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Imagine spending 11 years of your life in prison, nine of which are in solitary confinement. Your “crime” was reading a poem encouraging the government to respect political freedom. Then one day, without explanation or warning, you’re released. How do you return to everyday life? Are you bitter? Do you continue the activism that sent you to jail? This is the story of Burmese freedom advocate Zin Mar Aung and it’s now on the Freedom Collection.
In 1998, Zin Mar Aung was arrested at a peaceful protest rally for reading a poem and statement calling on the military government to respect the results of elections. She was detained and convicted before a military tribunal, which did not permit her to be represented by an attorney. Zin Mar Aung was sentenced to 28 years in prison. She spent 11 years as a prisoner of conscience, and nearly nine years of those years in solitary confinement. In 2009, she was suddenly released from captivity and resumed her civil society activities. Through this adversity, Zin Mar Aung has maintained her optimism and dedication to making Burma free. Her efforts to strengthen Burmese civil society have created organizations, like Rainfall and the Yangon School of Political Science, that encourage women and youth participation in public life. In 2012, she was recognized by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton as a recipient of the annual “International Women of Courage” award. Perhaps Zin Mar Aung’s efforts, and those of other freedom advocates, are paying off; Burma has recently shown signs of reform permitting Aung San Suu Kyi to run in parliamentary elections, easing restrictions on the press, and allowing greater freedom of assembly.
Learn more about Zin Mar Aung’s struggle, witness her courage, and get her perspective on Burma’s recent reforms:
- Arrest and Imprisonment - Zin Mar Aung describes the circumstances of her arrest.
- Life as a Political Prisoner - Zin Mar Aung discusses her 11 years as a political prisoner.
- Aung San Suu Kyi - “Listening to her speeches encouraged us to get involved in politics."
- Why is Burma Reforming? - Zin Mar Aung discusses the reasons Burma has begun reforms.
Christopher Walsh is the Program Coordinator for the Freedom Collection.
Christopher Walsh serves as Senior Program Manager for the Human Freedom and Women's Initiative at the George W. Bush Institute. In this role, Christopher manages communications, evaluation, and public policy research projects that advance freedom and democracy in the world. He also develops and implements efforts to make the Bush Institute a welcoming place for today’s generation of dissidents and democracy advocates, overseeing visits for training, inspiration, and insight.
Prior to joining the Bush Institute, Christopher worked with the International Republican Institute in Washington, D.C. As IRI’s program officer for Central and Eastern Europe, he coordinated political party building and civic advocacy programs in the Balkans and Turkey.
A native of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Christopher is a graduate of American University with a B.A. in International Studies. He currently lives in Dallas with his wife and three young children.Full Bio
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