I began this blog in May 2009 following the death of Marcia Powell at Perryville State Prison in Goodyear, Arizona. It is not intended to prescribe the path that leads to freedom from the prison industrial complex.

Rather, these are just my observations in arguably the most racist, fascist, militaristic state in the nation at a critical time in history for a number of intersecting liberation movements. From Indigenous resistance to genocidal practices, to the fight over laws like SB1070 and the ban on Ethnic Studies, Arizona is at the center of many battles for human rights, and thus the struggle for prison abolition as well - for none are free until all are. I retired the blog in APRIL 2013.

Visit me now at Arizona Prison Watch or Survivors of Prison Violence-AZ

Monday, August 24, 2009

Free Amnesty's Ambassador of Conscience. Write today.

A very loud tribute to Daw Aung San Suu Kyi in Dublin

U2 announce Daw Aung San Suu Kyi award. Dublin, 27 July 2009. © Press Association
U2 announce Daw Aung San Suu Kyi award. Dublin, 27 July 2009. © Press Association

By Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International researcher on Myanmar
I arrived back in Bangkok this afternoon with ears still ringing but most of the jet-lag cancelled out by nearly back-to-back return flights. “Nearly”, because in between were some of the most memorable moments of my almost two years as Amnesty’s Myanmar specialist and almost 20 years as one of U2’s most devoted fans.

On their massive “360 Degrees” tour in their hometown of Dublin on Monday night, U2 announced that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi had been recognized with Amnesty International’s Ambassador of Conscience Award for 2009. Hearing this was gratifying, but hearing—and seeing—what came next, was enough to stir the conscience as well as the senses.

A full-voice rendition of U2’s “Walk On” (which they wrote for her), accompanied by photos of her on their enormous 360 Degrees screen, and dozens of Amnesty International volunteers taking the circular stage with the band wearing Daw Suu Kyi masks.

And more than that: 80,000 people standing, singing, swaying, and raising their voices with the band so loudly that one wondered if Daw Suu Kyi herself couldn’t hear them in faraway Yangon.  With her trial for allegedly breaching the conditions of her house arrest scheduled to conclude the following day—and a verdict expected this Friday—it’s doubtful she knows of her latest award. But that she should inspire the world’s most spectacular rock band to make her a focus of their 360 Degrees tour is testament to why she has won it.

The Ambassador of Conscience Award recognizes outstanding witness to human rights, and though having spent more than 13 of the past 20 years behind walls or bars, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s personal witness to human rights has been singularly irrepressible.

Through what she has done and refused to do, what she has said and refused to say—through simply bearing witness—Daw Suu Kyi has demonstrated time and again that you cannot silence the voice of human rights simply by locking it up and trying to throw away the key.
And witness is contagious. Though I had no clear answer to press queries before the show as to whether the award would have an effect on Daw Suu Kyi’s immediate situation, what I do know is that her witness to human rights has inspired countless others to do the same.  Among them are more than 2,100 other political prisoners in Myanmar, who should also be freed.
And, as of Monday night, 80,000 other people were among them as well. Far from being silenced, their voices were raised. It was beautiful and it was powerful. But most importantly, it was loud. It was very, very loud.

Published by kevin.darling on 29 July 2009 in myanmar
Aung San Suu Kyi was convicted of violating the terms of her house arrest because of that stupid American, who she's been very kind to. She was originally sentenced to 3 years of hard labor in prison, but the junta wanted to look just and merciful to the international community, so they cut the sentence in half and I think she'll be back under house arrest. Amnesty's website is out of date - I just got an email about an urgent action asking for money to send 20,000 postcards to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) by September 1st, but I couldn't find the appeal or the address posted on their site so I can send one myself. That doesn't make me want to give them money. I don't even have any. I have a card and can cover air mail, that's it.

There are some things that Amnesty does right, though, so sign up for the Urgent Action Network and help prisoners of conscience around the world, all for the price of a few stamps and postcards. If you're writing directly to prisoners, Syracuse Cultural Workers has some great cards and postcards. As does one of my favorite artists, Ricardo Levins Morales, who's freelancing now that the Northland Poster Collective is dissolved. This is one of his, made for political prisoners of course. It just comes in a poster now, but I'm sure he'd make cards if enough people asked.

Anyway, to help Daw Suu Kyi (that's her website - run by comrades, I'm sure, but her voice is definitely there) you don't need a cool postcard, because you'll be writing to the president of ASEAN. What follows is Amnesty's email appeal, which I'm posting just so you get the context - why the time to do this is now...I just don't know why they don't call the place Burma.


News broke last Friday that senior Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) officials had met to discuss stepping up pressure on Than Shwe, head of Myanmar's military junta, to release Nobel Laureate and pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

We called on you last week to send 10,000 postcards to ASEAN to urge them to raise their calls for the release of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and all other prisoners of conscience in Myanmar.

And within 24 hours, you responded by pledging to send more than 15,000 cards. We want to match your enthusiasm during this critical moment by doubling our original goal and sending ASEAN 20,000 appeals by our September 1st deadline.
Our calls come at a crucial time. Myanmar's Than Shwe is counting on ASEAN to stick its head in the sand and wait for the storm of public outcry over Suu Kyi's conviction to blow over.

Than Shwe knows that in a little more than a month, Thailand will hand over ASEAN chairmanship to Vietnam, which has been complicit with Myanmar and other ASEAN nations in undermining human rights in the region.

But in the remaining weeks of its chairmanship, Thailand is building support behind the scenes for ASEAN to finally show Myanmar that it means business and won't continue to stand idly by while Than Shwe keeps Aung San Suu Kyi and thousands of other political prisoners under lock and key.

ASEAN needs to know that the world community stands firmly in its corner. We can demonstrate that support by flooding ASEAN with calls to step up its pressure on Than Shwe to release Aung San Suu Kyi and all other prisoners of conscience in Myanmar.

Through mobilizing our global human rights network, Amnesty can help bring this pressure to bear during this critical moment.

Thank you for standing with us in urging ASEAN to show leadership on human rights by calling on Than Shwe to release Aung San Suu Kyi and and all other prisoners of conscience in Myanmar.

Jim Roberts
Country Specialist for Myanmar
Amnesty International USA

The Secretary-General of ASEAN, Dr. Surin Pitsuwan is from Thailand and is supposed to serve 2008-2012, so at least he's there when they lose the Chair. In their organizational chart the Secretary-General is at the top, so let's just write to him. He's sympathethic already: on August 11 he issued a statement critical of Burma because of Daw Suu Kyi's conviction. Human rights activists have been trying for years to get ASEAN to take a position on Burma's political prisoners.  I had to hunt forever to find their main address - I got it from a job posting - so someone else out there better write. Here
Dr. Surin Pitsuwan
ASEAN Secretariat
70A Jalan
Sisingamangaraja, Jakarta 12110
This is the email to their Political Security Community Department, if you want to hit them with a cc. Just make sure to snail mail that letter to the Secretary-General first:
By the way, the Burma Campaign (UK) has a great page on Daw Suu Kyi, and it's a great site for those who want more history on human rights issues in Burma.


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