One million stateless people

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The Rohingya people of Myanmar are in a hopeless situation.  They are a Muslim ethnic minority of roughly one million people, and their mother tongue is Rohingya, an Indo-European language with roots in the Bengali language.

They reside primarily in northern Rakhine State in western Myanmar, a coastal region of roughly three million residents near the country’s border with Bangladesh. However, countless Rohingya have been internally displaced and live in refugee camps, following conflicts with Rakhine State’s Buddhist majority population.  The Rohingya have been termed by a UN report as the most persecuted religious community in the world.

Under a highly questionable law passed in 1982 by the military government, they were summarily deprived of their nationality unless they could prove that their forefathers had lived in the country in 1832, which is one of the most oppressive laws found anywhere in the world. Since last June, they have been attacked, their villages have been burned and they have been forced to live in refugee camps in their own country or to flee to Bangladesh which already has a large number of Rohingyas who fled during the past few decades due to acute persecution and oppression. As a result of this exodus, there are now large groups of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia.

In 1982, their citizenship was revoked under a new constitution that was established and left them stateless and vulnerable.  They were accused of being “darkies who had been brought into Burma (now called Myanmar) as slaves.”  With their identity status and legal rights revoked, severe restrictions were imposed on the Rohingyas.  Their movements and freedom to move about their districts or even between their villages were strictly monitored. They were asked to submit lists to local police authorities of the names of guests or relatives in their homes. Their land rights were confiscated.  Rohingya children were not allowed to pursue higher education.

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