Irish singer and human rights campaigner, Bob Geldof, has returned his Freedom of the City of Dublin award.
He said he made the “personal gesture” with reluctance, because he could not countenance sharing the award with Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, whom he describes as a “hand maiden to genocide”.
“I don’t want to be on a very select roll of wonderful people with a killer,” he told Irish state broadcaster, RTE.
How things have changed
Aung San Suu Kyi was awarded the Freedom of the City of Dublin in 1999, whilst she was still under house arrest by Myanmar’s then military dictatorship. She was only able to receive it in person 13 years’ later, in 2012.
It was one of a string of honours she was granted for her leadership of her country’s democratic movement, most notably the Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 1991.
What a difference 5 years makes. Bob Geldof praising Aung San Suu Kyi to me in 2012. Today he described her as “a killer”. pic.twitter.com/GnxiYC2yyc— Kevin Purcell (@KevinPurcell_) November 13, 2017
Since she has taken the helm in Myanmar, however, she has been roundly criticised for her failure to halt, or speak out against, what the UN has described as the “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims.
In a majority Buddhist country, the Rohingya are a persecuted minority. Myanmar does not recognise their nationality, leaving them stateless. Over 600,000 have fled violence in Rakhine State to camps in neighbouring Bangladesh.
There have been calls for her to be stripped of her Nobel prize and some other honours have already been withdrawn, including the Freedom of the City of Oxford.
Critics have been quick to jump on perceived double standards by Bob Geldof, who has not renounced his knighthood, despite sharing it with many people he might object to on moral grounds.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin has said Mr Geldof’s decision was “ironic”.— Barry Burke (@Barryburke74) November 13, 2017
“It’s ironic that he makes this gesture while proudly retaining his title as Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, given the shameful record of British imperialism across the globe”.#BobGeldof