Musician Bob Geldof is handing back his “Freedom of the City of Dublin” award, also held by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, in protest over her handling of the Rohingya crisis.
The Irish singer and activist said he could not share the honor with Suu Kyi, who has come under heavy criticism for not speaking out against alleged ethnic cleansing of Myanmar’s Rohingya population.
More than half a million Rohingya have fled violence in the country’s Rakhine State since August, pouring into Bangladesh with horrific stories of atrocities.
“Aung San Suu Kyi was extravagantly welcomed to this city, and I was a participant to that … and it turned out that she’s a killer, and I don’t want to be on the same list as what the UN described as a genocide,” Geldof said in Dublin before returning the award Monday.
“I don’t want to give this up, I’m really proud of it, you know, and you know I get handed things by states and cities around the world, but I’m a Dub [Dubliner] and this meant very much to me … I don’t want to do it, but it’s the most I can do and the least,” added the former Boomtown Rats singer and founder of 1985 charity concert Live Aid.
Suu Kyi faces international criticism
Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi, seen as a national hero in Myanmar and the face of a free civilian government, has come under intense international criticism for failing to openly support the Rohingya.
Some have said she should be stripped of her Nobel, with the youngest-ever laureate, 20-year-old Malala Yousafzai, also calling on Suu Kyi to condemn the treatment of the Rohingya.
Other observers point out that the Rohingya issue is so heated in Myanmar that Suu Kyi could lose her popularity, and eventually possibly her position, if she spoke up on behalf of the ethnic minority.
Suu Kyi has repeatedly denied accusations of ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses against the Rohingya.
Awards called in question
Suu Kyi was awarded the “Freedom of the City of Dublin” in 1999 while under house arrest, later receiving it in person in 2012.
Geldof, whose star-studded 1985 Live Aid concert raised funds for Ethiopian famine relief, received the award in 2006.
The award “acknowledges the contribution of certain people to the life of Dublin,” with other winners including Nelson Mandela and John F. Kennedy.
Last month Suu Kyi was stripped of the Freedom of Oxford by the city’s council for her response to the Rohingya crisis.
CNN’s Stephanie Halasz and Hilary McGann contributed to this report.