By Yasir M’alik.
We live in a world where there is enough wealth and technological innovation to address the worst humanitarian disasters but what’s lacking is the will to tackle these tragedies with long-term solutions. When there should be concreted efforts to end sufferings, increasingly resources are being allocated to fund proxy wars. Muslim community around the world finds itself in a vicious circle of unending crises. Ranging from catastrophic Arab Spring to startling radicalism by an alleged Islamic Group in Iraq and protracted conflict in Afghanistan to barbaric massacre in Syria, violence in Myanmar has flared up and making headlines now.
It’s a crime in Myanmar to be Muslim. Rohingya are a Muslim minority in the northern Rakhine state of Myanmar, which used to be called Burma. According to the UN, Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities on the planet who are being terrorized and wiped out as a distinct ethnic and religious group. The Myanmar government does not recognize them as citizens and considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Nay San Lwin, one of the Rohingya’s activists claimed that they have been residing in the Arakan state since the 7th century. Rohingya are living in apartheid conditions and are often subjected to state-led massacres. Academics and Scholars term this brutal ethnic cleansing of Rohingya as genocide. Of 1.3 million Rohingya, only 40,000 have citizenship, rest are considered stateless. A 1982 Citizenship law stated, Rohingya can become citizens only if they prove their ancestors were in the country prior to 1832 but government-backed militias made this difficult by razing Rohingya villages. The army has been accused of running a brutal campaign of oppression against them.
Rohingya have also been discriminated against by Buddhist nationalists who think that Rohingya Muslims pose a demographic and cultural threat and fear Islam will take over Myanmar. The nationalist Buddhist campaign “99” spreads hate-speech against minorities in Myanmar. Ashin Wirathu, leader of 969 Nationalist Movement, says, “Muslims are only well-behaved when they are weak, when they become strong, they are like a wolf or Jackal; in large packs they hunt down other animals.” The conflict between Buddists and Muslims got worse in 2012. Deadly riots broke out in Rakhine state after reports that a Buddhist woman was gang-raped by Muslim men. 57 Muslims and 31 Buddhists were killed, leading to a military crackdown on the Rohingya. Military crackdown have led to one of the deadliest bouts of violence to engulf the Rohingya community in decades, forcing thousands of Rohingya out of their homes. Nearly 1000 people have been killed brutally and thousands are left with multiple injuries in Rakhine state of Myanmar, since the violence escalated.
Rohingya community want safe zone and international intervention to ease their torments.
Walking through the flooded fields and crossing mountains, almost 313,000 Rohingya have, so far, fled to Bangladesh, escaping severe persecution, rape and arson by both the Burmese military and Buddhist militia. Utter brutality was displayed when Myanmar forces opened fire on armless Rohingya civilians as they tried to pass through the border to Bangladesh to flee the violence.
Aung San Su Kyi, state counsellor of Myanmar and one of the most controversial figures in Myanmar who leads the Buddhist majority country, has turned a blind eye to the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims. Su Kyi has refused to acknowledge the plight of the Rohingya and said that the reports are exaggerated and distorted. Myanmar government is not doing enough to rein in the military and basically take control of the situation. Bangladeshi hospitals are copiously packed by refugees with multiple gunshot injuries. Despite of overwhelming human rights violations under her watch, the Noble Peace Prize winner and daughter of Burma’s founding father Aung San, still displays a callous approach.
A worldwide campaign demanding to take back Aung San Su Kyi, state counsellor of Myanmar’s Noble Peace Prize is underway.
Fed-up and downtrodden Rohingya want safe zone and international intervention to ease their torments. United Nations wants Myanmar to accept the stateless Rohingya Muslims as citizens but hasn’t resorted to any pragmatic and swift response amidst intense suppression uptill now. Although the need and urgency to end the Rohingya crisis has been resonated by an assortment of many world leaders from Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, yet the intensity of the crisis requires synergetic action by almost all the Muslim countries particularly or by the potent international governments to put pressure on the Rohingya’s de-facto regime to control the situation. Although a worldwide campaign demanding to take back Su Kyi’s Noble Peace Prize is underway yet the solution does not lie in executing this option.
“Killings in Myanmar is an alarming call for collective global effort.”
Turkey has done well to help the oppressed Rohingya, giving thousands of tons of aid and making multilateral diplomatic efforts to end this human catastrophe. There have been massive worldwide protests against the human rights violations in Myanmar but there is a need for a more articulated and measured response by the world governments to resolve the crisis.
The events like killings in Myanmar is an alarming call for collective global effort. Yet, the progress and sustainability on the rights of human and states became subject to risk and vulnerability. In order to grasp the enormity of such events like religious intolerance, some suggestions could be useful in this regard. First, in relation to use force against a particular community states should explain the factors of charging or alleging specific communities, giving due consideration to international law mechanisms of lawful use of force. Second, new strategies of dealing with minorities should be formulated in state institutions. And lastly, moderate approaches to peaceful co-existence specifically including religion and culture should be promoted which constitute universality.
The writer is a research fellow at South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, Islamabad. Areas of expertise include Afghanistan and Turkey.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.