In politics, a martyr is someone who suffers persecution and/or death for advocating, renouncing, refusing to renounce, and/or refusing to advocate a political belief or cause.
The Manchester Martyrs were three Irishmen executed after being condemned for association with the killing of a policeman in Manchester, England in 1867. The day after the executions, Frederick Engels wrote to Karl Marx: "Yesterday morning the Tories, by the hand of Mr Calcraft, accomplished the final act of separation between England and Ireland. The only thing that the Fenians still lacked were martyrs. ... To my knowledge, the only time that anybody has been executed for a similar matter in a civilised country was the case of John Brown at Harpers Ferry. The Fenians could not have wished for a better precedent."
The Tolpuddle Martyrs were a group of 19th century agricultural labourers in Dorset, England, who were arrested for and convicted of swearing a secret oath as members of the Friendly Society of Agricultural Labourers. The rules of the society showed it was clearly structured as a friendly society, that is, a mutual association for the purposes of insurance, pensions, savings or cooperative banking; and it operated as a trade-specific benefit society. But at the time, friendly societies had strong elements of what are now considered to be the principal role of trade unions, and wages were at issue. The Tolpuddle Martyrs were sentenced not to death but to transportation to Australia, a harsh form of exile.
The Belfiore martyrs (in Italian, Martiri di Belfiore) were a group of Italian pro-independence fighters condemned to death by hanging in 1853 during the Italian Risorgimento. They included Tito Speri and the priest Enrico Tazzoli and are named after the site where the sentence was carried out, in the valley of Belfiore at the south entrance to Mantua.
Many communist activists have died as martyrs in India, due to their allegiance to various communist parties, such as the CPI(M) and the CPI. Most of them hail from mainly leftist states such as Kerala, and Tripura. In Kerala, many are killed in protests by the police, and some are assassinated by activists in other political parties, such as the INC and the RSS. The district of Kannur has reported to have had the most political murders. Here, the RSS are known to have used brutal violence to eliminate CPI(M) workers.
Other notable martyrs include:
- 1965 – Malcolm X, assassinated due to his leadership in Black Nationalism
- 1968 – Martin Luther King Jr., assassinated for his leadership of the Civil Rights Movement
- 1981 – Bobby Sands, an Irish Republican who died on hunger strike while imprisoned