On October 22, I had the pleasure to hear a speech which left me speechless. It was a message of hope and optimism based on the fact that freedom of thought and freedom to live in accordance with one’s conscience is the birthright of every human person. The speaker also emphasized her opinion that freedom and human dignity need to be protected and safeguarded in accordance with the provisions of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
In an official ceremony, the European Parliament awarded the 1990 Sakharov Prize to Aung San Suu Kiy for her struggle for a democratic Burma. She is the Burmese political opposition leader who suffered injustice and oppression from an authoritarian military junta which disrespects the human person and the norms of a democratic society. She was held in a detention for seven years for her beliefs in freedom and democracy. Aung San Suu Kiy transmitted a message of hope and reconciliation greatly needed in Burma. She proclaimed that young people are the future of the world and their freedom of conscience is vital for building strong democratic societies, particularly in Burma.
Aung San Suu Kiy reminded me of a similar example I read about in Track A. It was the experience of a WYA member from Burma who was struggling for the freedom of her country. The girl in the reading spoke from her heart about this struggle, and compared herself to those fighting totalitarianism in Europe. The similarities between today’s Burmese political authoritarian regime and the countries of the former socialist bloc before the fall of the Iron Curtain in Central and Eastern Europe are too striking to ignore. Our parents and grandparents experienced an environment lacking freedom, democracy and respect for intrinsic human dignity. Communism in central and Eastern Europe had the same negative effects as the current Burmese regime holds over their citizens. Just as Communism ended in Romania and Poland, so the Burmese authoritarian military dictatorship in Burma will eventually succumb to an end. A regime based on an ideological lie can never survive.
Aung San Suu Kiy’s presence in the European Parliament today is a concrete reminder that the international community should not remain indifferent towards Burma’s situation, but should recognize the importance of advocating for true freedom, respect for Human Dignity, and a better future.
For me it was a very emotional moment to see Aung San Suu Kiy, because I know from the experience of my parents what it means to live in a country where basic rights are denied and fundamental liberties are restricted. I know what it means to live in a country where our personal freedom is portrayed as a dispensation of the government. It was powerful to see a heroic icon of strength who fought against a culture of lies about the human person.
By Victor Ciumac, an Advocacy Fellow at the WYA Europe Office