. The country’s treatment of women and minorities have been a subject of many debates in the United Nations, yet Tehran refuses to change anything.
Egypt is mainly on the list of least tolerant countries in the world because of the government’s treatment of its political opponents. After Arab Spring, for a while, there was hope that the country will move towards democracy. Instead, the power was seized by the Muslim Brotherhood, which was in turn deposed by the military coup, like so many governments in Egypt’s history.
While never praised for its tolerance, Yemen, the next one on the list of least tolerant countries in the world has slipped even further in the midst of the full-blown war Saudi Arabia and its allies are waging in support of Hadi’s government.
After years of civil war, South Sudan, the number two on our list of least tolerant countries in the world has managed to secede from the predominantly Muslim north, which is one of the worst countries for religious freedom today.
Decades of warfare have left Afghanistan ravaged and deeply divided. The country managed to get invaded by both Soviet Union and the United States in a span of twenty odd years. In the meantime, years of war between various warlords and tribes have thoroughly destroyed any semblance of a civil society. It is no wonder then that Afghanistan is top of the list when it comes to 25 least tolerant countries in the world.