The free world keeps finding reasons to turn on its heroes, says Sylvie Kauffmann in Le Monde. Alexei Navalny lost his “prisoner of conscience” status after the charity Amnesty International became concerned he’d used xenophobic rhetoric in the past. Aung San Suu Kyi, the “iconic” Burmese leader now behind bars again, has faced calls to be stripped of her 1991 Nobel Peace Prize because she shared power with a Burmese military who slaughtered Rohingya Muslims.
“Heroes aren’t always what you want them to be” when navigating the perilous real world. But they show backbone that the West’s leaders can only admire and aspire to possess. In simpler times – the Cold War – we gave the benefit of the doubt to those who stood up to injustice. The Soviet physicist Andrei Sakharov was given a Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 for his struggle for human rights in the USSR and criticism of Communist Party policy. He also helped create Russia’s atom bomb.
Today’s “blurry” red lines trip even the good guys up. Navalny could have chosen to stay with his family in Germany, after having almost died before. Now he’s on hunger strike in a Russian jail. Hopefully his reputational rehabilitation “will come before his death”. We used to stick by the likes of Sakharov and Navalny. Or at least waited until they “had won the fight” before turning on them.
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