Monday, 11 July 2011

Heroine from Bersih 2.0

In my opinion, this is the most haunting image to emerge from the Bersih 2.0 walk in Kuala Lumpur on 9 July 2011.
[An update: Before you read further, this is an email from my friend, Kee Thuan Chye, in which he commented This is a great picture. It shows the desolation of a war zone, which was what KL became on July 9, and the figure of a steadfast symbol of defiance. And she's bearing a flower, an emblem of peace. Juxtapose that with the formidable line of brute force behind her, and you see ...]
Photo: Hugo Teng

The lady has been identified as Annie Ooi Siew Lan. There's some information about her here. She was just one of countless aunties and uncles who participated in Bersih 2.0. But the world's eyes may be now on her just because of this iconic picture.

Originally from Kedah and Penang, this retired teacher now lives in the Setapak area and is aged 65 years old. A firm believer of the ideals of Bersih 2.0, she put on a yellow T-shirt and took a bus ride to the city centre by herself. Along the way, the Police stopped her several times to check her identification card. When questioned about her attire, her answer was always the same: "Why can't I wear yellow?"

She walked with the other supporters of Bersih 2.0. And then she was sprayed with chemical-laced water or fired upon with tear gas or both. Violence was the furthest from her mind; she came unprepared for it. And all she carried with her were a water bottle and a stalk of flowers. A stalk of flowers. A symbol of peace.

"It's so sad," she lamented. "It's so sad that the Police are treating our rakyat like this. When you come to rallies, there's a spirit of unity, something I cannot describe, when everyone is united for a cause. Why do we have to feel so scared in our own homeland. And by our own countrymen too?"

Yes, why indeed?

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