UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST SERVICE COMMITTEE : Myra Dahgaypaw - US Campaign for Burma - Global Impact

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Myra Dahgaypaw/ US Campaign for Burma
Myra Dahgaypaw

Afraid for her life, Myra Dahgaypaw fled her home in Burma (also known as Myanmar) in 1995.

Myra was forced to flee home because of the violence and human rights abuses so commonly experienced by ethnic minorities in Burma. “It was a living nightmare,” she remembers. “I fled with just the clothes on my back.” A member of the Karen ethnic group, Myra consistently witnessed military brutality toward her community.

“We had trenches around our school so that as soon as we hear the sound of the fighter jets, we can just literally jump straight into the trenches,” Myra recalls. “I saw a lot of people were killed, even including my own classmates.”

Now settled in the United States, Myra sees it as her responsibility to advocate for the people of Burma who continue to face abuses like those she fled – as well as grave dangers in speaking out. “The brave, the resilient people of Burma, they refuse to be silent,” she explains. “So it is my responsibility to amplify their voices because I have the platform, I have the voice, and I am safe to do so.”

Myra amplifies the voices of human rights activists in Burma – and much more – through her work directing the US Campaign for Burma (USCB). A human rights advocacy organization and UUSC partner, USCB is dedicated to promoting inter-ethnic solidarity, raising awareness about crimes committed by the Burmese military, and bringing about an end to the military regime. As Myra explains, a central goal of USCB is to help the international community “hear the voices of the people on the ground.”

Myra and USCB’s work was needed more than ever following the 2021 coup d’état, when the Burmese military, which already held significant political control and veto power, dropped the pretense of supporting democracy altogether.

In the early hours of February 1, 2021, the day the new Parliament was set to take office, the Burmese military seized power, detaining human rights advocates and barring elected leaders from taking office. As internet and communications went down and tanks rolled through the streets, the military instituted emergency control of the country, citing the pandemic and baseless claims of election fraud.

In the ensuing months, the brutality of the military – long endured by ethnic minority communities like Myra’s – was on horrific display. As peaceful protesters took to the streets in a Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM) not seen in Burma since the 1980s, the military murdered more than 800 people and injured thousands more.

Following the coup, Myra and USCB sprang quickly into action. With UUSC’s support, USCB provided emergency funding to help protesters fearing for their lives get to safety. “Just recently, UUSC helped us with one of our USCB projects aiming toward providing aid for the CDM protesters who were forced to flee Burma and come out to the ethnic minority areas,” Myra explains. “Such support has bridged the gap in rebuilding the country in big as well as small ways.”

UUSC is committed to supporting groups like USCB to ensure that ethnic minorities of Burma, who have long been denied their rights and faced brutality for decades, are not left out of the multi-ethnic movement for democracy that emerged from the protests.

With close ties to the Karen, Rohingya, and other ethnic minorities of Burma, Myra is a key leader in bringing people together and moving this vision of inclusivity forward in Burma – and she will not stop until her work is no longer needed.

“Something I’m hoping for and working toward too is that I’d like to see a Burma where everyone is embraced and welcomed no matter their race, their ethnicity, or their religious differences,” Myra shares. “I envision a peaceful country that finally has achieved a true democratic state where the power lies with the people but not the military, and also a country that finally realizes that inclusivity makes them stronger.”

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