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Life

Women lawyers fight Myanmar junta on legal battlefield

Coup upends life for many young attorneys driven by concern and conscience

Zar Li, center, discusses new cases with her team of lawyers. Most of her colleagues are women. (From Facebook)

Zar Li is not the same lawyer she was in January. In the "old Myanmar" she used to like hanging out in her Yangon apartment, performing a Whitney Houston song or cooking her favorite dishes. Now, under constant threat to her life, she works relentlessly under searing sun outside Yangon prisons to defend protesters against the Myanmar military regime that seized power on Feb. 1.

After joining street protests in the aftermath of the coup, Zar Li put her legal skills to use when a group of fellow ethnic Chin citizens were arrested during the demonstrations. When she went to the front gates of the infamous Insein Prison, she discovered there were dozens of families who had no idea where their sons and daughters were being held, nor knowledge of their legal rights. Zar Li quickly took action, becoming leader of a defense team for protesters.

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