Archbishop Desmond Tutu has given his support to Amnesty International’s campaign to free the 2,200 political prisoners in Burma.
He has joined the growing campaign by raising his palm with the detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s name on it – a symbolic act of fearlessness and defiance in Burma – and is calling on everybody who values human rights and justice to do the same.
Aung San Suu Kyi is an honorary member of The Elders and a chair is always left empty for her at their meetings. She has been imprisoned in Burma for almost 15 of the last 20 years.
Desmond Tutu said:
“For me, Honorary Elder, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi is the living symbol of the Burmese people’s hope and courage. She is the embodiment of their determination to live in freedom, health and prosperity. That is why I have written her name on my hand.
“There are thousands of others who are also imprisoned and detained in Burma. Each of them is a sign of great hope, determination and courage. Please join Amnesty, the Elders and our fellow activists by naming each of Burma’s political prisoners, by holding that person’s name up and demanding their release.
“We condemn the ongoing detention of political prisoners. We call on Burma’s neighbours to make it clear to the military authorities that they must be released and that the people must be able to exercise their freedoms safely in the run-up to the elections on November 7.
“At every Elders meeting we always keep an empty chair for Daw Suu Kyi but she has never been able to join us. Work with us in the spirit shown by Burma’s activists, for the day when she and her fellow activists will be free.”
For the past two years photographer James Mackay has been documenting Burma’s former political prisoners in a long term project called “Even Though I’m Free I Am Not”. With the help of Burmese exiled organizations AAPP and DVB, he has met and documented more than 180 former political prisoners now living in countries all over the world.
Amnesty International are now using this work to help raise further awareness across the world by asking their supporters, politicians and celebrities to join the former political prisoners and addtheir photographs to a gallery of over one thousand portraits currently on the Amnesty site, showing individuals with the name of a Burmese political prisoner written on their upturned palm.