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Oxford revokes city honor from Aung San Suu Kyi

November 28, 2017

The English university city of Oxford has stripped Myanmar's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, of its highest honor, citing her inaction in the face of the Rohingya crisis. Suu Kyi studied at Oxford in the 1960s.

A Rohingya boy looks on at the Bhalukali Camp-2, in Cox's Bazar, (Prashanth Vishwanathan/ DW_Stories)
Image: DW/ P. Vishwanathan

Oxford's city council has unanimously approved a cross-party motion to withdraw the "Freedom of the City" award from Myanmar's civilian leader.

"When Aung San Suu Kyi was given the Freedom of the City in 1997 it was because she reflected Oxford's values of tolerance and internationalism," the council announced after a special meeting on Monday. "We celebrated her for her opposition to oppression and military rule" in her country. 

The city made the announcement the same day that Pope Francis began a visit to Myanmar

Pope Francis is welcomed upon his arrival at the airport in Yangon, Myanmar (L'Osservatore Romano/Pool Photo via AP)
On Monday, Pope Francis visited Myanmar's military chief Min Aung HlaingImage: picture-alliance/AP Photo/L'Osservatore Romano

"Today we have taken the unprecedented step of stripping her of the city's highest honor because of her inaction in the face of oppression of the minority Rohingya population," read the statement, signed by Labour Party Councilor Mary Clarkson.

"The burning of their villages has been independently confirmed by satellite images and the UN has called the situation 'a textbook example of genocide' — yet Aung San Suu Kyi has denied any ethnic cleansing and dismissed numerous claims of sexual violence against Rohingya women as 'fake rape.'

"Oxford has a long tradition of being a diverse and humane city, and our reputation is tarnished by honoring those who turn a blind eye to violence. We hope that today we have added our small voice to others calling for human rights and justice for the Rohingya people."

Other institutions speak out

In October, students at Oxford's St Hugh's College, where Suu Kyi studied between 1964 and 1967, dropped the 72-year-old Myanmar leader's name from the common room. In September, her portrait was removed from display.

One of Britain's largest trade unions, Unison, has also suspended her honorary membership.

Earlier this month, activist and singer Bob Geldof handed back his award from the Irish city of Dublin saying he did not want to be associated with the award while it was also held by Suu Kyi.

And in London, students at the London School of Economics have voted to remove an honorary presidency awarded to Suu Kyi by the Students Union in 1992.

jm/cmk (AFP, dpa)