Democracy. Women's rights. Freedom of the press. The rule of law. From Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, China to Peru, dissidents are working tirelessly for the liberties so many take for granted. Their fight isn't an easy one -- dissidents often pay a price for their work in the form of surveillance, kidnappings, beatings, assassinations, arrests, and torture. FP's May/June issue featured the story of one such dissident, the jailed Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky. But it is only the lucky few whose cases echo around the world -- Burma's Aung San Suu Kyi, for example, or Tibet's Dalai Lama. Meanwhile, innumerable people are caught up in the same battle. Here are just a few.
Garry Kasparov in 2008.
Lyudmila M. Alexeyeva: A tiny, frail woman of 82 years, Alexeyeva has protested Russian repression for more than 40 years -- dating back to Leonid Brezhnev's premiership of the former Soviet Union. She was first reported to Soviet authorities at age 19 for reading banned poetry. Today, she can be found leading protests on street corners and in prominent plazas, most recently on New Year's Eve, when she was arrested for leading an unauthorized protest. In January, she told the New York Times that Soviet repression was easier to fight than it is in Vladimir Putin's era: "There were rules then. They were idiotic rules, but there were rules, and if you knew them you could defend yourself." She has been attacked by pro-Kremlin supporters in recent months, prompting members of the European Parliament to express their concern and award her the body's 2009 Sakharov human rights prize, named for famed Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov.
Garry Kasparov: Arguably the world's greatest chess player, Kasparov's political career has not been nearly as successful. Founder of the United Civil Front and a leader of the loose opposition coalition the "Other Russia," Kasparov planned to challenge then-President Vladimir Putin's handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, in the 2008 Russian presidential election. But he was forced to withdraw in the face of a campaign of harassment that he says was directed by the Kremlin. Kasparov, like many other Putin-era Russian dissidents, has proved much more popular in the West than in Russia. And Putin, now a very powerful prime minister, has proved to be an even tougher opponent than Deep Blue.
Abdelnasser al-Rabbasi: Arrested by plainclothes officers in 2003, after he submitted a short story, "Chaos, Corruption and the Suicide of the Mind in Libya," to the Arab Times, Rabbasi was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The writer is a relentless critic of the country's mercurial leader, Muammar al-Qaddafi. The country's People's Court accused Rabbasi in 2003 of "dishonoring the guide of the revolution," aka Qaddafi. But Rabbasi told Human Rights Watch he was imprisoned for "criticizing the situation in my country," just as Qaddafi now does. "So I don't know why I was imprisoned. I did not carry a gun; I carried a pen."
DMITRY KOSTYUKOV/AFP/Getty Images