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Countries that have Dictatorial Governments

A List of All the Countries That Have Dictatorial Governments

Countries with dictatorship governments have had a history of instability, poor governance and infrastructure, troubles with law and order, and a complete disregard for human rights. Unfairly enough, it is the dictators who keep hogging the spotlight to shift the focus away from their crimes. We've therefore chosen to profile their countries instead...
Renuka Savant
Last Updated: Feb 12, 2018
The dictatorial form of governance is not new to our world. From the times of Julius Caesar to Muammar Gaddafi, dictators have ruled their people with the proverbial iron fist. So it isn't really a wonder when we associate dictatorship with tyranny and autocracy.

Those breathing the democratic air reserve their most scathing ridicule for these tyrants, because, quite frankly, their citizens are too wound up with fear to do that. The insulated environment that we live in gives us the right to have an opinion on everything, which includes all dictators and their oppressive ilk.
So far, we know all about Gaddafi's coterie of virgin bodyguards, Kim Jong-Il's (supposedly) phenomenal golf skills and Robert Mugabe's well-chronicled love of the Chelsea football club. In this article though, we're looking at the oppressed, not at the oppressors, because frankly, it is the people here who deserve the world's undivided attention.
North Korea
North Korea
North Korea: From a distance
Without Google Earth, one could have easily questioned the very existence of this country on our planet. A nation that is as elusive as elusive can ever be, North Korea and its people remain firmly and permanently shrouded in mystery; perhaps by force, perhaps by choice. What it has to its credit is the world's most fortified border, a few nukes and a complete hogwash under the name of human rights.
The government keeps an eye on everything, and that means everything, because seriously, whatever else can they ask their special agents to do all day?
The person running the cult-like and autocratic Juche-scripted theatrics is Kim Jong-un, the son of former Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il, and grandson to the country's Eternal President, Kim Il Sung. People who've had the opportunity to visit this country describe it as watching an elaborately sketched opera, only if it wasn't so bone-chilling.
Get a load of this -
Citizens receive free education until the secondary level, and it is compulsory. The 99% literacy rate makes North Korea one of the most literate countries in the world.
But wait, there's a catch...
Political indoctrination begins in preschool, with tiny tots being taught to worship the "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung and his Juche way of living. This philosophy promotes self-reliance and entitles each citizen to take charge of their country's welfare and charter its course of progress.
North Korea
North Korea: Up close
Which isn't too bad, barring a few things like...
...who's really in charge. As with all dictators, our Kim Jong-un doesn't like to delegate minor tasks like the country's welfare to his people.
This is what his government chooses to do instead -
The economy is completely controlled by the government, and international trade is virtually nonexistent.
A large number of citizens covertly indulge into small businesses that account for a significant portion of their income. Official salaries obviously don't earn them much.
Speaking about the media is not possible, simply because there isn't any, barring the state-controlled Korean Central News Agency.
Any citizen reeking of rebellion is handed a one-way pass to one of the country's infamous internment camps where they are treated worse than plague-infected rats.
Ironically enough, this country is called DPRK - Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Ayatollah Khomeini
Iran in the Persian language, translates as the 'Land of the Aryans'. Ancient civilizations made this region their home thousands of years ago, and its citizens pioneered in the fields of science, philosophy, literature, arts, astronomy, and mathematics.
But that was a long, long time ago. The Iran we know and recognize now is completely under the sway of this man here and his ilk.
One fine day in 1979, the world woke up to the news that this country (which, by now had become a famine-ravaged battlefield) had suddenly become the Islamic Republic of Iran. Wouldn't be too wrong to say that everything went down a deep oil well since then.
The life of an ordinary Iranian is a little tricky to describe. Political freedom is not a complete nonentity here. In fact, Iranians thrive on expressing their dissent. The point is, that the government only chooses to listen to what they want  to listen.
For Iran's women and LGBT community, it's a different ballgame altogether. While homosexuality is a criminal offense, the women here aren't a very happy lot either. Their opinions amount to nothing, and no one gets surprised to see a woman being executed for having an opinion on anything other than, say, kebab recipes. The world has duly recognized the efforts of Shirin Ebadi and Mir-Hossein Mousavi towards putting Iran's problems out in the open, but what else has been really done, other than naming Iran as "the axis of evil"?
Why doesn't the world leave them to their devices then?
Because Iran owns the world's second largest natural gas reserve and the third largest oil reserve. That, and the fact that they also dabble in nukes. Now you know why the world and it's grandma can't ever leave a petulant child like Iran alone.
But wait, all's not lost...
...yet. A significant size of Iran's population is under the age of thirty. With the winds of rebellion sweeping the desert lands, it wouldn't be too far-fetched to imagine it taking Iran by storm.
Syrians, as a lot, are not new to the concept of living under an occupation; the Romans, Mongols and the Turks among others have ensured that. But this time around, it's not an outsider who's attempting to strangulate their land - it's their own President. Bashar Hafez al-Assad's tyranny defies belief, and the Syrian people's resolve stuns the skeptics. Syria indeed, has never really enjoyed a sense of calm since its independence from the French after the Second World War. But no other government in Syria has inspired such extreme hatred than the Assad absolutism.
To the outsider, it seems like being Bashar Hafez al-Assad entitles you to disrupt, bully, torture, and maraud the entire country as you wish. And if you think you're falling short, you just bring in a bride like the luxury-obsessed Asma al-Assad who will rise to the occasion like a modern-day Marie Antoinette. The Arab Spring revolution hit the streets of Syria in 2011, and several thousand deaths, tortures and kidnappings later, the situation still hangs in a limbo. Major cities of Damascus and Aleppo experience disturbance in certain pockets, but travel further to Homs, Deraa and villages like these and you'll get the real picture. Prices of basic commodities have skyrocketed, and the people who can afford them are choosing instead to spend their money on fleeing the country. The country's economy runs primarily on agriculture, oil and tourism. All three of which have taken a beating since the civil war that began last year.

As the world continues to watch the Syrian government and the rebel forces collide, all it can do is to politically isolate the troubled nation, which it already has. But is it affecting Assad? Not apparently, as he enjoys trade relations with Iran and continues to crush the rebellion with characteristic brutality.
A deserted Umayyad Mosque in Damascus
A deserted Umayyad Mosque in Damascus
Being in Cuba is the closest you can get to traveling back in time. Vintage cars, cobbled streets and colonial architecture greet you on arrival. Not too surprising, since the government here has taken great pains to keep this country in the exact state in which they found it, around sixty years ago.
Let's just revisit that era for a bit, shall we?
rusted car
"I took a pic of the Cuban Government and all I got is this rusted car."
Seeds of rebellion were sowed when Fidel Castro and his buddy Che Guevara, the famous t-shirt model (other than Bob Marley, that is), took on the Cuban government, overturned it, and put up something of a non-capitalist/non-plutocratic/very-Marxist/so-Leninist/bordering-on Fascist kind of a structure on the poor country. 'La RevoluciĆ³n', they called it, and made some pretty badass slogans to accompany it; most of which remain as graffiti on Havana's street sides and are a major tourist draw besides the pristine beaches, Cuban cigars and some delicious Moros y Cristianos.
Not much to speak about their economy... that the Russian aid has dried up. A communist country that it is, its citizens require government permits to do pretty much everything, and that even includes changing their jobs or buying cars. It was only in 2010 that President Raul Castro permitted the citizens to build their own houses, which, to people in a democratic country, would be equivalent to granting a right to freedom of sneezing at will.
The literacy rate in Cuba is 99.8% as the government wants to ensure that its people read the RevoluciĆ³n slogans on the street sides. Lots of tourists visit Cuba to get their teeth aligned or get a fancier nose, as they're apparently dirt cheap, and provide the dear people of Cuba with some much-needed cash.
Sudan is a country that can easily top any poll on hopelessly tortured countries, although amidst some heavy-duty competition from her African neighbors. And the worst part? The country is currently waging a war with itself for the past 56 years. Any hopes of a peaceful reign post the creation of South Sudan were quashed with the two nations fighting on what else, but oil.
And then there's Darfur...
...the place that is the genocide capital of the world. What began as a trivial dispute between nomadic herders and sedentary farmers blew out of proportion to become a full-fledged conflict between the Arab and non-Arab Sudanese. The presence of international peacekeeping forces amounts to little as rebel attacks continue to wreck mayhem in the displaced persons' camps in the region. However, certain pockets of Darfur, especially in its western region is showing signs of stabilizing.
As for the Man himself...
Omar al-Bashir is the self-appointed President-God of Sudan and holds the dubious distinction of being the first sitting head of a nation who has been issued an arrest warrant by the International Criminal Court. In a perfect dictatorial style, he gave a good old-fashioned heave-ho to the outraged international peacekeepers, first by befriending Osama bin Laden, and later by going on a trip to visit his like-minded pals in Qatar and Egypt.
Phrases like 'a ray of hope' or 'the glass is half full' die a depressed death the moment they set their dainty feet on Sudanese soil. Things are marginally better in the newly-created South Sudan, but there's a conflict brimming underneath the pseudo-peaceful exterior.
Victoria Falls
Victoria Falls: A Symbol of Beauty
Zimbabwe is a beautiful country blessed with an abundance of natural resources. Until recently, it was also among the most stable economies in Africa.
But why would a dictator worth his salt like to keep it that way?
Robert Mugabe came to Zimbabwe's rescue to free it from the clutches of the tortuous colonial white minority-led government, only to completely strangle it himself. Keeping in line with his discriminatory policies, Mugabe ordered a seizure of the entire country's commercial farming lands owned by, you guessed it right, the white minorities. An eye for an eye, one might say. But in the true spirit of dictatorship, the man simply chose to distribute the land among his pals who didn't possess an ounce of farming acumen.

Mugabe's thoughtless gifting led to a food scarcity situation so bleak that it led to a complete collapse of the agrarian economy, and not to mention left the country's population starving.
As for its people...
They have little choice except to queue up along the border and leave. South Africa, Zambia and Botswana beckon the people of Zimbabwe, and they are in a hurry to get there. The country is reeling under a cholera epidemic that broke out in 2008, with death figures of close to 100,000 being attributed to the disease. Already weakened by malnutrition and HIV/AIDS, the life expectancy here has dipped significantly.
Row it faster
And the escape route: Row it faster... faaster!!!
Depending on how you see it, the Victoria Falls on the Zambezi river can either seem like a tourist attraction or an escape route out of Zimbabwe.
Other Countries Under Dictatorship
Belarus' President, Mr. Alexander Lukashenko couldn't stop blushing after ex-US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called his country "truly still the last remaining true dictatorship in the heart of Europe". He decided against disputing the accuracy of her observation, and has retained Belarus' status as the only country upholding the dictatorial tradition in continental Europe. Depending heavily on Russia for its bread, butter and jam (read: oil), Belarus can't afford to upset its hulk-of-a-neighbor. But upset Russia it has, and is silently bearing the brunt. Foreign investors coming to Belarus are shooed away like flies. The government's tactic to adjust the currency exchange rate fell flat on its face, without invoking any sympathy from Russia or the IMF.
The word on the streets is that the Lords in Moscow are speculating backing another puppet to run the show. Is that a sigh of relief or dread? Only time will tell.
Equatorial Guinea
Owning huge reserves of oil is never a good thing, and one just needs to take a look at Equatorial Guinea for proof. The only ones apparently minting the greens from the oil wells are the people in power. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo is the man wielding the power here and has officially classified oil revenue figures as a state secret. While the human rights watchdogs in the US have often chided the country's dictatorial regime for the atrocious living conditions in the country, Mbasogo was considered a "friend" by ex-US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice in 2006, and the current President of the US seems to be agreeing with her. That the friendship has its roots entrenched in Equatorial Guinea's amply-stocked oil wells is an open secret; the pall of gloom doesn't look like it's going to recede any sooner.
Let's not forget Cameroon, Chad, Uganda, Angola, Eritrea, The Gambia, Rwanda, Burundi, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Central African Republic, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.
The way of life in the African continent is harmonious with nature. For a continent that is abundant with nature's best resources, it wouldn't be wrong to say that Africa's natural treasures are indeed a curse for the people here. Uprisings, be it military or guerrilla, are common in these regions as they are funded by the "International Association of Countries with Vested Interests". Border disputes, child soldier armies, illegal arms trade, human rights violations, famines and natural disasters are so common here that most citizens in these countries have a distorted view of normalcy. It seems though, that the time for change is nearing, as rebellions are brimming. Easier said than done, peace won't come to us as easily as we want it to.