One of Burma’s most popular comedians, Zarganar, who is serving a 35-year sentence for speaking out against the military regime, will be the focus of protest and publicity at the upcoming Edinburgh festival, the largest cultural festival in the world . Amnesty International, a worldwide human rights group, vows to organise protests throughout the length of the festival beginning on August the 13th to further the cause of his freedom and highlight his plight.
Zargnar is serving his sentence at Myitkina prison in northern Kachin state for criticising the military regime’s inadequate measures in response to 2008’s Cyclone Nargis. The artist is said to be suffering from poor health owing to lack of medical facilities — a normal state of affairs in the country’s prisons.
The 49-year-old, who has been politically active since the 8888 uprising, has been a political prisoner on a number of occasions for openly criticising the military government’s breaches of human rights. Whilst since 2006, Zarganar has faced a ban on performing publicly.
Amnesty International volunteers at the Edinburgh festival will be engaging with a global audience spreading awareness about Zarganar’s case and requesting that they send letters to the Burmese authorities on behalf of the comedian and other political prisoners in the country. An event called ‘Stand up for freedom’ will be organised featuring German comedian Michael Mittermeiser and other renowned comedians from the world over, in line with the protests.
Visitors at the festival will be given the opportunity to take pictures with Zarganar’s, or any other political prisoner’s name written on their palms. These pictures would then make it to the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) to be held in Brussels in October with the aim of adding international pressure on the military junta.
“We believe that Zarganar is a prisoner of conscience who has been imprisoned solely because of expression of his beliefs. He should therefore be immediately and unconditionally released,” Steve Ballinger of Amnesty International told DVB.
Zarganar, an avid football fan, will have a football match dedicated to support his release on August 16. The match between “critics” and “comedians” will witness all players taking to the field wearing jerseys with Zarganar’s picture on them.
Readers who wish to join Amnesty’s cause of demanding the release of Zarganar and/or other political prisoners can log on to www.amnesty.org.uk/zarganar and write directly to the Burmese authorities.