Aung San Suu Kyi, one of the world's most recognized fighters for democratic freedoms, was living in England with her husband and two sons when she returned to her homeland 14 years ago to care for her ailing mother. She quickly became active in Burma's pro-democracy movement, just one month before a military junta seized power in Rangoon and began a violent crackdown on dissent, in which thousand of people died.
Aung San Suu Kyi was widely recognized in Burma as the daughter of the country's independence hero, Aung San, and she became leader of the National League for Democracy, the main opposition group. Her party won an overwhelming victory in Burma's last elections, in 1990, but has never been allowed to govern. Aung San Suu Kyi was placed under house arrest, and her colleagues were either locked up or subjected to harassment and intimidation.
She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 but remained under formal house arrest until 1995.
In September of 2000, after defying government orders to not travel outside Rangoon, Aung San Suu Kyi was again confined to her home, with visitors restricted to only a handful of diplomats. It was that second house-arrest order that was lifted Monday.
Aung San Suu Kyi was educated at Oxford University, with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics, and married Michael Aris, an Oxford researcher. Three years ago, her husband died in Britain of prostate cancer. Burmese authorities denied him permission to visit his wife for more than three years, and Aung San Suu Kyi feared that if she traveled to Britain, she would not be allowed back into Burma.
Aung San Suu Kyi has always played down the hardships she has encountered compared with those faced by the people of Burma. She says those working for democracy in Burma are trying to end a climate of fear in the country. As she once explained her own feelings, "Real freedom is freedom from fear, and unless you can live free from fear you cannot live a dignified human life."