Aung San Suu Kyi vs. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

Two of the most recognizable victims of state oppression go up against each other

Aung San Suu Kyi

When, on the evening of Nov. 13, Aung San Suu Kyi suddenly appeared from behind the red iron bars surrounding her house, her lonely prison for most of the past two decades, her ecstatic supporters erupted into cheers; many were reduced to tears. Thousands had rushed to Suu Kyi’s crumbling white villa on Rangoon’s Inya Lake after security forces began taking apart the compound’s barbed-wire barricades: a clear signal the world’s most famous political prisoner would finally be freed from house arrest.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani

“I am a sinner,” a woman wrapped in a black chador told TV-watchers in Iran in a public broadcast on Nov. 15. It was the second TV “confession” for Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two who faces death by stoning for adultery and by hanging for complicity in her husband’s murder. While Ashtiani’s circumstances are not unique in Iran, it was the image of her iconic pale face framed by the black chador that galvanized human rights activists across the world, from Laureen Harper to topless Ukrainian feminists.

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