Every year, a Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to the individual or individuals who take a stand to make the world a better place. Those awarded the prize have struggled and fought to give a voice to the voiceless and bring peace to all people. These Nobel Laureates are known internationally for their drive to bring rights to every human being.
One Nobel Laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, has failed to promote the peace her award denotes, remaining silent as thousands of Rohingya Muslims are killed at the hands of her leadership.
The Greenhill community needs to be aware of this issue. Suu Kyi’s blatant disregard of human life cannot go unchecked. I hope that by providing information on the plight of the Rohingya, students and faculty will take notice to their struggle.
Suu Kyi received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 while under house arrest in her home of Myanmar, a country of about 53 million people located in Southeast Asia. Since then, Suu Kyi has earned international praise for her peaceful struggle to bring democracy and human rights to the country.
In a report from “The Guardian,” since August, nearly 1,000 Rohingya Muslims living in Myanmar have died and more than 300,000 have fled as refugees to Bangladesh. Children have been thrown into fires, women raped and families torn apart. Mothers have seen their children thrown into rivers to drown and family members decapitated. All the while, Noble Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi has stayed silent.
Suu Kyi was appointed as State Counsellor of Myanmar in 2015. According to the same “Guardian” report, she serves as a close confidante to the President, but many consider her to be the de facto leader of the country. She follows in the footsteps of her father, Aung San, who led Myanmar after its independence from Britain in 1948.
Suu Kyi is affiliated with the National League for Democracy, a democratic political party in Myanmar. Her party won 80 percent of the parliament in 1990, but the military still forced her into house arrest. For a total of 15 years, she practiced non-violence and the promotion of democracy while confined to her home.
Although Myanmar is a predominantly Buddhist nation, the government recognizes 135 distinct ethnic groups. These 135 groups do not include the Rohingya Muslims of the Rakhine state. Rakhine is on the western side of the country bordered by the Bay of Bengal on the east and Bangladesh on the north.
The Buddhist majority oppresses the Rohingya in Myanmar. They are denied citizenship, access to education, medical resources and freedom of movement.
As an oppressed minority, the Rohingya cannot leave Myanmar without the government’s permission. In addition, many Buddhists don’t consider the Rohingya to be Burmese and believe they are illegal immigrants to the country although the Rohingya have lived in Rakhine for centuries.
From a report from “The New York Times”, on August 25, a group of Muslims attacked a military outpost in Rakhine. Frustrated with the oppression their community faces, they killed 12 officers. In response, the Rakhine military ordered “clearance operations” on the Rohingya that have caused immense pain and suffering. Additionally, Buddhist nationalists and monks have spread fear relating to the Muslim community in Myanmar, often claiming that they are terrorists.
Top United Nations Human Rights officials have called this a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing. Several human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, claim that the oppression of the Rohingya borders is a genocide.
All the while, Aung San Suu Kyi has not condemned the violence of the oppressed Muslims. In fact, when asked about the struggles of the Rohingya in past interviews, she mentioned that the Buddhists were just as oppressed and that the Rohingyas were terrorists. The tension between the Muslims and the Buddhists has existed in Myanmar for decades, but what has transpired in the last two months is atrocious.
Fellow Nobel Peace Prize winners Malala Yousafzai and Desmond Tutu have urged Suu Kyi to resolve the Rohingya crisis. Even the Dalai Lama, the leader of the Tibetan Buddhists, came out publicly against the Buddhists in Myanmar. Still, Suu Kyi has done nothing to relieve the plight of the Rohingya.
In order for Suu Kyi to keep her position as State Counsellor, she needs the support of the military. In hopes of keeping political power, she has sided with them, staying silent on the oppression of the Rohingya. She has chosen silence over life and human rights.
Around the world, human rights activists protest against her. Recently, a petition was started to revoke her Nobel Peace Prize. According to the Nobel Organization, there is no policy to rescind a Prize offering. So, she will never lose the title of Nobel Laureate. On October 3, the City of Oxford stripped her of the Freedom of the City of Oxford award amid allegations that she failed to stand up for peace.
There are ways to help the Rohingya, even in Dallas. Organizations like the Texas Muslim Women’s Foundation and the International Rescue Committee help and support Rohingya refugees.
When I look at the horrors that the Rohingya face, and the blatant disregard of Aung San Suu Kyi, I am heartbroken. The Rohingya lose innocent lives under a “peace-loving” leader. Her silence kills hundreds of people every day.
She does not deserve the title of a Laureate. It is time to acknowledge that the woman who fought for democracy and human rights is gone, replaced by someone who puts her political ambitions above the lives of other human beings. I pray that the world reacts to the pain and suffering of the Rohingya. I hope the world decides to uphold the peace Suu Kyi has taken away.
I understand that conflict seems so present in everyday life now. Violence, hatred and bigotry plague the world. Sometimes silence is easier than confronting our problems. But silence does not bring change for the better, it only fuels injustice.
Photo from Wikipedia
Originally published in the November 2017 print issue