Music great and activist Bob Geldof has called Aung San Suu Kyi “a hand maiden to genocide” as he returned an honor he shares with the Myanmar leader
Geldof returned his Freedom of the City of Dublin award in protest over Suu Kyi’s response to the repression of Rohingya Muslims.
“I don’t want to be on a very select roll of wonderful people with a killer,” Geldof told Irish broadcaster RTE on Tuesday morning (AEST).
“Someone who is at best a handmaiden to genocide and an accomplice to murder.”
More than 600,000 Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine state have fled to refugee camps in Bangladesh after military operations described by the United Nations as ethnic cleansing.
Their plight has drawn outrage around the world. But Suu Kyi, long seen as a champion of human rights, has been criticised for failing to speak out against violence. There have been calls for her to be stripped of the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991.
Oxford City Council last month voted unanimously to withdraw Ms Suu Kyi’s Freedom of the City award, citing deep concerns over the treatment of Rohingya Muslims under her watch.
Ms Suu Kyi was given the Freedom of Dublin in 1999 while she was held under house arrest by Mayanmar’s then military government. She received her award at a reception in Ireland in 2012, two years after her release.
“Her association with our city shames us all and we should have no truck with it, even by default. We honoured her, now she appals and shames us,” Geldof said in a statement.
The Lord Mayor of Dublin, Micheal Mac Donncha, said the city council had discussed taking away the honour and the matter was still under review. Last month she was stripped of a similar honour by the British university city of Oxford, where she was an undergraduate.
But Mr Mac Donncha, a councillor for the Irish nationalist Sinn Fein party, also criticised Geldof’s gesture, saying it was ironic as Geldof held a British knighthood despite “the shameful record of British imperialism across the globe”.
“Bob Geldof is entitled to return his award if he wishes to do so,” the lord mayor was quoted as saying by BreakingNews.ie.
Mr Mac Donncha also criticised Mr Geldof for “grossly insulting” those who participated in the 1916 rising against Britain by comparing them to Islamic State last year, “causing offence to Dubliners and Irish people generally”.
Mr Geldof, the musician and founder of Band Aid, argued earlier that Ms Suu Kyi’s association with Dublin “shames us all”.
He said in a statement: “We should have no truck with it, even by default. We honoured her, now she appals and shames us.”
– With agencies