International Day of Democracy: Top 10 Memories of Democracy on Tell History

The United Nations has declared September 15 the International Day of Democracy. The day celebrates principles like universal suffrage, human rights and freedom of speech.

What Does Democracy Mean to You?

At the heart of the UN campaign is that people from around the world come together, share ideas and think about what makes a democracy. The United Nations accepts that it is a process:

“Democracy is as much a process as a goal, and only with the full participation of and support by the international community, national governing bodies, civil society and individuals, can the ideal of democracy be made into a reality to be enjoyed by everyone, everywhere.”

To celebrate and contribute to the discussion , we would like to share our favorite memories of democracy on Tell History. Each story is captured by our citizen historians, contributing to a better human understanding of what democracy means to the individual.

1.The Right to Vote: Baghdad Bans NGOs in Kurdistan 

Humanitarian expert Stafford Clarry describes that once the Kurdistan Regional Government was established in 1992, the Iraqi government blocked many international NGOs from operating in the Kurdistan region.

Storyteller: Stafford Clarry
Date of Story: May, 1992
Location of Story: Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Location: Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Date: 20 April, 2016

2. The Right to be Elected as Representative: Democracy in a Refugee Camp

Hussain Ali talks about the democratic institutions that have developed inside Baharka Camp in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Each community elects representatives to help manage essential camp activities, helping build cooperation between the various groups that have lived in the tent city since its creation in 2013.

Storyteller: Hussain Ali
Date of Story: 9 April, 2016
Location of Story: Baharka, Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Location: Baharka, Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Date: 9 April, 2016


3. Freedom of the Press: Predicting a Narrow Win for the Treaty of Maastricht

Julian Nundy talks about how The Independent was a paper that was willing to take risks, illustrated by an episode when the paper backed his prediction that the referendum for the Treaty of Maastricht would only pass by a narrow margin, despite widespread belief there would be a strong majority in favor. Nundy was supported by the editorial board–although there were some doubts about his judgement–and this paid off when results showed only 51% in favor of the treaty.

Storyteller: Julian Nundy
Date of Story: 20 September, 1992
Location of Story: Paris, France
Location: Paris, France
Date: 25 March, 2016

4. The Right to Take Part in Public Affairs: Covering Nelson Mandela’s Release from Prison

Julian Nundy looks back to his first big story for the Independent on Sunday, which involved traveling to South Africa to cover the release of Nelson Mandela from prison. It was also the first time he remembered getting positive feedback about the Independent on Sunday from international readers.
Storyteller: Julian Nundy
Date of Story: February, 1990
Location of Story: Johannesburg, South Africa
Location: Paris, France
Date: 25 March, 2016


5. The Right to Associate with Others: Documenting Berlin Wall from a Dump Truck

Photographer Brian Harris remembers that it wasn’t clear the Berlin Wall would fall and that it took many by surprise. Luckily he was in East Berlin when the moment came, and he describes his long night covering the story as it unfolded.

Storyteller: Brian Harris
Date of Story: October-9 November, 1989
Location of Story: East Berlin, Germany
Location: Outside Cambridge, UK
Date: 6 April, 2016


6. Fair and Free Elections: Politics Has Been Destroyed by Financial Powers

Politician Stefania Craxi explains the legacy of the Tangentopoli bribery scandals of the 1990s. She argues that reforms of the Italian political system failed because of the influence of the financial interests.

Storyteller: Stefania Craxi
Date of Story: 1992
Location of Story: Rome, Italy
Location: Rome, Italy
Date: 2 March, 2016


7. Equal Access to Information: The Undemocratic Age of Computing

Computer scientist John Hayes says that although not much has changed about computers “on the abstract level” for 40 years, pretty much everything else about them is different: who uses them, the hardware, work practices, functionality, and the way we think about them.

Storyteller: John Hayes
Date of Story: 1976-present
Location of Story: Chalfont St. Giles, UK
Location: Chalfont St. Giles, UK
Date: 6 February, 2016


8. Freedom of Speech: Freedom of Speech Makes a Brief appearance in Egypt

Journalist Campbell MacDiarmid chronicles the rise and fall of freedom of speech in Egypt, from before the Arab Spring in 2009 through Mohamed Morsi’s reign (2012-2013) until the coup d’état by General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, an event that propelled Campbell and others to leave the country. 

Storyteller: Campbell MacDiarmid
Date of Story: 2009- 2013
Location of Story: Cairo, Egypt
Location:  Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan
Date: 31 October, 2015


9. Freedom of Expression: I Was Part of the 68 Generation in Austria

Silvia Kronberger, 14 in 1968, talks about how her generation rebelled against the conservatism of their parents and helped establish a new kind of society. She hopes that young people today will also question the status quo in politics and culture.

Storyteller: Silvia Kronberger
Date of Story: 1968-1970s
Location of Story: Salzburg, Austria
Location:  Salzburg, Austria
Date: 29 October, 2015


10. The Right to Protest: Witnessing 1.5 million people demand independence from Spain

Austrian Verena Gruber recounts the experience of observing nearly 1.5 million Catalans demonstrate for independence from Spain just weeks before the Catalonia region voted “yes” in a historic referendum to go their separate way.

Storyteller: Verena Gruber
Date of Story: 11 September, 2015; 27 September 2015
Location of Story: Barcelona, Spain
Location: Vienna, Austria
Date: 26 October, 2015