Monday, Nov. 15, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi

Burmese pro-democracy opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, now 65, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 while she was under house arrest. She was released in 1995, only to be detained again — and again. Her party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), decided to boycott this year's elections, which have been widely labeled in the international press as a sham. But soon after the polls, Suu Kyi was released by the Burmese junta — it remains unclear what sort of role she'll be able to play in pushing for reform under the yoke of the country's authoritarian generals.

In 1990 — two years after Suu Kyi, the daughter of assassinated Burmese liberation hero General Aung San, returned to Burma from abroad and became a leading activist — the NLD did participate in elections. It won more than 80% of the contested parliamentary seats, but the ruling military junta paid no heed. Suu Kyi's persistent stand for democracy and human rights inspired the U2 song "Walk On." In an essay for TIME, Bono wrote, "Her quiet voice of reason makes the world look noisy, mad; it is a low mantra of grace in an age of terror, a reminder of everything we take for granted and just what it can take to get it."