By Latheef Farook
August this year marks the sixth anniversary of the genocide of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. On August 25, 2017, Myanmar’s military Junta unleashed unprecedented barbarity in the Rakhine State forcing more than a million Rohingya Muslims to flee for safety.
They walked for days through jungles and undertook dangerous sea journeys across the Bay of Bengal to reach safety in the Cox Bazar’s region of Bangladesh which is now home to the world’s largest refugee camp.
They live in temporary shelters in highly congested camp settings and rely entirely on humanitarian assistance for protection, food, water, shelter and health.The estimated 600,000 Rohingya who remained in Rakhine State have been subject to persecution and violence, confined to camps and villages without freedom of movement, and cut off from access to adequate food, health care, education, and livelihoods.
The United Nations, described the Rohingya as “the most persecuted minority in the world, said the conditions for return to their homes currently do not exist, though safe, voluntary and sustainable repatriation to Myanmar seems to be the ultimate best solution.
The government of former de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, ousted by the military in a coup, supported the genocide against the Rohingya and even traveled to The Hague in December 2019 to defend the military’barbarities.
Burma or Myanmar is a Buddhist majority country with numerous ethnic groups and a significant Muslim minority. For more than 13 centuries Muslims, called Rohingya, were living predominantly in Myanmar’s fertile and mineral rich Northern Rakhine State along the Bay of Bengal coastal areas.
Over centuries they got absorbed into mainstream majority Buddhist community, enjoyed ethnic harmony, equal rights and lived in peace and harmony. There were Muslim parliamentarians, ministers and they served in all government establishments including the armed forces. Muslims also served in the government of Prime Minister U Nu (1948–63). They flourished in trade, commercial and industrial ventures and lived a comfortable life
However disaster struck with the 1962 military coup d’état. Military government, at war with all minority groups, began a systematic anti-Muslim campaign and introduced regulations that denied citizenship to anyone who could not prove Burmese ancestry from before 1823. This overnight disenfranchised many Muslims, even though they had lived in Myanmar for generations.
The Junta picked up a Buddhist monk Ashin Wirathu, created a militant group, armed, trained and launched an open campaign to demonize and poison peoples’ minds against Muslims. Later they started burning villages, organized raping and gang raping of Muslim women, killing Muslims and even burning people, including children, alive.
Ruthless junta exploited the Rohingya issue to divert the public opinion against the bogey of Muslim extremism which became fashionable after 9/11. As a result Rohingya Muslims were made non entity in their own countryresulting in immense sufferings and misery under growing illiteracy and poverty. They were demonized and turned into wretched human beings.
This persecution, continued and the world ignored their sufferings. Muslim world was least bothered about helpless and voiceless Rohingya Muslims who suffered in abject poverty and illiteracy.
Fleeing from junta’s barbarity Rohingya Muslims walking for miles in knee deep muddy waters carrying their loved ones failed to melt the hearts of even the oil Sheikhs who only a generation ago suffered in abject poverty and illiteracy and now spending billions buying weapons and help western weapons industries flourish.
However since 25 August 2017 military junta and their militant groups unleashed a well-organized campaign of genocide to drive out the entire Rohingya Muslim population from Rakhine area.
“The Burmese military conducted campaign of arson, killings and rape against ethnic Rohingya. Refugees who fled the violence told Human Rights Watch that AUNG SAN SUU KYI is an apologist for genocide, ethnic cleansing and mass rape.
Aung San Suu Kyi was the State Counsellor, or de facto head of government, in Myanmar, when members of the Rohingya Muslim minority have been shot, stabbed, starved, robbed, raped and driven from their homes in the hundreds of thousands.
In December 2016 while the world focused on the fall of Aleppo, more than a dozen Nobel Laureates published an open letter warning of a tragedy in Rakhine “amounting to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”
More than half of the 101 Rohingya women interviewed by UN investigators across the border in Bangladesh said they had suffered rape or other forms of sexual violence at the hands of armed forces.
“They beat and killed my husband with a knife,” one survivor recalled. “Five of them took off my clothes and raped me. My eight‐month old son was crying of hunger when they were in my house because he wanted to breastfed, so to silence him they killed him too with a knife.”
In February 2017 a report by the United Nations documented how the Myanmar army’s attacks on the Rohingya were “widespread as well as systematic” thus “indicating crimes against humanity.”
These attacks were “coordinated and systematic.” It was deliberate strategy with the intent of preventing Rohingya Muslims from returning to their homes’.
These attacks point to a strategy to instil “widespread fear and trauma”, a report by the UN human rights office says. United Nations Human rights Chief Zaid Ra’ad Al Hussein described Myanmar’s treatment of its Muslim Rohingya minority as a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing.
Respected Tibetan Buddhist leader Dalai Lama said “Buddhist extremism has driven persecution of Rohingya Muslim minority in Burma. However Buddha would have helped the Rohingya Muslims who are fleeing violence in Buddhist-majority Burma, the Dalai Lama has said.
Then French President Emmanuel Macron described the attacks on Myanmar’s Rohingya minority as “genocide.”
“Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya is barbaric”, says Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen.
This barbarity was condemned by all governments and people worldwide. The irony is that this crime against humanity was committed with the support of major powers while Muslims countries turned blind eyes.
For example China and Russia rejected any action against Myanmar government when the United Nations Security Council met to discuss the issue of genocide of Rohingya Muslims. A rights group has revealed that Israel provided Myanmar’s military junta with arms equipment despite a US and European Union embargo imposed over the country’s genocide against members of the Rohingya Muslim minority. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid an official visit to Myanmar while genocide of Rohingya Muslims was under way.
Disclaimer: Abandoned by all including rich Muslim countries
Rohingya Muslims Continue to suffer in refugee camps - Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Latheefarook.com point-of-view