Nobelist Aung San Suu Kyi help a Muslim minority?
(Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.)
officials in June instructed U.N. officials to refer to Burma’s Muslim
minority as “people who believe in Islam in Rakhine state.” This is
the latest chapter in what has become a tragic campaign to reassure
Buddhist nationalists that the government will continue to oppress the
Rohingya—even to the point of denying them their name and citizenship
personal sacrifice, Ms. Suu Kyi is finally in a position to bring
democracy to her country. Ms. Suu Kyi’s party won Burma’s national
elections in November 2015, and this spring, in addition to being
named foreign minister, she was appointed state counselor, the de
facto prime minister. The new title effectively gives her the power to
woman who was under house arrest off and on for more than two
decades—takes very seriously. Yet those of us who spoke up for Aung
San Suu Kyi those many years when her human rights were being
violated—including His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond
Tutu—are deeply pained that she won’t extend the same respect for
human rights to Burma’s more than one million Rohingya.
also called upon Burma to respect the rights of other political
prisoners and minorities in Burma—including the Karen, the Shan and
the Chin. Global human-rights organizations, along with courageous
grass roots organizations in Burma, have documented how the Burmese
military and state have suppressed these minorities through religious
persecution, killings, rape, disappearances, torture and other crimes
with Buddhists in Rakhine state, we spoke out publicly to help Burma’s
the alarm bells about the Burmese government’s campaign against the
Rohingya. Burma has long denied the Rohingya the recognition and basic
rights, like access to education and freedom of movement, that
citizenship would afford. Since the riots, more than 140,000 Rohingya
have been forced into refugee camps, and many of them now live in
conditions much resembling concentration camps. Tens of thousands have
risked losing their lives to make the dangerous journey by sea in
overcrowded boats to leave Rakhine state.
activists—seem to see no contradiction in their call for democracy and
the cruel and inhumane treatment of the Rohingya. This includes Aung
San Suu Kyi.
many years defiantly rejected the word Myanmar, the name assigned to
the country by the autocratic military that ran the country since
1962. We respected the fact that Ms. Suu Kyi and her followers called
themselves Burmese, and the country Burma.
defending the rights of the Bah’ai, a religious minority, in Iran.
Since 2009, I have been forced to live outside of Iran—and have lost
not only my home but also my marriage and many friends. But I strongly
believe there is no other way to live. Up until recently, I thought
that Ms. Suu Kyi and I shared this conviction.
committee dedicated to promoting peace and development in Rakhine
state. The announcement said the committee—which reportedly will
include 27 members of the new cabinet—will “coordinate” the activities
of U.N. agencies and international nongovernmental organizations in
government’s authoritarian control over the region than a response to
a human-rights crisis. Let’s hope not. I’ll be the first to applaud if
my sister Nobel peace laureate bravely ignores the internal pressure
to dehumanize the Rohingya and instead stands up for their rights.
in Iran” (Random House, 2016) and a co-founder of the Nobel Women’s
Initiative, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2003.
I am not shy of critiquing her but we should not forget the risk and dangers she is facing now. At least have a heart.