What’s happening to the Muslim-minority Rohingyas in Myanmar is nothing close to any humanitarian crisis that has erupted by an active war. The tragedy in this crisis is that there is no civil war or military conflict in Myanmar. Rather, the only reason behind this blatant genocide is the ethnic prejudice and oppressive ambitions of the Burmese government against one of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable ethnic communities.
This past weekend more than 60 people died as their only vessel of hope drowned in turbulent waters en route to neighboring Bangladesh. Reports indicate that over 80 people were onboard including 50 children. Since August, nearly half a million Rohingya people have fled Myanmar and close to 400 people have been killed — this is while many other deaths are not reported by the Burmese government.
What makes this genocide even worse is that the world — especially majority Muslim countries that pride themselves in promoting “Islamic values” are simply spectators of this genocide. Meanwhile, global leaders — the very few who bothered to speak out — as well as the United Nations continue to issue “statements” rather than to take concrete actions to stop the massive sexual assault, rape, torture, and killing of this population.
The Rohingyas are a minority Muslim group, many of whom left Bangladesh in the 1970s and ended up in Myanmar — a majority Buddhist nation — that does not recognize their legitimacy as citizens. Since then, over 1 million stateless Rohingya people have left Myanmar and took refuge around the world, including Gulf countries; where a 200,000 majority currently lives in Saudi Arabia. Those living in Myanmar are persona non-grata with no status and citizenship in their home state of Rakhine.
It is only natural for such an oppressed, marginalized, and poor community to rise for the very basic right to citizenship. Since August, the Rohingya’s outcry for legitimacy and recognition in a country they call home was stifled not just by force but by brutal killings, rape, and destruction of their villages.
Prior to the eruption of the news last month, where thousands of Rohingya people fled to Bangladesh amidst mass-killings and torture, many in the Western world did not know of this ethnic group. Now, I wonder what would the United States or Germany do if instead of South East Asia, this ethnic cleansing was taking place in Canada or France? Is proximity enough reason to take a back seat when it comes to genocide? Does ethical leadership come to affect only when familiar territory is under attack or in times of genocide should world powers still exercise their might to save those with whom they have no political or economic ties?
According to a recent report from the BBC, “one former UN official said the head of the UN in Myanmar (Burma) tried to prevent human rights advocates from visiting sensitive Rohingya areas.” Now while the UN and Myanmar officials have denied such claims, it is beyond evident that they have not done anything — simply anything — to stop this slaughter that continues to unfold.
What’s making the Rohingya crisis even worse is the ongoing rape and sexual assault that’s being carried out by Myanmarese officials — but while being documented — it is not being stopped by UN authorities and other nation states.
The accounts of murder and loss of family members are not fabricated. When hundreds of women and young girls — and at points men — document their horrific rape and torture to the very few journalists documenting their plight in Bangladesh — the world must take action. These are brutally oppressed people that if not supported will be a burden to the already poor nation of Bangladesh, but also a ripe target of extremis recruitment.
A time will come, when the world will look at the events of this past month as another Rwanda and what’ll remain would be a heavy conscious that’ll mirror the failure of world leaders during the genocide of close to 1 million Tutsi minority by the majority Hutu in the poor African nation.
Tara Kangarlou is an award-winning journalist who has has written, reported, and produced for CNN, CNN International, NBC Los Angeles, Al Jazeera America, Huffington Post, and Al Monitor. In 2016, she founded Art of Hope a non-profit 501(c)3 organization helping Syrian refugees overcome trauma, PTSD, and psychological wounds. She is currently working on her upcoming book on Iran. To read more of her reports, Click Here Now.
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