Rohingya, Get your Facts Straight

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Rohingya Muslims

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.”

Or,

“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 theofficials 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.

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is Psychologist in making. A proud Muslim and Pakistani. She can be reached on twitter @ProudPakistanii and you can also find her at her Blog

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  1. Myanmar paper banned from reporting on soldiers’ actions in Rakhine state
    Mon Nov 7, 2016 1:53PM

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    In this photograph taken on October 21, 2016 Myo ethnic children looks at a Myanmar border police in LaungDon, located in Rakhine State. (Photo by AFP)
    In this photograph taken on October 21, 2016 Myo ethnic children looks at a Myanmar border police in LaungDon, located in Rakhine State. (Photo by AFP)

    A leading English-language newspaper in Myanmar has suspended its reporting on the western Rakhine state, home to many Rohingya Muslim minorities.

    The Myanmar Times, the country’s oldest English-language daily, stopped covering the crisis after one of its senior staff was fired over an article citing multiple gang rapes of Rohingya women by soldiers.

    Sources inside the newspaper said that one editor has already resigned in protest and several other staff members were considering leaving.

    “The paper withstood the pre-publication censorship of the junta era,” AFP quoted an unnamed source as saying, adding, “There are major concerns about backsliding in the commendable gains made on press freedom in recent years.”

    The developments have prompted staff to post a notice in Tuesday’s print edition saying the paper’s “editorial policies are in the process of being clarified by management.”

    “Until then you may notice some gaps in our coverage,” the staff added.

    According to an internal memo seen by AFP, management ordered editors “not to analyze, comment, report or have opinion pieces on the following subjects until further notice: Rakhine State; Rohingya; and military actions in Rakhine state.”

    This comes as pressure is mounting on media to curtail critical coverage of army operations in the area. Foreign journalists have been banned from the area.

    While there is more freedom under Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, monitors say many outlets still exercise self-censorship.

    In recent weeks, allegations have emerged of troops killing Rohingya civilians, raping women and torching villages.

    The diplomats, including those from the European Union and the United Nations and the US have recently called on Myanmar’s government to launch a transparent inquiry into human rights violations in Rakhine state.
    83bd09ca-4272-4864-a731-b0b4239d36d9.jpg An armed Myanmar police officer stands guard at the Aung Mingalar ward, a confinement area for the persecuted Muslim Rohingya minority in Sittwe capital of Rakhine State on October 13, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

    The state was again in the spotlight on October 9, when gunmen attacked three police outposts in the town of Maungdaw near the Bangladeshi border, reportedly leaving nine police officers dead.

    Myanmar’s government blamed the incident on a Rohingya group, adding that the assailants made off with dozens of weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

    Suu Kyi said her government will not place blame for violence in Rakhine before investigators have gathered all the evidence.

    According to the UN, Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. The government denies full citizenship to the community and imposes severe restrictions on their movement, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even as many trace their lineage in Myanmar back generations.

    Many of the Muslims have been killed while tens of thousands have been forced to flee as a result of attacks by Buddhists.

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