Twenty-eight-year-old James Mawdsley spent much of the past
four years in grim Burmese prisons. The Iron Road is his
story, and the story of the regime that jailed him, the way
it jails, tortures, and kills hundreds of Burmese each day.
Mawdsley was working in New Zealand when he learned about
the struggle of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese Nobel
laureate who is under house arrest. Outraged, he went to
Burma, staged a one-man protest, and was jailed.
There his own amazing story begins. He is tortured,
interrogated, released, jailed again. He turns his
incarceration into a contest of wits -- going on a hunger
strike, toasting the year 2000 with a cigar and "prison
champagne," and requesting "1 packet of freedom, 1 bunch
human rights, and 2 bottles of democracy." At the same
time, he asks himself: What leads those of us in peaceful
democracies to ignore others' suffering, just because it is
happening "over there," to "them"?
James Mawdsley is a hero in a generation said to lack
heroism. The Iron Road -- named for a torture in which skin
is scraped from bone with a piece of iron -- is an urgent
call for an end to human rights abuses in Burma and is a
keen analysis of the totalitarian mind-set. And it is the
story, at once moving and terrifying, of how one person can
further the cause of justice through sheer will and