By Aman Ullah
Aung San Suu Kyi received nearly 150 awards and honorary degrees in 1990 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991. In its citation the Norwegian Nobel Committee stated that in awarding the prize to Aung San Suu Kyi it wished ‘to honour this woman for her unflagging efforts and to show its support for the many people throughout the word who were striving to attain democracy, human rights and ethnic reconciliation by peaceful means.’
Vaclav Havel, the president of Czechoslovakia, wrote in his foreword letter to the first edition of Suu Kyi’s ‘Freedom for fear’ that, “Aung San Suu Kyi has been received the Nobel Peace Prize and now internationally recognized for her struggle against tyranny for freedom and dignity. …. Aung San Suu Kyi is not only speaking out for justices in her own country, but also for all those who want to be free to choose their own destiny. ….. Aung San Suu Kyi cannot be silenced because she speaks the truth and because her words reflect basic Burmese and universal concepts. .. The Nobel Peace Prize awarded to this brave woman makes clear that she speaks for all of us who search for justice. ”
The Nobel Peace Prize is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Swedish industrialist, inventor, and armaments manufacturer Alfred Nobel, along with the prizes in Chemistry, Physics, Physiology or Medicine, and Literature. Since March 1901, it has been awarded annually (with some exceptions) to those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses”.
Per Alfred Nobel’s will, the recipient is selected by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, a five-member committee appointed by the Parliament of Norway. Since 1990, the prize is awarded on 10 December in Oslo City Hall each year. The prize was formerly awarded in the Atrium of the University Of Oslo Faculty Of Law (1947–1989), the Norwegian Nobel Institute (1905–1946), and the Parliament (1901–1904).
Since the first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901, peace prizes have been the most controversial of all the Nobles. The endless controversies surrounding the prizes stem not only from the ambiguity of the concept of peace, but also from the political motivations behind the selection of the recipients. Moreover, all noble Laureates were not noble some of them were ignoble too. The followings are ignoble laurates:
Henry Kissinger 1973 Laureate
The list of peace prize recipients whose eligibility for the honour was questionable is long. Leading the pack of not-so-noble peace laureates is the former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, who spearheaded a series of secret aerial bombings in Southeast Asia that either killed, wounded, or made homeless an estimated six million people. He also condoned the 1971 genocide in Bangladesh and was instrumental in toppling the Chilean President Salvador Allende in favour of the military dictator Augusto Pinochet. Nevertheless, he shared the 1973 prize with North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho for ending the Vietnam War. By honouring Kissinger with the peace prize, the Nobel Committee essentially rewarded a war criminal. To decline the award, accusing Washington of violating the truce, while two members of the Nobel Committee, who voted against Kissinger’s selection, resigned in protest.
Menachem Begin 1978 Laureate
Menachem Begin was an Israeli politician, founder of Likud and the sixth Prime Minister of Israel. Before the creation of the state of Israel, he was the leader of the Zionist militant group Irgun, the Revisionist breakaway from the larger Jewish paramilitary organization Haganah. He proclaimed a revolt, on 1 February 1944, against the British mandatory government, which was opposed by the Jewish Agency. As head of the Irg2un, he targeted the British in Palestine.Later, the Irgun fought the Arabs during the 1947–48 Civil War in Mandatory Palestine. After remaining in opposition in the eight consecutive elections, He became the sixth Prime Minister of Israel in 1979; Begin’s most significant achievement as Prime Minister was the signing of a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979, for which he and Anwar Sadat shared the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1978. However, later, Begin’s government promoted the construction of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Begin authorized the bombing of the Osirak nuclear plant in Iraq and the invasion of Lebanon in 1982 to fight PLO strongholds there, igniting the 1982 Lebanon War. As Israeli military involvement in Lebanon deepened, and the Sabra and Shatila massacre, carried out by Christian Phalangist militia allies of the Israelis, shocked world public opinion,Begin grew increasingly isolated.
Shimon Peres 1994 Laureate
Shimon Peres was an Israeli politician who served as the ninth President of Israel (2007–2014), the Prime Minister of Israel (twice), and the Interim Prime Minister, in the 1970s to the 1990s. He was a member of twelve cabinets and represented five political parties in a political career spanning 70 years. Peres first succeeded Yitzhak Rabin as Acting Prime Minister briefly during 1977, before becoming Prime Minister from 1984 to 1986. As Foreign Minister under Prime Minister Rabin, Peres engineered the 1994 Israel–Jordan peace treaty, and won the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize together with Rabin and Yasser Arafat for the Oslo Accords peace talks with the Palestinian leadership. Two years later, Peres was responsible for the Qana Massacre in Lebanon. Needless to say, the Oslo Accords have not brought a lasting settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which still persists with Benjamin Netanyahu using weapons of mass destruction to kill women, children and unarmed civilians.
Aung San Suu Kyi 1991 Laureate
Coming back to Aung San Suu Kyi, at the time of the award, she was portrayed by the Nobel Committee as the champion of “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.” In 2015, her election to the post of state counsellor, making her the de facto head of government, was hailed as a watershed moment for Myanmar.
According to Mary Scully, a long-time activist in the labour, socialist, and social movements, in her acceptance speech in 1992, Aung San Suu Kyi spoke of her Buddhist commitment to nonviolence, of solidarity with those suffering injustice, of the corrupting influence of fear in standing against repression and the power of human kindness. That was also the year the military junta unleashed a wave of terror and ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Arakan state.”
“The 2012 campaign forced tens of thousands of Rohingya to flee for their lives to Bangladesh or across the Andaman Sea to Thailand. The Rohingya genocide became internationally infamous when Bangladesh closed its borders and refused entry and when Thailand took unsound boats of refugees out to sea and abandoned them. When again in 2015 thousands of Rohingya were stranded in boats off Thailand and Indonesia, not allowed to land, the plight of Rohingya became an international human rights cause.” “Through all this, Suu Kyi remained in silent collusion or spoke in equivocations but now openly sides with the junta against the Rohingya.”
Mary Scully further wrote that, “News about the apartheid conditions and squalid concentration camps in Arakan for the Rohingya displaced by the 2012 violence began to snap many out of their adulation to ask why Suu Kyi, the exemplar of human rights compassion and courage, was as silent as a block of cement about the persecution of the Rohingya. When asked about it, Suu Kyi would speak in evasive abstractions about the “rule of law” to suggest lawless rampaging among Rohingya. She more often dropped the Buddhist shtick to make clear that she rejected the notion of persecution and violence against Rohingya; she portrayed it as a communal conflict between Buddhists and Muslims with guilt on both sides and suggested strongly that the Rohingya had brought it on themselves, especially with their higher birth-rate which made Buddhists feel threatened: the classic fear-mongering of ethnic cleansing used everywhere.”
“After becoming Myanmar head of state in March 2016, Suu Kyi dumped the equivocations entirely. It was more than evident the military was still running the country but with the human rights and democratic facade she cynically provided, especially through setting up phoney investigative commissions like the Kofi Annan whitewash commission.”
Since the military launched a crackdown back in October following the death of nine policemen in Rakhine state, it is believed that more than 1,000 Rohingya might have been killed in the crackdown. Military and police operations resulted in the displacement of at least 97,000 Rohingya, including approximately 73,000 who fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, the UN reported.
On 30 December 2016, 23 Nobel laureates and global leaders have urged the members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to urgently put the persisting Rohingya crisis on the Security Council’s agenda. They observed, “Houses have been burned, women raped, many civilians arbitrarily arrested, and children killed. Crucially, access for humanitarian aid organisations has been almost completely denied, creating an appalling humanitarian crisis in an area already extremely poor.” They said, “It is time for the international community as a whole to speak out much more strongly. After Rwanda, world leaders said ‘never again’. If we fail to take action, people may starve to death if they are not killed with bullets, and we may end up being the passive observers of crimes against humanity which will lead us once again to wring our hands belatedly and say ‘never again’ all over again.”
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) documented many such serious human rights violations in a ‘flash report’ released on 3 February 2017. The report, which detailed “widespread and systematic” attacks against the Rohingya, concluded that the attacks against the Rohingya population in Rakhine State during the prolonged crackdown could “very likely” amount to crimes against humanity.
In June 2016, four months before the most recent attacks, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein submitted a report to the UN Human Rights Council highlighting the “possible commission of crimes against humanity” against Rohingya in Myanmar.
Yet Myanmar’s Nobel laureate and de facto leader of the government Aung San Suu Kyi not only had refused to publically raise concerns over earlier allegations, but she allowed her own representatives to actively deny them and seek to discredit those, other media and rights campaigners, who reported on them. Those denials have been widely accepted by a Myanmar public long conditioned to despise the mainly stateless Muslim Rohingya minority.
State-sponsored sexual violence as a weapon of war with impunity has been an issue for decades in Burma. There are many activists and organisations that have done consistent and extensive work on the issue, mostly working from exile in other countries. Documentation goes back as far as 1993 but just between 2005 and 2016, eleven women’s organisation from Myanmar published 33 separate reports on military sexual violence against women in ethnic groups or in groups the military is at war with. Although it is Rohingya who are sustaining what has been called the “final states of genocide,” many other ethnic groups are also targeted with systematic mass rape, conscription of child soldiers, forced labour, massacres, and deliberate destruction of villages and fields. Myanmar could be called a hellhole of ethnic persecution by the army of the Buddhist ethnic majority.
Fortify Rights reports that these random spot checks are used as pretext for security forces to commit sexual violence against Rohingya women and girls, including incidents of gang rapes and forced breastfeeding of babies in front of uniformed police and army soldiers. The UN Security Council documented 14 cases of such gang rapes and attempted sexual assaults between January and June 2014 alone, and noted that in early 2015, a member of the military raped a 10 year-old-girl. Forced marriages of women and girls as well as cross-border trafficking for sexual exploitation have also been reported.
According to Human Rights Watch, Burmese army and Border Guard Police personnel took part in rape, gang rape, invasive body searches, and sexual assaults in at least nine villages in Maungdaw district between October and mid-December. Survivors and witnesses, who identified army and border police units by their uniforms, kerchiefs, armbands, and patches, described security forces carrying out attacks in groups, some holding women down or threatening them at gunpoint while others raped them. Many survivors reported being insulted and threatened on an ethnic or religious basis during the assaults.
The United Nations Office of the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) on February 3 reported that more than half of the 101 women UN investigators interviewed said they were raped or suffered other forms of sexual violence. The report, based on a total of 204 interviews, concluded that attacks including rape and other sexual violence “seem[ed] to have been widespread as well as systematic, indicating the very likely commission of crimes against humanity.”
Suu Kyi never had much to say on the issue—or on any issue other than electoral politics—until 2011 when she made a video statement to a Nobel Women’s Initiative ceremony saying: “Rape is used in my country as a weapon against those who only want to live in peace, who only want to assert their basic human rights, especially in the areas of the ethnic nationalities. Rape is rife. It is used as a weapon by the armed forces to intimidate the ethnic nationalities and to divide our country.”
However, after she was elected to parliament as a renowned human rights figure, she was asked about military impunity for sexual violence which had just been documented in a report titled “If they had hope, they would speak: the ongoing use of state-sponsored sexual violence in Burma’s ethnic communities” from the Women’s League of Burma, a coalition of women’s groups. Suu Kyi’s response was to defend the military by saying the ethnic armed groups also use sexual violence in conflict. Probably – but what does that have to do with impunity for the military committing human rights crimes? It is a non-sequitur meant to dodge the issue of impunity.
During the current offensive against the Rohingya, Suu Kyi has been running interference for the military out of two of her cabinet offices: the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the State Counsellor’s Office. Staff members in those offices claim Rohingya are torching their own homes to get sympathy; they respond to every media report of rape or complaints by victims and witnesses of rape and torture that it’s all made-up and exaggerated to get international sympathy or “fabricated in collusion with terrorist groups.” Her representatives block every attempt to have formal or independent investigations of the allegations by blocking journalists and human rights monitors from entering the Arakan state. Most deplorably, in December, Suu Kyi’s State Counsellor’s staff posted a meme on their website with the words “Fake Rape,” and accused Rohingya women of making up rape allegations. There are also videos of Suu Kyi laughing and ridiculing the accusations during speeches in other countries.
While the whole world is raising question against her government and only thing that she doing is remaining in silence. But her governments not only discards, deny, and defy to all the allegations but also looks set to escape an international investigation into alleged atrocities against its Rohingya minority.
As the South African Nobel laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu wrote in his letter to Suu Kyi in September 2017, “If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep.” She is willing to pay the steep price because there is no evidence that the appeal from Tutu and other peace laureates had any effect on her actions. Instead, she has become Myanmar’s chief apologist for ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas and she denounces them as terrorists and illegal immigrants.
In 1991, Suu Kyi was applauded for her “courage in the face of tyranny.” Today, because of her complicity with the top brass of the military, she is loathed even by her former admirers. She finally laid bare her true colours by defending the indefensible charges of genocide against the generals at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague. Lest she forgets, these are the people who once imprisoned her for her struggle for human rights and democracy. Yes, she forgot her own mantra: “The only real prison is fear and the only real freedom is freedom from fear.” By dancing to the tunes of the devil to whom she sold her soul, Aung San Suu Kyi has become an ignoble Nobel laureate, ousting Kissinger from the top of the pack of ignoble.