A letter to humanity

The Islamic world just celebrated Eid-Al Adha but what hit the headlines were not messages of happiness but bloodshed and oppression. Rohingya, Muslims who have been exposed to extensive torture and killing by some of the armed forces of Myanmar and extremist Buddhist groups, suffered a horrific massacre starting with an incident on August 25th when a small group of militants attacked government outposts and Myanmar’s military retaliated in a disproportionate show of force.

According to the official reports, the number of martyrs were 3,000 between August 25-28. However, a more accurate and much higher toll was  claimed by a Mro ethnic anonymous police officer, confirming the murder of at least 20,000 Rohingya from August 25th to 31st. Hence, tens of thousands fled to Bangladesh, where they spoke of that their villages being torched, women being raped and friends being massacred. Sadly, there is not one Rohingya left who hasn’t lost at least one family member.

The stories of these persecuted people hurt one’s conscience and compel him to remember how he should be grateful of what he has and not to complain about what he misses. As per a Rohingya eyewitness from Maungdaw Township, Myanmar army officers raided their village and began shooting at people’s homes. He described the situation that resembled like horror movies with these horrifying words: “Government forces and the border guard police killed at least 11 people in my village. When they arrived they started shooting at everything that moved. Some soldiers then carried out arson attacks. Women and children were also among the dead… Even a baby wasn't spared.”

On the other hand, Myanmar officials still justify their actions as Army Commander Secretary General Min Aung Hlaing upholds the notion that clearing the Rohingya villages is crucial to eliminate the small militant groups. His appalling comments indicate that he won’t slow down his campaign, describing it as “unfinished business” going back to the time of WWII. Moreover, in a documentary by Channel 4 putting forth some of the realities in the country, we can see the same disturbing mindset in other state officials as they claim that there are no Rohingya in their country - neither now nor in history - and insist they are foreigners with no identities. A book handed out to the Channel 4 representative by government officials once more reveals how the people of Myanmar perceive the 1. 1 million Rohingya, who used to have a population of about four million before the attacks.They do not even pronounce their name but rather refer to them as “R” word (the Rohingya people are beyond such a claim) and deny their existence in the area and evaluate it as as “a political construct based on a myth”.

However, history shows the story is the other way around. The established history of Arakan goes back to 3 BC and Islamic faith reached Arakan on the 8th century AD through the Arab merchants. Following King Narameikla’s conversion to Islam in 15th century, the Arakan Islamic Kingdom was established and Islam has spread rapidly since then. In 1784, Burma invaded Arakan and inflicted torture on two ethnic groups: Rohingya Muslims and Buddhist Rakhine.  The Arakan people who fled this tyranny took refuge in Bangladesh. Both groups co-existed in peace and tranquility until the 19th century. Later on, the Burmese government incited Buddhists against Muslims and in 1942 the first overt massacre, known as Karbalai Arakan, took place and the sequence of events we’re all familiar with followed.  

Following attacks that accelerated in 2012, thousands of Rohingya were tortured, burned alive or executed. Many had to escape due to the brutality Myanmar’s forces and the Buddhists carried out. Only since October 2016, some 87,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh. Some used local boats to cross a stream to reach the Bangladeshi side of the border. Regrettably, these boats often capsized and many Rohingya lost their lives to this river trying to escape by running away from their homelands. The scale of the disaster in these latest occurrences are visible even in  satellite images as Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said, “This new satellite imagery shows the total destruction of a Muslim village, and prompts serious concerns that the level of destruction…may be far worse than originally thought.”

These recent violent attacks prompted the UN and some countries to express their concern over the effect on civilians. Turkish President Erdoğan took a strong stance against this savagery being imposed on Muslim minority by calling it a “genocide”. He called on the international community to take action to help the Rohingya minority, saying the world was "blind and deaf" to their plight in a speech on August 28th.

One may wonder what lies behind the motives of Myanmar’s military and extremist Buddhist groups to be able to act so heinously against these oppressed Muslims. Children are dying of hunger if not burned or shot, women and the elderly are summarily executed without any discrimination. They have no home and no place else to go to. The reason for this suffering and pain is the lack of leadership in the Islamic world. There are many solid steps to be taken to prevent this plight such as holding big, crowded rallies, cutting diplomatic ties with Myanmar’s government or imposing sanctions on them, organizing meetings with leaders of the UN or other powerful states, informing the unaware of what is going on in this part of the world via social media or WhatsApp groups, writing articles in the mainstream media to voice their concerns, but none of them will be sufficient. What is necessary to end the spilling of the blood and to dry the tears of the eyes of the Rohingya is to pray for the unity of the Islamic world regardless of difference in opinions and focus on the teachings of the Qur’an. Let us join  forces and not let any other genocide  like Srebrenica or Rwanda take place.

Adnan Oktar's piece in Tehran Times

2017-09-07 17:42:40

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