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Back to Burma?

| 09:31 UK time, Monday, 24 September 2007

Hello and good Monday morning to you all from a very wet and dreary west London. After a couple of blinding shows to end last week (listen again or download - see right hand side of this page), I'm not prepared to let the bad weather dampen my enthusiasm, so here's a few topics that have caught my eye over the weekend.

Let me know what you think, especially if there's something you'd love to get off your chest. Post here, or e-mail worldhaveyoursay@bbc.co.uk.

The Saffron Revolution
We've talked about the situation in Burma a couple of times on the show in recent weeks, but after a weekend in which the imprisoned democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi greeted protestors, and 20,000 protestors took to the streets, we may be hard pushed not to revisit the subject today. Thousands of people were killed in 1988 during the last pro-democracy marches, and though the protests ended peacefully yesterday, there are fears of another brutal crackdown by the ruling regime. The world is watching - including the Bush government, the UN's special envoy Ibrahim Gambari is expected to visit Burma in the first two weeks of October, and there is talk that Britain could announce an increased aid package for Burma as early as this week. Is this an issue close to your heart? Is it time for other countries to intervene?

Free speech - To Taser or not to taser, and President Ahmadinejad in the US
Does the name Andrew Meyer mean anything to you? The student from the University of Florida has been the subject of much internet debate since he was "tasered" by police during a forum with John Kerry a week ago. Have a look at what happened here. The blogoshphere seems split over whether Meyer got what he deserved, or if was the victim of some pretty heavy handed police treatment. TV and radio host Glenn Beck has stirred the row with his comments "To me, Taser videos are a little like potato chips. I just can't watch just one".

This blogger hits on some of the wider issues of the debate surrounding this incident...

Our world, our nation, and our town is full of this kind of thing daily. Free speech supression and (excessive) punishments for those who don't comply have been slowly creeping up on us for a while now. Has anyone read the Patriot Act? Nine-Eleven, Virginia Tech, the War on Terror" and the constant rhetoric of fear have been used to make us think that free thought and free speech both cause national insecurity...

Iranian President Ahmadinejad's visit to the United States has prompted this interesting piece on free speech, written by sophomores at Colombia University. He will visit the University today, before addressing the UN General Assembly in New York on Tuesday. Ahmadinejad has already told US TV network CBS, that Iran was not on a path of war with the US and that Iran had no need of nuclear weapons. If you are in the States, do you welcome his visit, or were you one of those protesting?

Many thanks to Elvidio for your e-mail from Goa on the topic (see comments below for full e-mail):

The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamedinejad's visit to the US shows that the Iranian leadership is not on a confrontation with the US and is ready for dialogue. His request for paying a visit to Ground Zero should have been accepted. This only goes on to show that the American leadership cannot even tolerate a gesture of magnanimity of Mahmoud Ahamedinejad.

Peace in the Middle East
The US is to invite Syria and Saudi Arabia to a peace conference to be held this November. The quartet of the US, EU, Russia and the UN, met in New York to give support to the proposed summit. The newly appointed envoy, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, will be teaming up with George Bush today to discuss peace in the region.....how do you feel about this?


No. He should not be permitted to visit ground zero publicly because there is a good chance he would put on that little shit-eating smile of his, raise his hands and praise allah.

I would support a private visit so he might see what terrorists have done and better understand why we don't want him, as a supporter of terrorism, to have a nuke and understand that he might get pre-nuked himself.

Rob Briggs
School Bus Driver Extraordinaire
Tomball Independent School District
Tomball, Texas


Burma is like Zimbabwe the will of the people is just not there to topple an oppressive regime. If it does happen this revolution will be
17 years behind schedule.

Chester Mapala,
Lusaka, Zambia.


First, Iran had nothing to do with the Holocaust so if he wants to deny that it happened, which I'm not even sure he has done officially, then so be it. It's not physically hurting anybody. And he should be able to lay a wreath at ground zero. Iran had nothing to do with Sept. 11th either and it is a sign of goodwill, that the Iranians care about life as much as we do. In this age of such high tension small gestures like this are welcome ones. If it was a Saudi politician I would think differently, since they are linked with the attacks. We need to enter an age of forgiveness and understanding, yet the worlds powers are going the opposite way. It's all very sad.

Jamie in Santa Cruz

President Ahmedinejad seems every bit the Mabus that will trigger a financial meltdown and World War III. His statements on the Holocaust are designed to inflame not really question the facts.

Chester Mapala,
Lusaka, Zambia


Of course Iran's President should be allowed to visit ground zero, after all, Iran unconditionally supported America's response to the attack, including offering assistance in the overthrow of the Taleban in Afghanistan who were harbouring Bin Laden's Al Qaeda.

It's another case of the US moving the goalposts to suit their objectives.
John Farmer


I think that what Ahmedinejad said was: the Holocaust wasn`t caused by the Palestinians but they have been suffering because of it for sixty years.

Regarding who does, or doesn`t, have blood on their hands- I would say that Ahmedinejads hands are much cleaner in that respect than either the Bush administrations or Israeli`s hands.

I challenge the Beeb to read out this one.

I B Mørk.


This Jean from Cleveland, OH. With all that I have read in the newspapers and watched on TV my feeling is that this is a man that has so much hate in his heart. He hates Americans, I wonder why he is coming here at all, and he refuses to believe in the Holocaust. Where has he been?? Does this man read ? I really have trouble believing that he and Mel Gibson's father think the Holocaust is a myth !!! So stay away from Ground Zero.

Also....what gives him the right to blow up another country??? More hatred ??? I dont' feel that all Iranians feel the same way about any of these issues. There have to be more intelligent people in Iran than it's President. Israel is but a grain of sand in a large world.
Stick to your own country and mess that up. Leave others alone.

Thank you....Jean


Hi dearest Anu and to all my good friends in WHYS! Hi to all WHYS good listeners! My dear brothers in Burma, please learn from what happened to your brothers in Iraq! Have a will to change the situation in your country! Keep on demonstration and protesting in massive numbers till achieving your ultimate goal; to have your voice heard in your own country! Don't let anyone decide for you what's best for you! Don't do like what your Iraqi brothers did! We in Iraq have accepted to be humiliated and suppressed for 35 years and didn't have a will to change the situation from the inside, and when the change from the outside came; it brought to us all the peace and happiness with it!:) Do you wanna be like us?! It's up to you! With my love!

Lubna in Baghdad!


I have little doubt that Ahmadinejad will only use his audience in front of the UN to spew hate of the US and our administration. The more oblivious among us Americans will see his visit and request to visit Ground Zero as an olive branch - clearly the memory of 9/11 has faded into the past in their minds.

It would be degrading to the US to allow one who subscribes to the very doctrines of radical Islam that inspired the terrorists on 9/11 to visit this fresh scar upon our country.

Nick - Michigan, USA


Going on past experience with Iran's President Ahmedinejad you would have to have a healthy scepticism of him and his motives to want to visit Ground Zero. Inevitably there is the propaganda element to consider and it is probably the best decision that the US authorities could have made not to allow him to visit. I am sure he will manage to obtain maximum benefit from his visit to Columbia University which will more than make up for it.

As for Burma, it seems only a matter of time before the Generals patience or good humour runs out and the protests of the past few days will be quashed decisively. There has been a great deal of latitude given to the monks but whether they are revered by the powers in Burma or not this type of dissent will not be allowed to continue. Aung San has been kept out of influence so it does not seem likely that this flirtation with unrest and popular protest be allowed. Just as the democracy protests in China grew and gathered momentum, they were tolerated for only long enough for the communist leadership to decide what to do and marshal their forces to put down the insurrection. The Burmese leadership has too much to lose and they certainly will not (easily or actively) give up their power and the benefits they derive from it. As for what we can do, nice thought Jim but as long as other (powerful and influential) nations have business dealings with the Burmese and are making money through resources or other ventures then they will not jeopardise their investment and act against them and people's voices around the world will be ignored despite the apparent agreement by world leaders and politicians in general. You can't win against big business and big money, people's suffering really does count for little in the greater scheme of things. The only thing that could possibly affect who runs Burma would be an internal coup, bloodshed to fight and regain their own nation from the Generals by the Burmese themselves. This also seems too distant to contemplate as the leadership has a strong grip on their people and power.



I don't believe he should be allowed to ground zero. Not because he is Iranian or Muslim, but because he has been implicated in the U.S. hostage crisis. He should not be allowed anywhere except the UN building. If it weren't for diplomatic immunity, I would be inclined to encourage his arrest. I don't believe for 1 second that he is sympathetic for those lost on 9/11. I also believe that the families of those lost on 9/11 should be the determining factor in whether he visits the site. I doubt they would want him there.

Thank You,

Jon Davis

To the Burmese protestor who feels there is too much world scrutiny for the government to brutally suppress him I have two words: Tianamen Square.

John D. Anthony
Salem, Oregon

Hi team,

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to draw much attention whenever he’s on a visit to the USA. All his activities become the focus of the media as everything he does or says is considered with significance. There was the controversy of whether he should visit Germany to support the Iranian football team during 2004 World Cup there because of denying the Holocaust and asking for Israel to be wiped out of the map.

Now on his visit to the USA, he has been denied to lay a wreath at Ground Zero. The security concern is groundless as the USA has sophisticated security system to guarantee his safety. The simplest thing to do is to close off the area during his visit. But as the USA still has Iran on the terrorist list, it can’t contradict itself by allowing Ahmadinejad to visit a place that was the target of the worst attack in the US after that of Pearl Harbour. As both countries haven’t normalised their relations, it seems absurd that the US government will allow Ahmadinejad to tour the country freely or to prolong his stay beyond the UN General Assembly summit for a private visit.

It seems allowing Ahmadinejad to go to Ground Zero is like him visiting the White House to say hello to Pt George Bush without having anything to agree upon. The visit can have a human gesture for Pt Ahmadinejad. But for the White House this can just boost his popularity as he will be shown around the world as a pigeon of peace while Bush and his company are hawks of war.

In politics, words and gestures matter. Iran and the USA are playing on words and gestures to further their cases. The good thing is that Ahmadinejad can attack the USA on its land through his addresses and press conferences broadcast on main news channels. But no American can do so in the same way on Iranian soil. That’s the big difference.

Abdelilah Boukili,
Marrakesh, Morocco

I am very impressed by the bold and peaceful actions of the monks in Burma. In a world that is riddled with violent religious acts, the Burmese Buddhists are showing that thier faith can be a powerful force for good and can captivate the worlds attention. I wish Burma the best of luck in it's struggle against oppression!

Ken in Cleveland

This is one of the many times over the last 7 years that I've been embarrassed to be American. America was founded on the principal of freedom, and now this man isn't being allowed to visit ground zero? That doesn't sound like freedom to me.


The Americans you have on your show are just wrong. If our country is Free, then our country is Free and should be held to that standard. We are not a Democratic Country, we are a Republic. Let us not forget the difference. I was born and raised in NY and I was here during 9/11. Bush is more fanatic than any Muslim.

Eliel in the US

I have something else to say about your show today. During the discussion of the head of Iran visiting the US, you had two Americans on who do not represent most Americans. Both admitted to supporting the war and both took a very hostile position towards Iran. The majority of us do not feel this way. WE ARE NOT INTO CONFRONTATION. More than that, we see the hypocrisy in telling a dictator that's he's not free to do this and than in a free society. Isn't that one of the things we accuse his country of doing--restricting movement, and freedom of expression?
PLEASE be careful not to have two conservatives speaking for America at the same time. It's very disturbing.
Portland, OR USA

My country has made a mistake in allowing him into our university. He should not touch that Ground Zero. He caused death to many of our soldiers. He should not have been given access to our country.

Mathew in Nairobi

This is a free country and there is free speech. EVERYONE gets a voice. We even let the KKK have parades and rallies.
Iranians MOURNED with us on 9/12/2007. HOW EASILY WE FORGET



Frank in Italy
I appeal to international community to take action to prevent bloodshed. Free Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Muhammed in Ghana
Denying President Ahmadinajad a right to visit ground zero is undemocratic and must be condemn by the UN general assembly.

Lubna in Baghdad

To the guest from Burma, I 'd say may God bless you my friend. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your people!

Shame on the leaders of the christian in Burma for not symbolically standing beside their Buddhist brother and sisters. As a European Christian I find this disappointing if somewhat unsurprising. Get onboard please Christian leaders.

Anonymous in the US
Iranian president should kiss the cross in New York.

Khaled in Bangladesh
This is really shame the way USA treat with elected president. I'm bit of doubt that are USA friendly at all?

Hassan Abdulsalam in Nigeria
why is that Iranian president is not allowed to visit ground zero? Is it because he is a muslim or an arab?

Patrick in Kampala-Uganda
The Iranian president being allowed to the U.N is an insult to all peace loving people worldwide. Bush arrest that criminal and put him in jail in Cuba.

Mohamed in Nigeria
Ahmednijad,should be allowed access to visit ground Zero.It is a mark of respect for the dead. Americans should stop this show of hatred.

Mohamed in Nairobi, Kenya
Stop demonizing Ahmednijad. America has Iraqi and Palestinian blood on its hands.

Willi Lusaka
President bush also visited iraq despite USA bombing iraq no one condemned him. So don't condemn Amadinejad's visit.

Thomas in Nigeria
The military junta in Burma should know that no matter how they try... people power will succeed.People of Burma.

Ivy in Kenya
We are proud of you. The Angels are winning against evil. Keep on keeping on!


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