If he could have chosen where to spend his 49th birthday, Zarganar, a famous Burmese comedian, may indeed have decided that sitting in prison, while not ideal, was worth it. There are few people in this world that give up their own comfort to fight for others, and Zarganar is one of those few people.
Zarganar is currently serving the second of his 35-year prison sentence. He was sentenced for providing relief efforts in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis that left a trail of death and destruction in 2008. His offense was to speak to foreign reporters about the military government’s cruel ignorance of the pain and suffering of the Burmese people. As you may already know, the military junta selfishly obstructed the global outpouring of aid to the victims of the cyclone, resulting in 140,000 deaths and millions of people homeless. When a 7.0 magnitude earthquake devastated Haiti, the Burmese government, ashamed of its own incompetence and selfishness during the Cyclone Nargis incident, banned its state-run media from reporting the earthquake and the rescue initiatives by the international community for the Haitians.
Now to tell you a little bit about the man of the day: Zarganar means tweezers in Burmese. The pseudonym traces back to his time as a dentist before he became a full-time activist and artist. Early in his career, he spoke our against the military junta, knowing clearly the enormity of the risks of being right under a government that epitomizes deceit, brutality, and repression.
In addition to his political vision and efforts for Burma, Zarnagar also worked laboriously to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS and to bring help and attention to the socially stigmatized victims because of HIV/AIDS.
Tonight, most of us will go home from a stable job to spend time with our family. These are one of the many comforts and pleasures of life we can afford to have. Zargana chooses to sacrifice his own comfort and his family for a cause greater than himself. For that, we salute you, Zargana, for your courage, integrity and unshakable love for Burma. Happy Birthday!
For more information about Zarganar, you can go to FreeZarganar.org