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February 21, 2018

In September 2016, the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations presented its Peter J. Gomes Humanitarian of the Year Award to Aung San Suu Kyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar. The award stated that Aung San Suu Kyi’s "courageous struggle for democracy, human rights, and peace in her nation inspired the world." Aung San Suu Kyi was sworn in as State Counsellor in March 2016. At that time approximately 300,000 Rohingya were living in settlement camps. Since August of 2017, the number of Rohingya driven from Myanmar into settlement camps has nearly doubled, victims of what the U.S. government has called an ethnic cleansing. The world still awaits Ms. Suu Kyi’s full public recognition of this human tragedy. To be sure, over the past year she has made tentative motions at addressing the Rohingya crisis. Yet she persists in not publicly recognizing the Rohingya as legitimate citizens of Myanmar, and continues to call for an end to “violence on all sides” without recognizing the sheer disproportion of the violence perpetrated by the military compared to the violence perpetrated by any other militant force (such as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the self-proclaimed Rohingya insurgent group). In addition, she has come out in favor of a re-patriation plan that will, in fact, consign many of the refugees to permanent exile. Without the government recognizing both their citizenship and their intense persecution, it is difficult to imagine a future in which the Rohingya are truly protected by the state. We do not claim to understand fully all the complexities of this situation, but the Aung San Suu Kyi we recognized as the humanitarian of the year has shown over decades that she understands the power of moral example. We urge her to uphold her legacy as someone who was once a trailblazing proponent of peace and human rights in Myanmar. Her fight for human rights should not have caveats regarding who counts as fully human. Her fight for peace should not trade stability in some regions for bloodshed in others. Even in the context of a complex political situation, there is room for humanitarian action, especially for someone who continues to hold as much influence over public opinion as she does. As Aung San Suu Kyi herself said, “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.” We express our hope that she will live up to her own words. We urge her to recognize publicly the Rohingya people, their identity, and their rights.

Faculty and Students of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations Professor Ali Asani, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the Committee on the Study of Religion Dr. Leo Buchanan, Department of Otolaryngology, Harvard University Health Services Professor Peter Burgard, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures

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February 21, 2018 Professor Tom Conley, Department of Visual and Environmental Studies Professor John Dowling, Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology Professor Scott Edwards, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Professor Cassandra Extavour, Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Professor Marla Frederick, Department of African and African American Studies and the Committee on the Study of Religion Professor Robin Gottlieb, Department of Mathematics Professor William Graham, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations and the Committee on the Study of Religion Professor Jay Harris, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Professor Sandra Nadaff, Department of Comparative Literature Professor Bruce Price, Department of Neurology, McLean Hospital Professor Fernando Reimers, Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Alison Simmons, Department of Philosophy Cengiz Cemaloglu ’18 Jasmine Chia ‘18 Olutoyin Demuren ‘18 Nuha Saho ‘18 Mahnoor Ali ‘19 Dylan de Waart ‘19 Jess Erion ‘19 Devontae Anthony Freeland ‘19 Anant Pai ‘19

Layla Siddig ‘19 Hakeem Angulu ‘20 Brenda Esqueda ‘20 Kacey Gill ‘20 Eleanor Shea ‘20 Anselm Kizza-Besigye ‘21 Jia Yi Lim ‘21 Katherine Okumu ‘21

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Aung San Suu Kyi Statement  

Please see the Harvard Foundation Interns statement to Aung San Suu Kyi, 2016 Harvard Humanitarian of the Year regarding the Rohingya crisis...

Aung San Suu Kyi Statement  

Please see the Harvard Foundation Interns statement to Aung San Suu Kyi, 2016 Harvard Humanitarian of the Year regarding the Rohingya crisis...

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