A message from Aung San Suu Kyi to political prisoners
On June 27, Aung San Suu Kyi, the legendary Burmese activist, who fought for free elections in her country and who spent 15 out of the last 20 years under house arrest, has made her first official visit to Europe since her release.
She visited Oslo, where she was finally able to receive the Nobel Prize, which had been awaiting her for 21 years (since 1991), as well as visiting Switzerland, Ireland, United Kingdom, and France.
In France, Aung San Suu Kyi was received by the President and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the etiquette befitting a head of state. She was also presented the Honorary Citizen of the City status, by the Mayor of Paris, which she had been awarded in 1994.
But after this official part, Aung San Suu Kyi met with representatives of Civil Society and answered their questions.
On behalf of Civil Society, Aung San Suu Kyi was welcomed by Souhayr Belhassen, the President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH). In her emotional opening remarks, Madam Вelhassen spoke about the years of struggle for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi, and about how momentous this meeting was, for all those who believed in her, despite the 15 years of isolation and repression.
Souhayr Belhassen concluded by calling on everyone to remember those, who are still being held all over the world because of their human rights or opposition activities. She indicated the T-shirt she was wearing with the image of the Vice-president of FIDH and head of the Human Rights Center Viasna, Ales Bialiatski, currently imprisoned in Belarus, noting that his persecution was emblematic of the hundreds of political prisoners around the world, some of whose names, most people have never even heard of.
Other guests included Mutabar Tadzhibayeva, the famous Uzbek human rights defender, who had been subjected to horrible torture while imprisoned in her home country, and who currently resides in France, as well as the son of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, Pavel, and Yevgenia, the daughter of Yulia Tymoshenko, both of whom arrived specifically for this occasion.
In her response, Aung San Suu Kyi voiced her gratitude to all who struggle for the release of political prisoners in their countries and stated:
"I would like to say to prisoners of conscience all over the world: Hold fast to your convictions! Respect for humanity starts with respect for one's self. My message to you is very simple: if you respect yourself, do not forsake your struggle.
And don't think that you are alone. In Burma, we often thought that we had been abandoned. And I didn't realize how wrong we were until this trip to Europe.
I am so happy that it is a Tunisians human rights defender who has organized this gathering. I was amazed, when I found out that people in Africa, in Arabic countries, in the Near East, were all voicing their solidarity with us, praying for us, wishing us success. This was eye opening, I had thought that we were so far away from everyone...
Someone here used the word "miracle." I was reminded of the words of an officer who fought on the side of the Allies during World War II: "We do the impossible every day. But a miracle takes a little moretime."