Dear Lord Mayor and Distinguish Councillors,
I am reaching to you with a great hope carrying deep in my heart in regard to the rescission of Freedom of Galway from Aung San Suu Kyi.
Galway has a very special place in my heart. I was the first Rohingya to set foot in the city. It is the first city in Ireland which I called home after arriving in 2010 to study medicine at National University of Ireland Galway where I spent for more than four years. It is also the city which has published one of first major research papers on Rohingya – “Crimes Against Humanity in Western Burma: The Situation of the Rohingyas” by my alma mater’s Irish Centre for Human Rights.
It is also the first city, “The City of Tribe” which made me feel and live the dreams of my forefathers who were the integral parts of the “former” inclusive Burmese society. Galway is the city which has stimulated me for the work of integration and inclusion programmes in Carlow where the vast majority of resettled Rohingya community found their new homes.
I am a Rohingya born and grown up in Maungdaw town, Rakhine State, Burma. I was barely 19 when I left my treasure, mother, to seek another treasure – higher education which is completely banned for the Rohingya community. I arrived in Galway to nurture my dreams of becoming a doctor contributing my medically-deprived community and the Irish Society.
I would like to make sure that I am in no way criticising anyone at Galway City Council for conferring the honour to Aung San Suu Kyi. Neither do I fail to acknowledge her eligibility for her past struggles.
She was my childhood idol. She was the light at the darkest time of my life and that of the Burmese society. During my high school, I have written countless of poems on her life when she was under the house-arrest. My community has endured for her liberty. My family has sacrificed so much for her freedom. My father was forced into exile when I was just 7 because of his supports for her party and campaign for her release as well as being a member of persecuted Rohingya community.
I met her in Dublin on June 18, 2012. It was one of proudest and darkest moments of my life personally meeting my former idol. At the same time, it was one of the moments of eye-opener when she set foot into politics and failed to acknowledge or speak the on slaughter of hundreds and the displacement of over 120,000 Rohingya from their homes, including my mother and two youngest siblings, 10 days before she arrived in Dublin.
I presented her the portrait painted by Rohingya youths from Carlow. We gave her “Céad mile fáilte” – Hundred Thousand Welcomes.
However, she has betrayed the gesture. She has misused and misplaced our trusts and struggles for her freedom. She has shattered the hope that we held on for so long. She has distanced herself from thousands of rights activists around the world who have sacrificed for her freedom and liberty. Now, she calls herself a politician, not Human Rights icon that we have used to look upon for Democracy, freedom, justice and equality.
Since she entered into the Burmese politics in 2012, my community has been paying the greatest price – 977,000 (3.8 times the population of Galway City and County) Rohingya were expelled into Bangladesh and 120,000 more are still confined into Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps inside Rakhine State.
More than 390 Rohingya villages were burnt down since August 2017. At least 12,000 Rohingya civilians were killed including children and women thrown into fire. Hundreds of women and girls were raped, which her office has labelled “Fake Rape”.
Moreover, she has instructed the Burmese media to use “Terrorists” when covering the issues of my community, ordered the Ministry of Religious Affairs to rewrite Burmese history removing the historical presence of Rohingya entirely, developed conditions and paths for the constructions of economic zones and investments on the deserted, burnt and confiscated Rohingya lands in Northern Rakhine mostly in my hometown, and promoted and hired the military junta-era politicians and diplomats to spread lies and whitewash the genocidal crimes on the international podium.
She continues to shield the generals, whom she has recently called “the rather sweet generals”, who have dragged the country into the extreme poverty, disunity and disharmony among ethnic and religious minorities, and institutionalised the policies of extermination against Rohingya. Her National League for Democracy’s government carries on the policies – denying citizenship, freedom of movement, education, healthcare, livelihood, religion, democratic participation and many more.
The situations on the ground remain as critical as before. The lack of coverage doesn’t mean that there are no more sufferings, no more humiliations, no more blatant human rights abuses and persecutions. Journalists are constantly imprisoned and intimidated for unbiased reports on the persecutions of Rohingya, as witnessed by the jailing of two Reuters journalists.
My mother was displaced, and became homeless three times since my former idol came into the politics in 2012. As a chronic hypertensive and diabetes patient, my mother is not allowed to seek treatment at Maungdaw General Hospital which is just 1.1 km from my home. It hurts seeing her suffers, and seeking advice from me in a faraway land – the emerald isle.
It hurts more when we are often told to “properly present with relevant evidence before voting” in the time when solidarity, love, compassion and support are essential for a community which is systematically destroyed in every aspect of life under our own watch.
In Bangladesh refugee camps, there are 1.3 million (more than a quarter of entire Irish population) Rohingya survivors who have fled from what the United Nations called “the ongoing genocide” in Myanmar. They are the living evidence of genocide that Aung San Suu Kyi constantly attempts to cover up and divert attention from her moral failures and responsibilities.
As the city which has enlightened my hope and dream of education, I seek nothing, but the hope from you to stick with the principles to honour, stand and provide hope to the victims of “21st Century Genocide” that the world still cares, there is compassion and the solidarity stands unstained, and that there is no place to honour ignorant and morally-corrupted leaders like Aung San Suu Kyi in the hall of “City of Tribes”.
I hope every honourable councillor of Galway consciously makes a decision which either creates and cements the bonds of love and solidarity or set an example that crimes against humanity and human rights abuses are permissible with full impunity in the world that strives for peace, justice, stability and accountability.
Although the rescinding the honour doesn’t make much difference on the ground, it clearly sends a signal of solidarity like that of Dublin City Council. And my heart can rest in peace considering that there are friends in this part of the world who still care.
I, along with my community and colleagues from Ireland, are available to visit my former home Galway to brief your honourable council if required.
I look forwards seeing the gesture of solidarity and love from “Treibheanna na Gaillimhe”.
General Secretary | The European Rohingya Council