Buffalo is home to many diverse groups of people, including refugees who have fled countries in turmoil. And this week, both Iranian-Americans and Burmese-Americans have voiced their opinions about what is going on in their respective homelands.
They’re thousands of miles away from their homeland, but these Burmese residents are exercising their American right to free speech in their adopted hometown of Buffalo. “I came here in 1999 as a refugee because of my political belief, thats why we keep fighting for democracy and freedom like anybody else,” said Myo Thant, a Buffalo resident who was born in Burma.
They organized a protest on Bidwell Parkway today to speak out against the imprisonment of Nobel Peace Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who was democratically elected as Burma’s prime minister. Today is her 64th birthday and these protesters want the world to put pressure on the Burmese government to release her.
“She is ill, and they are trying to extend her house arrest another three to five years. They are afraid because she is the leader of the democracy movement in Burma,” said protester and Buffalo school teacher Matt Boyle.
Buffalo is home to about 2,000 Burmese citizens, many of whom came here seeking asylum because they are persecuted for their political beliefs by the ruling military junta in Burma, which is also called Myanmar.
And they’re not the only foreign nations here that are voicing their opinion. On Wednesday, Iranian-Americans protested the presidential election results this week coming out of Iran. “People voted for Mousavi and it counted as Ahmadinejad’s vote,” said Behi Henderson, a political science professor at Buffalo State College.
The Iranian protesters stood in front of Buffalo City Hall wearing green, the color of the opposition party, to show their solidarity, and they joined others around the world who are demanding a recount. “There is a feeling of anger, justifiably, that their votes have been hijacked,” said Henderson.
In both instances this week, Buffalo is the safe haven for those who cannot return to the place where they were born, at least for now.
Sources WKBW – Jenny Rizzo 2009