1325 PeaceWomen
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"We are still prisoners in our own country"
Myanmar (Formerly Burma), 1945

She was declared head a prisoner of consciousness of Amnesty International and has lived in detainment since 1989. She is the leader of the democratic opposition in her country. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. She studied philosophy, politics and economy at Oxford University and later became a visiting professor at the University of Tokyo. She also studied at the London School of Eastern and African Studies. She published “Freedom From Fear and Other Writings,” and “Voice of Hope: Conversations.” In actuality, she remains deprived of freedom, and she has had to stand trial multiple times because the Burmese militants accuse her of having violated her house arrest and they wish her to be put in jail.

Looking at her, it is not easy to imagine her true life’s story. She more appears  to be the protagonist of an ancient tale: she is beautiful, with flowers in her hair, and an air of dazzling, elegant simplicity. She weighs a mere 45 kilos and stands 1.62 meters tall, but she has an unshakable will and incredible leadership capacities, and has illuminated numerous ways for face injustice.

Her father, Aung San, was a highly respected general of the Burmese army that fought for independence against Great Britain, and he was assassinated in 1947, just months before the country declared its independence. He became the source of inspiration for the studies of his daughter. Her mother, Khin Kyi, was the main nurse of the General Hospital of Yangon, which is now called Rangun, and she was the ambassador of Burma to India in 1960. With the help of her mother, her belief in the Buddhist traditions of Mahatma Gandhi deepened, and so she made a personal commitment to a life of non-violence as a radical way of existing in this world.

She left Burma in her teenage years to accompany her mother to India, and before she turned 21, she began her studies in philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford University. A short time later, she lived in New York City and worked for the United Nations. During this time she met her husband, Michael Aris, and they made London their home. In 1977, she gave birth to her second son.

On an unexpected trip in April of 1988, the life of Aung San Suu Kyi was altered forever.  She had returned to Yangon to be with her mother, who had suddenly fallen ill. At the end of July of this same year, the political situation in Burma was thrown into upset with the resigning of the dictator Ne Win, who had been head of the oppressive military regime that in 1962 interrupted the democratic mission of the country before they could declare their independence. On the 8th of August, 1988, students from across the country demonstrated in the streets to demand democracy and respect of human rights from the government. During the next six weeks, the manifestations, which gained increasing support, extended throughout the country. Military forces staged an intervention and carried out violent repressions of the uprising: there were 3000 killed and many more that disappeared. This massacre shocked the international community, and some believed that the oppressive regime in Myanmar had come to an end because it was assumed the atrocities would not be tolerated by the outside world. But despite the intensity of the revolts and the leaders of “generation 88,” (‘8/8/88’ in reference to the date of the uprising,) the regime remained in power.

Before the seriousness of the events, on the 15th of August Suu Kyi wrote a letter to the government asking for multi-party elections in her country. Ten days later, she made her first public demand for a democratic government. One month later, the National Democratic League (NLD) was created, with Suu Kyi as the Secretary General, to support a political transition to democracy by means of non-violence and civil disobedience. Suu Kyi traveled the country seeking support for the NLD and demanding political change, meanwhile ignoring the warnings of the government. At the end of December, her mother died at the age of 76 and she decided not to return to Great Britain, even though her husband and sons were waiting for her there, and despite the fact that the safety conditions in Burma were worsening by the day.

In 1989 the harassment of the opposition parties worsened and in July, Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest without a trial or a presentation of charges. Even though she was detained, her popular support continued to grow, and in the general elections of 1990, 82% of the elected parliamentary representatives were from the NLD, though they were not recognized by the Burmese military committee. Suu Kyi remained isolated from contact until 1995, the year in which her house arrest was dismissed for a short time and she was given the threatening option of leaving the country instead of remaining in detention. This was the last time her husband saw her, as he died in London in 1999. The Burmese government always encouraged her to see her family in Great Britain, and they also advised her never to return to her home country of Burma.

In the last 20 years, her noble decision to remain aside her fellow Burmese people has deprived her of 15 years of freedom. She could have lived another life, and her personal sacrifice in the face of oppression has converted Suu Kyi into the symbol of peaceful resistance among the Burmese people. As she says, “Some people believe that to overcome the authoritarian regime and replace it with a democracy, the only path is one of violence. I would like to be the precedent of a political change by means of a political agreement, and not by means of violence.” Her international recognition is growing due to the fact that she is always seeking support to encourage political change in her country. Despite her arrest, her voice of protest has transgressed boundaries and continues to denounce the injustice that devastates her country.

But Suu Kyi is not alone in her struggle. Like her, many men and women in Myanmar work tirelessly to defy one of the most repressive military regimes on the planet. Today, the army continues to systematically carry out grave violations of human rights.

In 2008, the Burmese population suffered a new blow: added to the difficult political conditions were the devastating effects of the Nargis hurricane. The purposeful inaction of the government and their resistance to allow the people access to international aid caused the Burmese people to suffer the worst conditions imaginable. Any observer of this chaos could confirm with horror and incredulity, that the Burmese government had violated the human rights of their own people on a massive scale. This widespread suffering did not bring about the retirement of Chinese, Russian, Indonesian and Vietnamese support of the Burmese military committee. The Burmese government was accustomed to avoiding the reproachful voice of the international community during previous acts of their violation of the human rights of their people.

But the rebellion of Suu Kyi’s townspeople has not been totally silenced. Throughout the years, Aung San Suu Kyi has received numerous international recognitions, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for “her non-violent fight for democracy and human rights.” During the ceremony, the president of the Nobel committee said that “her absence fills us with fear and anxiety at the same time that it leads us forward with hope.”

Through his words, we know that the unbreakable will of Suu Kyi will continue marching until liberty and freedom have been achieved. As she says, "We will continue with our forces to bring about democracy in Burma despite any circumstances. We believe in hoping for the best and preparing ourselves for the worst."