Desmond Tutu lends a hand to Aung San Suu Kyi

Tutu writes the detained Burmese leader’s name on his hand and adds his photograph to Amnesty’s campaign to free Burma’s political prisoners

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Chair of The Elders, has given his support to Amnesty International’s campaign to free Aung San Suu Kyi and the 2,200 political prisoners in Burma. He has joined the growing campaign by raising his palm with the detained opposition leader’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.

In 2007, Nelson Mandela, with his wife Graca Machel and Archbishop Tutu convened The Elders, a group of eminent global leaders, who could contribute their wisdom and leadership to helping tackle world problems. Aung San Suu Kyi, is an honorary member and the Elders always keep an empty chair for her at their meetings. She has been under house arrest in Burma for 14 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 person 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.”

The campaign was inspired by the work of James Mackay, a London-based documentary photographer who has photographed more than 160 former Burmese political prisoners- some in exile and some still in Burma - for his project ‘Even though I am free, I am not’.

Amnesty’s campaign has gathered momentum throughout the year and will continue in the lead up to Burma’s elections on 7 November.

Former Burmese political prisoners, Amnesty supporters from around the world, politicians and celebrities are adding their photographs to a gallery of over one thousand portraits currently on the Amnesty website. The pictures show individuals with the name of a Burmese political prisoner written on their upturned palm. To post your picture and find out more go to:

The photographs will be presented in Brussels at October's Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), where Amnesty will urge leaders to demand both freedom for Burma's political prisoners, and real human rights improvements across the country.

Desmond Tutu said:

“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.”

Hi-res photograph available upon request from the Amnesty Press Office.

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