With the fall of many brutal dictators during last year’s Arab Spring, millions of people were finally able to break the shackles and live as free men. However, there are still a number of countries where dictators are at the helm of affairs and human rights are frequently violated. Here, we will take a look at the most evil dictators of all time.
All great movements are popular movements. They are the volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotions, stirred into activity by the ruthless Goddess of Distress or by the torch of the spoken word cast into the midst of the people.
– Adolf Hitler
History has been shaped as much by the gallant efforts of the warriors as by the ghastly atrocities of dictators. These men have been responsible for the most reprehensible crimes against humanity and have caused much social, cultural, and economic damage to humanity.
In the past one year or so, many such dictators have been toppled by revolutionaries, and this revolution has been called the Arab Spring, a movement which inspired the current Occupy Wall Street Protests in America.
Adolf Hitler was born in Austria. He plunged Germany into World War II, causing millions of deaths and put his country under enormous debt. It is widely believed that Hitler held Jews responsible for every misfortune that he had. In the Vienna Academy of Art, his work was rejected and Hitler believed that it was a Jewish Professor who discredited him. When his mother died in a hospital, Hitler assumed that she could have been saved if the Jewish doctor had done a bit more. Hitler blamed Jews for Germany’s humiliation in the World War I, and believed that Germany can never become the greatest nation on earth as long as Jews inhabited the Fatherland. During his regime, millions of Jews were tortured and persecuted in concentration camps. He committed suicide when it became clear that Germany was going to lose the war against the Allied forces.
If there is someone who comes close to Hitler as far as atrocities and mass murders are considered, then it is undoubtedly Robert Mugabe. He himself confessed as being “Hitler Tenfold”, and has been ruling Zimbabwe with an iron fist since 1980. He has been the architect of a horrendous campaign against his own people, and life-expectancy in Zimbabwe is shockingly as low as 33.5% for women and 38% for men. Mugabe has unleashed famine as a weapon on the people of Zimbabwe and has been responsible for around five million deaths in his more than three-decade regime. Under his leadership, the inflation rate has gone so high that in 2009 a $50 billion note was issued, with which one could only buy two loaves of bread.
Omar al-Bashir has been engaged in wiping out non-Arab tribes from the Darfur region of Sudan. The International Criminal Court has accused al-Bashir of war crimes, but surprisingly it did not accuse him of genocide. An estimated 200,000 people have been killed and another 2 million have been forced to abandon their homes to escape persecution. He has been in power since 1980, and his atrocities against humanity continue unabated despite widespread concern and condemnation. Despite all the opposition, he continues to rule Sudan with an iron fist, and human rights violations continue unabated.
Stalin, which translates to ‘Man of Steel’, is widely regarded to have killed about 20 million people in his oppressive regime. In order to ‘catch up’ with the developed countries of the world, Stalin embarked on a Five-Year Plan which was highly disadvantageous to the peasants of USSR. The collectivization of agriculture led to the death of 14 million people and those who resisted the change were executed swiftly. After doing away with peasants, Stalin next turned to his own party members, who he thought were conspiring to overthrow him. This series of mass murders came to be known as the ‘The Great Purge’, and reportedly one million Bolsheviks, scientists, and artists were killed, and another 10 million deported or made to work in labor camps.
When a cannibal rules a country, you can imagine the disarray in which the society would be. Idi Amin took up eating oranges because according to him, “they taste better than human flesh.” Known as one of the most barbaric of all dictators, an estimated 800,000 people perished under his regime. He ordered South Asians to leave Uganda as their prosperity was a sore in the eye for him. Amin was forced into exile by the rebels of Uganda with the help of Tanzanian army, and it was the oil-rich Saudi Arabia that proved to be a fitting host for this cannibal. He lived near a seaside villa in Jeddah, maintaining a low profile till his death in August, 2003.
Soon after coming to power in 1969, Gaddafi unleashed a reign of terror by executing everyone who he suspected of forming a political party. Prominent opposition leaders disappeared and haven’t been found since. Teachers and students were hanged publicly and Libyan dissidents living abroad were murdered on his orders. Gaddafi used to oversee the torture and execution of his political opponents himself. He encouraged and supported militant groups which were fighting against the Western countries. It has also been reported that his soldiers were given sexually stimulating drugs to mass rape women. Gaddafi was one of the casualties of Arab Spring, and he was killed on the 21st of October, 2011 by the rebel forces in his hometown, Sirte.
After assuming power in 1922, Benito Mussolini, like most dictators of the world, turned a democratic Roman Empire into a state ruled by a secret police where there was no room for political dissent. He believed in Fascism and his ambition was to conquer other nations to expand the Roman Empire. During the Italian occupation of Ethiopia, nearly 30,000 Ethiopians were killed. Mussolini was captured when he was trying to cross over to Switzerland, and shot dead along with his mistress. His body was hung upside-down in Milan, so that the people of Italy could themselves see the fall of their murderous dictator.
Pol Pot a.k.a. Saloth Sar was one of the most evil dictators of the world. He was deeply inspired by China’s Mao Zedong, and in the pursuit to build an agrarian society, he expelled all foreigners living in Cambodia. The most infamous of these evacuations was in Phnom Penh, where 20,000 people died on the way to the countryside, when they were forcibly made to evacuate. During his four-year regime, Pol Pot was responsible for death of more than 2 million people. The educated community of doctors, lawyers, businessmen, teachers was specifically targeted and anyone who was thought to be a dissident was executed. Pol Pot was finally forced to run for his life when Vietnam invaded Cambodia, and it was in 1998 that he died of a heart attack, before he was to be brought to justice by the International Tribunal.
Saddam Hussein happens to be the only dictator in this list who was tried for his crimes against humanity, and subsequently sentenced to death. He killed roughly 200,000 Kurds during the Al-Anfal campaign in an attempt to solve the Kurdish problem and used chemical weapons against them in Halabja. Torture was rampant in his regime and anyone who had an opinion against him was sent to these torture camps, which more often than not resulted in death. He fled Baghdad – the capital city of Iraq during the invasion of United States in 2003. He was caught in December 2003, and later executed on the 30th of December, 2006.
Kim Jong il
A man who urged his countrymen to worship him as the incarnation of God (or God Himself), someone who North-Korean historians claim was born on North Korea’s highest mountain Mt. Paektu, amidst a double-rainbow and a bright star in the sky. Kim Jong il, also known as Kin Jong II ensured that North Korea remains isolated from the world. He had been accused of running prison camps in which political dissidents were put to death, using poisonous gases and toxins on people in concentration camps, and starving his people to death. It has been reported that around 300,000 people have died of starvation in the last ten years. He died of a heart attack on the 18th of December, 2011.
These were the world’s top 10 dictators, but we would like to mention that there are still thirty-three countries which are ruled by dictators. While we can heave a sigh of relief that we are living in one of the greatest democracies of the world, we should spare a thought for those who continue to be oppressed under such tyrannical regimes.