Is it realistic for a world where dissident individuals with no public profile have a means to obtain protection from a hostile regime?
Obviously this is for the community to decide, but let me present my best case as to why this question belongs here.
I will regurgitate a few things from the comments, as the makings of an important discussion are there. With regards to the relevance of this question in the context of world building, consider the following as I explain why world building for this question:
My world is merely inspired by real political events rather than strictly based in reality. I see other SE communities as too rigid, and lacking the creative elements I need to weigh as I continue to build my world's political and societal landscapes.
In the post I do mention "individual" frequently, but I mean this in the general sense, in other words we're not discussing the actions of a specific character (which of course would be off-topic):
It is not about the actions of any one individual, but rather the feasibility for any such person inhabiting the world. Thereby, the question is appropriate as per the reality-check tag as it is commonly understood.
by public profile I mean: having a degree of fame, well-connected. Suffice to say people will notice fast if you go "missing"
In this world there is a malign regime that dispatches a secret police force that can crack down on any dissident groups and make individuals "disappear." Often this amounts to the individuals being kidnapped and detained for life. For the rare cases where the individual has a mighty public profile, the regime assumes that making such influential people disappear would make a "martyr" out of them leading to undue reinforcing of dissident sentiment. Instead, the regime prefers to keep the dissidents with public profiles around but at the cultural and economic fringes of society. They are made out to be raving conspiracy theorists, and there are no financial incentives for others to associate with them.
Let's take a brief cut-scene to the real world to understand how a regime's economic disenfranchisement might look like... As Yevgenia Albats of Russia based New Times Magazine recently said in an interview when asked how she operates:
"They allow some opposition voices to exist. But I had to close the paper version of my magazine because people were afraid and are still afraid to give us ads. We're running on a very small budget, only digital, and most likely we will go out of business in the months to come."
Moving along, sometimes the fictional regime in my world even targets individuals without a firm basis for dissident activity. It is uncertain whether the regime chooses to do this out of sheer megalomania or if it is premeditated at the secret police debriefings. Regardless, those individuals who find themselves in the crosshairs of the regime and lack the public profile of the more illustrious dissidents seem to have very limited ways to protect themselves from being detained -- at least in theory...
Media: - All media channels are state controlled and unsympathetic to the plight of the targeted individual
Knowing important people (connections): it is conceivable that an individual with little to nothing in terms of a public profile will still know one or two influential people, but unless that person is a close friend or relative, it's hard to say if he/she would step in merely for an acquaintance. Also, even under the influential close friend/relative scenario, there is also the risk of inaction due to fear of the regime. All things considered, having "connections" seems to be more of a roll of the dice than a plausible way to avoid capture.
Asylum/Smuggling: - While this state does not have closed borders, it does however collect very granular data about who is going in and out of the country. Once the individual is targeted, he/she will be blacklisted by all outbound modes of transportation. Due to geography and finite resources, it is extremely impractical for the malign regime to monitor every rugged and far-flung corner of the territory. An escape via smuggling is plausible, but an Interpol-like entity would carry out man-hunts even abroad. As difficult as life on the run would be, it would be better than life-long detainment and possible torture.
Question: Is there a way for a dissident with little to no public profile to speak of (a nobody, if you will) and modest resources to avoid being detained if targeted by a malign regime who intends to make him/her "disappear" without ironically disappearing oneself?
- financial resources: poor to middle class
- lead time of detainment: approximately 1 week. Assume that the individual knows he/she is targeted. (clearly a best-case scenario)
- reason for targeting: political dissidence, for this individual it's not a case of mistaken identity or random detainment. He/she knows what he/she said or did to upset the regime.
reason for not wanting to flee/smuggle out of the country: Be it stupidity or passion, although our dissident individual is a "nobody" with few followers or connections, but he/she is still resolute about the principle of playing a part with boots on the ground. Leaving the country will forsake the cause in ideological terms.
resources spent by regime on capture of dissident: moderate. Imagine a small, but skilled team working to detain the individual.
setting: present to very near future
protagonist: none, everything is narrated in matter-of-fact fashion, the tone is neutral