Burma’s modern history has been filled with turmoil. A military junta seized control of Burma in 1962, launching a decades-long period of armed conflict, authoritarian rule and isolation from the rest of the world. The military generals in power suppressed all dissent. And the Burmese military carried out brutal attacks on ethnic and religious minorities—including women like Naw Wah—who faced rape, torture and murder at the hands of state security forces.
In recent years, Burma’s government has taken key steps toward becoming a more open and democratic state. Since 2010, it has negotiated ceasefires, established a parliament and released hundreds of political prisoners. In January 2012, the U.S. restored diplomatic ties with Burma for the first time since 1990. Many of the changes in Burma were brought about thanks to the advocacy and activism of human rights groups, including AJWS grantees who have worked for decades to bring global attention to the atrocities their communities experienced in Burma.
Despite these changes, the people of Burma still face severe injustice. The army continues to attack, torture and kill civilians in ethnic states. Decades of discriminatory policies have led to atrocities against the Rohingya Muslim community. Activists and journalists are still attacked and arrested.
The majority of Burma’s people make a living as farmers in rural areas, but Burmese laws do not protect their access to or control over the land. Burmese environmental regulation is so weak that foreign and national corporations launch development projects—including hydro-electric dams, mining and huge agricultural projects—without consulting local communities. These projects displace people from their homes and strip away their means of survival.
AJWS is committed to helping the people of Burma advocate for human rights. Our grantees are:
- Pushing for greater transparency and participation of women in the ceasefire negotiations and peace process
- Empowering young people to usher in a new era of democracy, inclusion and protection of all people’s rights
- Providing legal aid and advocacy that will help communities seek justice and government accountability for violence and abuse
- Organizing communities to lobby for improved legal protections to prevent land grabs and other harmful development tactics
- Collecting evidence of human rights violations related to conflict, land grabbing and violence against women and ethnic minorities
- Using media to expose government abuses and demand accountability
*The official name for the country of Burma is Myanmar, but some people don’t recognize the new name because of their objections to the military junta that chose it.