5 Shockingly Progressive Policies from Insane Dictatorships

#2. The Mongols Protected Religious Freedom

Rashid al-Din, via Wikipedia

Notorious for ruthlessly subjugating the Asian continent, the Mongol Empire practically ruled the world back in the days when horsepower was a literal term and people wiped their asses with banana leaves. And while the Mongols indulged in an unprecedented amount of pillage and rape, they also endorsed some surprisingly modern policies, including religious tolerance.

Ivan Korzhev/Wiki Commons
"People of all faiths are equally invited to die by my hand."

Genghis Khan adhered to shamanism, but ensured that freedom of religion was protected for all his subjects. Foreign religions were welcomed, even if they contradicted shamanistic spiritual beliefs (to be fair, everything we know about shamanism we learned from Banjo-Kazooie). You see, even though he conquered entire civilizations with brute force, Genghis realized that to stay the ruler of a mighty empire, you have to keep the people happy. We imagine it was no simple feat teaching this concept to a man who impaled people just to say hello, but eventually Genghis came to see that marching into a country and forcing everyone to convert to some weird new religion isn't the best way to maintain power when your subjects outnumber you by the millions.

So the Mongol conquerors not only tolerated foreign religions among the populace, but nurtured them, going so far as to offer tax breaks to Daoist, Buddhist, Islamic, and Christian churches. Not to be outdone, Genghis' heir to the throne, Ogedei Khan, actually commissioned the construction of a bunch of new churches, mosques, and temples. He was thus able to cozy up to religious leaders and, as Dr. Dre would put it, stop shit from popping off. The only exception came under Genghis' grandson Kublai Khan, who singled out Daoists, because they scratched his new Benz or something.

"In your next lives, come back as someone that can respect a man's S-Class."

#1. Iran Is Super Accepting of Sex Changes

James Knopf/Hemera/Getty Images, PromesaArtStudio/iStock/Getty Images

Former Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once infamously alleged that his country contained exactly zero homosexuals, as if debunking their very existence and demoting them to the realm of unicorns and Bigfoot. It's understandable from his perspective why he'd want to believe that, because if you're gay in Iran, you can get stoned, and definitely not the good kind of stoned.

Leah-Anne Thompson/iStock/Getty Images
"I should've moved to North Korea."

So if the tendency to rub the wrong kinds of bits together is a crime punishable by death, you can only imagine how they treat transgender people in Iran. And you're probably imagining wrong, because the transgender community has hardly any hassles at all. In fact, unofficial estimates put the number at around 150,000 people, which makes Iran second only to Thailand in terms of the size of their gender-swapping population. In 1987, Ayatollah Khomeini instituted a specific fatwa that not only made gender reassignment surgery legal, but made the government help people pay for it. Not just the surgery, either, but the accompanying hormone treatments as well.

As magnanimous as this sounds for one of the world's harshest theocracies, it can be argued that they're doing it for all the wrong reasons. As we mentioned, the Iranian government doesn't want there to be any gays in their country, so they figure that giving people the freedom to change their sex is a way of solving the problem (because apparently a gay man is just a straight woman on the inside. That must be how it works, right?). Basically, they accept transsexualism through the sheer force of their homophobia.

goldyrocks/iStock/Getty Images
Next up: overcoming homophobia by fear of women's rights.

Sex reassignments must be authorized by a government-certified psychiatrist and sometimes a sexologist -- a profession whose basis may or may not be founded upon books on sex so old, they're written on papyrus. Prospective patients must undergo multiple sessions with up to six different psychiatrists, as well as see a forensic examiner from the governmental medical agency that oversees the surgeries. Upon reassignment, the individual literally becomes a new person -- their old birth certificate is destroyed, and a new identity is issued. Newer laws stipulate increased compensation for the individuals, and there's even a proposition to allow loans for transgender individuals to start their own business ventures. So if you're looking to start up that gourmet cupcake bakery or other small business on the cheap, just go to Iran and get a sex change.

J. is writing a book. You can't read it yet, but you can help start a bidding war. Eric Yosomono dreams of running his own harsh dictatorial society, and you can read about it on Gaijinass.com.

Related Reading: Speaking of oppressive societies, elevate your mood by reading about these Chinese citizens who flout censorship via memes. If you believe that the Middle Ages were all oppression and misery, you should read this article. Want to read about the most hilarious nightmare dictatorship in the world today? This is the link for you.

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