#WhatsHappeningInMyanmar – Womens on the front line
Ma Kyal Sin loved taekwondo, spicy food and a good red lipstick. She adopted the English name Angel, and her father hugged her goodbye when she went out on the streets of Mandalay, in central Myanmar, to join the crowds peacefully protesting the recent seizure of power by the military.
The black T-shirt that Kyal Sin wore to the protest Wednesday carried a simple message: “Everything will be OK.”
In the afternoon, Kyal Sin, 18, was shot in the head by the security forces, who killed at least 30 people nationwide in the single bloodiest day since the Feb. 1 coup, according to the United Nations.
“She is a hero for our country,” said Ma Cho Nwe Oo, one of Kyal Sin’s close friends, who has also taken part in the daily rallies that have electrified hundreds of cities across Myanmar. “By participating in the revolution, our generation of young women shows that we are no less brave than men.”
Despite the risks, women have stood at the forefront of Myanmar’s protest movement, sending a powerful rebuke to the generals who ousted a female civilian leader and reimposed a patriarchal order that has suppressed women for half a century.
By the hundreds of thousands, they have gathered for daily marches, representing striking unions of teachers, garment workers and medical workers — all sectors dominated by women. The youngest are often on the front lines, where the security forces appear to have singled them out. Two young women were shot in the head Wednesday and another near the heart, three bullets ending their lives.
Earlier this week, military television networks announced that the security forces were instructed not to use live ammunition, and that in self-defense they would only shoot at the lower body.
“We might lose some heroes in this revolution,” said Ma Sandar, an assistant general secretary of the Confederation of Trade Unions Myanmar, who has been taking part in the protests. “Our women’s blood is red.”
The violence on Wednesday, which brought the death toll since the coup to at least 54, reflected the brutality of a military accustomed to killing its most innocent people. At least three children have been gunned down over the past month, and the first death of the military’s post-coup crackdown was a 20-year-old woman shot in the head on Feb. 9.
The killings have appalled and outraged rights advocates around the world.
“Myanmar’s military must stop murdering and jailing protesters,” Michelle Bachelet, the top human rights official at the U.N., said Thursday. “It is utterly abhorrent that security forces are firing live ammunition against peaceful protesters across the country.”
In the weeks since the protests began, groups of female medical volunteers have patrolled the streets, tending to the wounded and dying. Women have added spine to a civil disobedience movement that is crippling the functioning of the state. And they have flouted gender stereotypes in a country where tradition holds that garments covering the lower half of the bodies of the two sexes should not be washed together, lest the female spirit act as a contaminant.