The World Must Act Before It’s Too Late
Myanmar, a South Asian nation with a predominantly Buddhist population, has been struggling with sectarian violence for many years now, but recently the violence against the Rohingya has intensified.
Just in the past weeks, reports of mass violence have emerged from Duchiradan village of Maungdaw, an area near the Bangladesh border where the great majority of the population is Rohingya.
Beginning on January 13, in the village of Duchiradan, accounts and reports of Rohingya taken as slaves, tied up, killed, cut into pieces and dumped in the gutter reached the world; then there were incidents of women who were raped and had their breasts cut off before they were killed, a grandmother age 103 years old and her grandchildren slaughtered before the eyes of the police, as well as sweeping arrests of men, women and children of all ages. There were also eyewitness reports of dead bodies being taken away by the security forces in trucks to be buried. Yet the government acknowledges only the killing of one Buddhist policemen while denying the killings of Rohingya villagers.
Though strongly denied by the government without any investigation whatsoever, the UN investigation of the recent incidents confirms that a massacre had taken place in this village. The UN released a statement that there were credible reports of at least 48 people had been killed. The authorities then ordered the arrest of all men and children above 10 years old. Four thousand Rohingya living in the village abandoned it and fled. The people in the villages around did not help as they had received instructions to not take them in. Facing the threat of hunger, some 500 women and children were forced to return to their village after the incidents. However, 18 of the 340 dwellings in the village were completely burned, while others were half-burned, homes had been pillaged and all their goods, food and animals had been confiscated.
The UN and many human rights organizations called on the Myanmar government for an immediate and independent investigation into the violence, yet the wide-spread arson started by local mobs in the following days in Duchiradan village made evidence of the massacre harder to document.
Since violence flared up in Rakhine state in June 2012, hundreds have been killed, at least 145,000 Rohingya Muslims have been displaced, tens of thousands are in desperate need of humanitarian aid and similar numbers have fled the country.
Now this recent violence has created more displaced people as the village was home to its 4,000 inhabitants and is now completely empty.
A year and a half after the onset of violence against Rakhine Muslims, displaced Rohingya still lack adequate shelter, drinking water, sanitation, and health care. Humanitarian aid agencies have limited access to the area.
The people of Rohingya are in a state of fear yet there is nothing they can do to protect themselves. Categorized as foreigners by Burmese state legislation, the Rohingya have been deprived of basic human rights and civil rights for years. They are denied the right to an education, to participate in the economy, to health benefits, and the right to marry or own property. They have no legal rights to make claims or to protect themselves. They have no organization to speak up for them. Since they have no right to education, they are generally under-educated which makes it even harder for them to make their voices heard to the world. Moreover, they lack the slightest technological means by which to access to the world; in fact, the Rohingya are the only ethnic group in Burma that is unequipped to defend themselves.
Considered as Bangladeshi by Myanmar while not being welcomed by Bangladesh, the Rohingya people are struggling to survive as “stateless persons” in the region. In view of the fact that the two countries deny their very existence, the Rohingya have no identity documents, and thus no citizenship rights. As their presence cannot be proved, neither can their absence.
Despite the difficulty of compiling evidence after the incidents, the evidence of the crimes against Rakhine Muslims is vast. Witness testimonies are numerous. There are also many reports of the systematic rape of Rohingya women, and also other ethnic minorities around the country, at the hands of Burmese soldiers or police. These are well-documented reports, and Human Rights Watch has quite thoroughly covered many of them.
As stated by numerous human rights organizations’ reports, the Myanmar government is instigating a program of ethnic cleansing against the Muslim civilian population in its borders.
To prevent the systematic eradication of Rakhine Muslims, the Myanmar government should be advised to continue with its democratization process and assisted along the way. Its 1982 constitution should be reformed with the inclusion of an article that grants citizenship to Rohingya.
In the meantime, the international community should ensure the safety of these people by urging the UN to send a peacekeeping force to the region. Furthermore, to keep them in contact with the world, the international media and humanitarian aid organizations should be given access to the region. The situation of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) should first be improved, then they should be given more proper places to shelter.
In order to put an immediate end to these sufferings in Myanmar, it is of course essential for the whole world to unite in showing its opposition to oppression. It is a known fact, and one that has left deep scars in the past, that a policy of eliminating the Muslim population in the region has been followed for approximately a century. To this day, extremist groups and gangs that are encouraging hatred and oppression and inciting the Buddhist community in the country against the Muslim population are still following this policy and seeking to make the country uninhabitable for Muslims. As in the past, the aim is to eradicate Rakhine Province of Muslims by intimidating and driving away the Muslim people.
However, if all the countries of the world, all international communities, human rights organizations and people of good conscience follow up on this appalling situation in a determined and persistent manner and do not turn a blind eye to the concealment of the true facts, then of course this oppression will come to an end. It must not be forgotten that a world that remains heedless to the cries of the persecuted will cause that oppression to worsen. It is therefore a matter of the very greatest urgency for the U.N., with its mission of bringing about world peace, and for all the duly empowered authorities to take action and put an end to the human drama going on in Myanmar.
Adnan Oktar's article on Al Arabiya - Farsi: