Two extraordinary leaders who call people to hope instead of fear
2012/06/16 English damladogan
The wind of change blows hard after the Arab Spring. Economic crises overthrow western governments one by one while the demand for freedom reaches out even to Far East. Get ready to read the story of two people that rise up against existing systems: Alexis Tsipras who call people to hope rather than fear in Greece and Aung San Suu Kyi who defines fear as the only real jail in Myanmar.
Two countries that are nine thousand kilometers away from each other: Greece and Myanmar. In Greece the people are out on the streets because of the economic crisis. As the West release each new tranche of loans, they make Greece tighten its austerity measures a little more. Streets show their reaction by burning the flags of the European Union and by strikes and protests.
Things are different in Myanmar, which was once called Burma. The Asian country that was ruled by the military since 1962, has experienced pro democratic demonstrations in 2007. The junta chose violence and hundreds of people lost their lives. However, the flame of democracy was lit. In 2010 military handed the government to a ‘civilian’ leader whom they have designated. This was followed by an era of reforms in the country. Letting Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent 15 years under house arrest participate in the by-elections was one of these reforms.
Dedicated 25 years of her life to struggle
She might seem like a petite and fragile woman at first sight, but Aung San Suu Kyi is the symbol of resistance in her country. Her father is the hero of Myanmar’s independence from UK dating back to 1948. His daughter on the other hand, is trying to save her country from the military. She is a fighter who has dedicated 25 years of her 66 year life to this struggle. She demands democracy, freedom and better life standards for her country. The flowers she wears in her hair are the symbol of these wishes.
When she was graduated from Oxford University’s Philosophy, Political Science and Economy majors in 1969, she probably had no idea that she would have such life. She has run to Myanmar to visit her dying mother in 1988, leaving her sons and husband back in UK. However, her country was going through tough times. General Ne Win who was the head of the military and the government, had resigned and the people in a glimpse of hope had risen against dictatorship. Suu Kyi quickly took the leadership of the opposition. But the price she had to pay in return was high. Military responded with great violence, killing more than three thousand people. Suu Kyi on the other hand, was put under house arrest.
She treads in Mahatma Gandhi’s and Nelson Mandela’s footsteps
Her party won big success in the elections next year. However, the military rejected to recognize the results. Suu Kyi’s struggle for democracy carried on while she was under house arrest. She had the power to mobilize her supporters with just one call, but she didn’t choose it. She kept on dreaming the day her country will reach freedom, through Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela ‘s ways; peacefully. She won the Nobel Peace Award in 1991, but she couldn’t go to Norway to collect the prize. Fearing that she won’t be allowed to return Myanmar, she also couldn’t attend her husband’s funeral in UK in 1999.
Both diplomatic and civilian pressure for her release kept on for years. Books have been written, movies have been made, lots of demonstrations have been staged. At the end, the government could not stand anymore and let her be a candidate for the by-elections. The elections was made to opt for 45 members of the parliament that has a total of 664 deputies. Suu Kyi’s party won an outstanding 43 seats. This was a brand new beginning for her…
So Myanmar’s opposition leader got her passport and on May 29 left Myanmar for the first time after 25 years. She delivered a speech at the World Economic Forum in Thailand’s capital Bangkok. With a delay of 21 years, Suu Kyi is going to receive her Nobel prize on June 16 in Norway. This will symbolically mark a new era for her country…
A communist since the age of 15
At 38 years old, Alexis Tsipras is the symbol for resistance in Greece. He studied civil engineering and economics.
However, he is actively taking part in Greek politics ever since he is 15. He took the leadership of student protests which were against the new education reforms.
However, his political breakthrough came in 2006 local elections. When he first decided to run for mayor of Athens no one expected him to get high percentage of votes. Nevertheless, the impressive results made Tsipras grab the headlines. With 10.5 percent of votes Tsipras, a political amateur, came out as the third in elections. This opened the way for him to become the leader of far left Syriza coalition.
A leader who loves reading comic books
Prefers to wear open neck shirts without a tie, rides a BMW motorcycle rather than the luxurious cars favored by other Greek political leaders and an avid comic book reader… Alexis Tsipras is surely a ‘different’ leader.
A lot of people believe that he’ll win the June 17 elections and become the next prime minister. Well actually that might be true. His party Syriza pulled off one of most stunning results of history. In May 6 elections his party took 17 percent of the vote, making it the second-largest party. It was just two percentage points behind the conservative New Democracy Party. The polls for next week’s elections are even more promising. The census made for Ta Nea newspaper report a 26.1 percent for New Democracy and 25.8 percent for Syriza.
Tsipras rejects the austerity measures prepared by Troika. This, he believes, is the key for Greece’s salvation. Tsipras tells voters that he has no desire to bring back drachma. But he is angry at the European leaders since they hold Greece responsible of the economic crisis in the Eurozone. He pledges to increase the minimum wage and offers to tax the rich rather than the poor. Lately he even suggested Turkey to reduce military spending.
He got the support of the poor and unemployed
Syriza could only get 4-5 percent of votes until the May 6 elections. It was often ‘accused’ of being the party only for the unemployed, poor and the young. However, as Greece’s economic crisis turned into a financial catastrophe, Syriza became a ‘shining star’. The wages were lowered in Greece because of the economic downturn, most of the small businesses were shut down; escalating unemployment and poverty. The rates of unemployment reach 22 percent in Greece whereas it is even more than 50 percent among the young people. All of these make Syriza and its leader Alexis Tsipras the center of attention of the Greek politics.