Rohingyas burn as the world fiddles
2017-09-15 04:55:49 -

When I wrote about the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar last December, I did not think that I will be writing again so soon about more atrocities against them. As I write now, the UN says as many as 140,000 Rohingya refugees have fled across the border to Bangladesh — and numbers are quickly expected to reach 300,000.


Myanmar authorities claim that the Rohingya are illegal Bengali immigrants, while the Rohingya see themselves as citizens of Myanmar who have lived there for centuries. 


The Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship in 1982. This means that they can’t access education, health care or jobs, and they have no right to vote. 


Instead of paying attention to their suffering over the years, however, the world was busy showing solidarity with Aung San Suu Kyi, the democratic activist who became an apologist for the crimes committed against the Rohingya with the rise of Burmese-Buddhist ethno-nationalism. These serious crimes include widespread rape: more than half of Rohingya women interviewed by UN investigators said they were raped or sexually assaulted at the hands of the Myanmar military.


Besides the military and the government, extremist Buddhist monks are inciting hatred against the Rohingya. Their fundamentalist ‘969’ movement is yet to be classified as a terrorist organisation, but that is exactly what it has become in practice. 


While the UN considers the Rohingya as the most persecuted minority in the world, it has hardly done anything to protect them. The situation has surely been compounded by the easing of sanctions as led by the EU and former US president Barack Obama, and the acceptance of a ‘democratic’ election in which Muslims were not allowed to vote, and in which the military were guaranteed a quarter of all parliamentary seats.


To be sure, current US president Donald Trump will be in no rush to save Muslims lives in Myanmar, considering he doesn’t want to see any Muslims in his own country.


I’m firmly for equality and justice anywhere in the world, but if one compares the way the world has reacted to the suffering of the Rohingya with the plight of non-Muslim minorities in the Middle East like the Yazidis, one can see the double standards and the hypocrisy.


The official response from the Muslim world to the Rohingya hasn’t been impressive, either. Countries that haven’t wasted a penny in funding the destruction of Syria and Yemen offered only weak condemnation of the ethnic cleansing of their Muslim siblings in Myanmar. Only Turkey’s President Erdogan pledged to continue sending humanitarian aid to the Rohingya and to raise their case in the international arena. Economic and diplomatic sanctions and an arms embargo are the bare minimum that the international community should be implementing to pressure Myanmar’s authorities to end their persecution of the Rohingya.


It must also be added that the plight of the Rohingya Muslims exposes the cowardice of IS, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram and others, who claim to defend Islam while their hands are soaked with Muslim blood.


Mohammed Samaana is a freelance writer based in Belfast.

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