Irish musician Bob Geldof has returned his Freedom of the City of Dublin award because the same honor was given to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has been widely condemned for her lack of response to the ongoing Rohingya crisis.
Speaking to state broadcaster RTE, Geldof referred to Suu Kyi as a “handmaiden to genocide,” Reuters reports. “I don’t want to be on a very select roll of wonderful people with a killer,” he added.
Suu Kyi was once widely regarded as a champion for peace and democracy. She spent 15 years under house arrest due to her efforts to bring democracy to Myanmar, which had long been ruled by military government. Suu Kyi won the Freedom of the City of Dublin award back in 1999, when she was still under house arrest.
But Suu Kyi has recently been criticized for failing to speak out against the persecution of minority Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which has prompted 600,000 people to flee to Bangladesh. Malala Yousafzai, Suu Kyi’s fellow Nobel laureate, criticized her earlier this year for her inaction on the crisis. The Rohingya have been marginalized for decades in the majority-Buddhist country, but tensions have ramped up in recent months. Residents and activists say that the military has imposed a ruthless crackdown on unarmed civilians. Senior U.N. officials have said that the violence in Myanmar is a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
In a statement, Geldof opined that Suu Kyi’s “association with our city shames us all and we should have no truck with it, even by default. We honored her, now she appalls and shames us.”
U2 singer Bono, along with other members of the band, have also spoken out against Suu Kyi. Though they helped campaign for Suu Kyi’s release from house arrest some two decades ago, the band members published a statement over the weekend condemning the politician.
“[W]hat has happened this year, and in particular these past months — this, we never imagined,” the statement reads. “On behalf of our audience who campaigned so hard for her, we reached out several times to speak to Aung San Suu Kyi directly about the crisis in her country and the inhumanity being directed at the Rohingya people. We expected to speak to her this week, but it appears this call will now not happen.
So we say to you now what we would have said to her: the violence and terror being visited on the Rohingya people are appalling atrocities and must stop. Aung San Suu Kyi’s silence is starting to look a lot like assent.” On Tuesday, Suu Kyi faced even more pressure from U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres who in a meeting with the beleaguered leader said the displaced Rohingya Muslims who have fled to Bangladesh should be allowed to return to their homes in Myanmar, Agence-France Presse reported. “The Secretary-General highlighted that strengthened efforts to ensure humanitarian access, safe, dignified, voluntary and sustained returns, as well as true reconciliation between communities, would be essential,” the U.N said in a statement that summarized Guterres’ comments to Suu Kyi.