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On Saturday, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese human rights and democracy leader, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and folk shero was released from the house arrest in Myanmar that has kept her a prisoner for much of the last twenty years. She is now 65-years old, and as radiant, charismatic and determined as ever. She has evoked tremendous support from people all over the world who see in her the potential to be a major force in creating a global vision of the possibility of a peaceful and humane way of living. The inspiration for a powerful new paradigm.
Here is the article that I wrote about her in the inaugural issue of The Queen’s Chronicles in October 2007.
Hail The Martyr Queen of Myanmar
Though the recent protests in Myanmar have been lead by Buddhist monks, the real moral leader of the country once known as Burma is Aung San Suu Kyi, the most powerful individual in a country of nearly 50 million people.
At 62, she is hauntingly beautiful and elegant. Delicate, she weighs barely 100 pounds, and often wears a colorful flower in her hair. But despite her demure appearance, she is a woman of steely resolve who has devoted her life to the struggle for democracy in Myanmar at great personal expense.
It is her resolve and example that has inspired her sister and brother citizens in today’s struggle. She is frequently called Daw Aung San Suu Kyi. Daw is not part of her name, but an honorific similar to madam for older, revered women, literally meaning “aunt.” Or, shall we say “Queen!”
She is the daughter of Burma’s most famous general who freed the country from British rule in 1947. Suu Kyi spent her childhood in Myanmar, but continued her education overseas in England, where she met and married college professor Dr. Michael Aris.
She and Aris had two sons together, and were living an idyllic life in Bhutan when she received word that her mother, back in Myanmar, had fallen ill. Suu Kyi decided to fly home temporarily to nurse her mother — but her plans quickly changed.
When Suu Kyi arrived in Myanmar in 1988, the streets were full of monks, students, and workers protesting the rise of the new military regime. During the protests, more than 3000 demonstrators were massacred on the orders of the brutal new government.
Once her duties to her mother had been fulfilled, Daw Suu Kyi made the painful decision to stay in Myanmar and take action against the junta that was destroying all the freedoms that her father had won for the people. For her, the choice was clear: “I could not, as my father’s daughter, remain indifferent to all that was going on,” she said in a speech.
“It is not power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it.”
She soon became the unlikely leader of a sweeping movement for change. She organized peaceful rallies and gave speeches that called for free elections, democratic reform, and human rights. In 1990, Queen Suu Kyi and her party won an overwhelming victory in the country’s democratic elections. But she was arrested by the junta before she could assume her rightful post as Prime Minister. She is still, after 17 years, under detention.
For her devotion and strength, Suu Kyi was honored with the Freedom of Thought award in 1990. In 1991 she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her peaceful and non-violent struggle under a military dictatorship – making her the world’s only imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize recipient. She used the Nobel’s $1.3 million prize money to create a health and education trust for the people of Myanmar.
Suu Kyi’s conviction to her country has cost her dearly. She’s lost not only her freedom, but her family as well. She is separated from her sons who live in England. And tragically, she never had the chance to say goodbye to her husband before his death in 1999.
Today, Queen Aung San Suu Kyi remains under house arrest, but her spirits are as strong as ever. “I’ve always felt free because they have not been able to do anything to what really mattered,” she told ABC News. “And once you’re free inside, once you feel, ‘I can accept something that happens to me as long as I am working for something right’ … then I think you are free.”
“The only real prison is fear, and the only real
freedom is freedom from fear.”
May we take her courage to heart and be inspired to defend what is fair and right and good.
The Queen welcomes questions concerning all issues of interest to women in their mature years. Send your inquiries to email@example.com.
CONSULT THE MIDLIFE MIDWIFE™
Queen Mama Donna offers upbeat, practical and ceremonial guidance for individual women and groups who want to enjoy the fruits of an enriching, influential, purposeful, passionate, and powerful maturity.