Analysis: Rohingya, Get your Facts Straight
by Ambreen Aijaz
Rohingya, perhaps, are well defined as the world’s least wanted community! The facts we may ignore, but the spillover will have an effect, if preventive measures will not be taken for reason to prevail!
If you mention the Rohingya to someone these days, you’ll get either of the two responses;
“It’s nothing; those photos circulated on Facebook were all fake.”
“There must be some violence happening in Burma but media, particularly Social media, is exaggerating.”
It’s high time to set the record straight about Burma and its Muslim community.
The Rohingya people are originally from Rakhine, Burma. Their majority, i.e., 800,000, lives in Burma. According to the United Nations, they are one of the most persecuted minorities of the world.
Although the hardships of the Rohingya started back in 1785, with the Burmese conquest of Arakan, it was the 2012 Rakhine state riots that drew the attention of international media towards the miserable condition of the Rohingyas. Since then, the United Nations have been very active about the issue. However, this goes without saying that their activism is just restricted to publishing reports, resulting in a frustration, in the Muslim community in particular, around the globe
2012 Rakhine State Riots:
On the evening of 28th May, 2012, a group of men raped & murdered ethnic Rakhine women. Locals claimed those men to be Rohingya Muslims. But the arrest and imprisonment of the suspects of rape didn’t stop the violent Rakhine from attacking Rohingya Muslims. 300 men attacked a bus, on the 2nd of June in Taungup, and killed ten Muslims. In reaction, Muslims protested and out of the 300 attackers, only 30 were arrested, ; but it was already too late, riots already were spreading like a fire by then.
On the 8th of June, a large mob burned several houses in Bohmu village. Telephone lines were damaged. Five people had been killed in just one day. Even on the 9th of June, when military had arrived to maintain law and order, riots continued unabated. And on the 10th of June, despite the army’s history of torturing and killing the people in the region, the government instigated the martial law and handed over administrative control of the area to the military. Later, the Rohingyas who managed to escape and migrated to Bangladesh claimed that the police and army, back in Burma, shot down a group of villagers.
Within the first two days of violence, over five thousand people were displaced and by the 14th of June, this number rose to thirty thousand. During these riots, hundreds of Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh but they were turned down by Bangladeshi authorities, giving the reason that Bangladesh didn’t have the capacity to accommodate the refugees. To date, at least 15 boats and 1500 refugees had been turned back by Bangladesh. Those who took refuge in Thailand met even harsher conditions. Several reports and evidences suggested that the Thai army captured and tortured Rohingyas and later abandoned them at sea. Rohingyas have been rightly described as “among the world’s least wanted communities.”
The June riots ended on the 28th. Official figures reported 80 deaths and estimated that 90,000 people were displaced. But according to Tun Khin, the President of the Burmese Rohingya Organization UK (BROUK), 650 Rohingyas were killed, 1200 went missing and more than 80,000 were displaced in the June riots.
Confrontation started again in October 2012, at the end of which the number of displaced people crossed 100,000. Muslims of all ethnicities, and not just Rohingyas, were targeted during the riots. Several Muslim groups didn’t even celebrate Eid-ul-Azha out of fear of violence.
Fundamental Rights Denied:
Physical violence and displacement is not the only problem the Rohingya are facing. They have been denied citizenship rights, because the Burmese government considers them immigrants despite several historians’ arguments that the group dates back centuries.
The majority of Rohingyas do not have the right to own land or grow food on farmland. They cannot move freely in the state and even if and when they are allowed, it’s with many limitations. They need an official permit even to travel to the next town. Rohingyas have to work one day on military or government projects and one night on sentry duty, whereas Burmese Buddhists of the area are exempted from such duties. The strangest psychological torture on the Rohingyas is that they require an official permission to get married, which can only be acquired after giving a bribe to the officials, and it takes two years to get the permission. The Rohingyas are also often subjected to torture and sexual abuse by the army. And all the officials and soldiers who commit these crimes gets away with it all, because of some special laws, that give them privileges that ultimately result in immunity.
Indifference of International Community:
It’s the indifference of the international community towards the whole situation that has affected the Rohingyas the most. The most recent development in this regard is the EU’s decision of lifting sanctions on Myanmar, despite the government’s inability to stop ethnic violence against the Rohingya.
The world has turned a blind eye to repeated cries of human rights activists about the deplorable condition of the Rohingyas.
“There has been no appreciable change in the human rights situation in Myanmar since the elections,” Benjamin Zawacki, Amnesty International’s Myanmar researcher, told a news organization back in May, 2011, six months after Myanmar held it’s first general elections in 20 years.
Despite UN’s Special Rapporteur on the human rights situation in Myanmar, Tomás Ojea Quintana’s repeated suggestions to the government of Burma to investigate the 2012 Rakhine state riots and to speed up the process of reform, not much progress has been observed and the International community is turning a deaf ear and a blind eye towards the situation. It is an Irony, that a killer and lone insane, on the loose in Britain, is taken as a severe threat to the international community, but beasts, on the hunt of innocent Muslims of Rohingya are treated as pets to accomplish the task. The difference is evident with the visits of Obama to Burma and the privileges that the Burmese are now receiving from the international community. It is time for the sane minds of humanity, that in order to give reason a voice, they must fight for the rights of the oppressed community of the Rohingya.
Ambreen is a psychologist in making, and research associate with PKKH. She tweets @proudpakistanii .