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Suu Kyi stripped of Oxford honour

28th Dec 2017
Suu Kyi stripped of Oxford honour

Councillor Mary Clarkson, who proposed the motion to strip Aung San Suu Kyi of the honour, said the unprecedented move was a call for justice for the Rohingya people (Photo: Creative Commons)

Elham Asaad Buaras

Aung San Suu Kyi has been stripped of the Freedom of Oxford for “turning a blind eye” to atrocities being committed against Rohingya Muslims. The decision to revoke the honour was made a few weeks after St Hugh’s College, Oxford, where she studied, removed her portrait from a display.

The de facto leader of Myanmar was granted the Freedom of the City in 1997 for her “long struggle for democracy”. Suu Kyi spent years under house arrest in Rangoon as a campaigner for democracy while Myanmar was ruled by a military dictatorship.

However, on November 27, Oxford City Council removed the honour from Suu Kyi through a unanimously supported cross-party motion.
More than half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar Burma to Bangladesh following recent violence.But her failure to denounce the military or address allegations of ethnic cleansing has been criticised by world leaders and human rights groups such as Amnesty International.

Suu Kyi, Burma’s civilian leader, has faced widespread criticism and anger over the country’s treatment of the Rohingya Muslim minority, described by the UN as “textbook ethnic cleansing”.

Oxford City Council voted to permanently to remove her honour at a meeting earlier, after a preliminary vote in October.
Councillor Mary Clarkson, who proposed the motion, said Suu Kyi was given the Freedom of the City because she reflected Oxford’s values of tolerance and internationalism, however “the unprecedented step of stripping her of the city’s highest honour” was made due to “her inaction in the face of oppression of the minority”.

“The burning of their villages has been independently confirmed by satellite images, and the UN has called the situation ‘a textbook example of genocide’ – yet Aung San Suu Kyi has denied any ethnic cleansing and dismissed numerous claims of sexual violence against Rohingya women as ‘fake rape’”, said Clarkson.

“Oxford has a long tradition of being a diverse and humane city, and our reputation is tarnished by honouring those who turn a blind eye to violence. We hope that today we have added our small voice to others calling for human rights and justice for the Rohingya people.”

Last month, Bob Geldof returned back his Freedom of the City of Dublin in protest at Suu Kyi also holding the honour. The Live Aid organiser and former pop star laid into the Burmese Nobel peace laureate, saying she was a “handmaiden to genocide” whose association with the Irish capital “shames us all”. Geldof handed the award back at City Hall on November 13, insisting while he was a “proud Dubliner” he did not want the ceremonial title while Suu Kyi also held it.

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