United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says Myanmar’s security forces are instigating violence in the country, calling for an investigation into the persecution of Muslims in the South Asian state.
Reports say 650 Rohingya Muslims were killed as of June 28 during clashes in the western region of Rakhine in Myanmar. This is while 1,200 others are missing and 80,000 more have been displaced.
The government of Myanmar refuses to recognize Rohingyas, who it claims are not natives and classifies as illegal migrants; nevertheless, the Rohingyas are said to be Muslim descendants of Persian, Turkish, Bengali, and Pathan origin, who migrated to Myanmar as early as the 8th century.
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims are living in temporary accommodation after fleeing violence in the South Asian state.
Over the past two years, waves of ethnic Muslims have attempted to flee by boats in the face of systematic oppression by Myanmar’s government.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Massoud Shadjareh, the head of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, from London, to further discuss the issue.
The news analysis also airs the views of Abdul Alim Musa, Imam of Masjid al-Islam from Washington, and James Jennings, the president of Conscience International from Atlanta. The following is a rough transcription of the interview.
Press TV: Why are we seeing all of a sudden a lot of interest in this situation, but this has been going on for a while? Why in general has the international community basically been silent?
Shadjareh: Well, unfortunately there’s been a silence going on for many, many years, decades. Rohingya Muslims have been suffering systematically. You know, they’ve been facing discrimination of all sorts. They’ve been ethnically cleansed from their own land. They’ve been raped. They’re denied basic education, health, housing, every aspect of one’s life.
Unfortunately, even when they go as a refugee to neighboring countries in Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and Indonesia, also they haven’t been treated well at all. We see that discrimination continues beyond that.
We’ve been concerned of the issue of Rohingyas for years. We have written reports on it. We’ve highlighted it. We have rung the alarm bells at the UN.
But now it seems that, you know, even after the end of the dictatorship, the military dictatorship, the Rohingya Muslims are still being targeted even more vigorously by pro-democracy and Buddhist monks. Buddhist monks now are circling around the villages of Muslims, making sure no aid goes in.
Press TV: Let me just jump in right here, Mr. Shadjareh, because I guess a lot of people seem to be confused about this because of the image that usually Buddhists and especially Buddhist monks… usually projecting an image of wanting peace, so it seems that a lot of people are surprised. Tell us what is behind this reaction by the Buddhist monks in this situation.
Shadjareh: Really, we are very concerned ourselves because the reality is, you know, that in the past the monks were a part of the movement to bring democracy and an end of dictatorship and a military junta in the region. Unfortunately now, they’ve become partners with the military in implementing this.
There are two reasons that the Rohingyas are being discriminated in this way. One is the fact that they’re seen as not part of the same ethnic group as the rest and, indeed, there is a level of nationalism or super-nationalism played here.
The other side is actually the fact that they are Muslim. They’re being discriminated on two levels.
I think we need to sort of really dig deep, we really realize that what is happening in the region is the same thing that is happening elsewhere, the rise of extreme nationalism. Extreme nationalism which is leading to sort of ethnic cleansing.
We’re seeing the same sort of extreme nationalism now in Europe. It’s showing its ugly face and it’s been targeting Islam and Muslims. Really, this is very dangerous.
Press TV: [The previous guest speaker,] Imam Musa[,] just brought up a point about natural resources. I want to look at that because earlier this month US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had actually thanked the president of Myanmar for ‘moving his country such a long distance in such a short period of time’.
When this was happening, do you think that she was either ignorant of what was happening to the Muslims in that country or was it that natural resources take a more important role than, perhaps, the people?
Shadjareh: Unfortunately, the international and Western nations always have been more concerned with the finances and with the resources. We saw what happened in Kuwait, what happens in the Middle East, and what happens elsewhere.
That really has to do with getting your hands on the resources and making sure that your opponent here, China and all the others, are not going to be able to get their hands on the resources. That is one aspect.
There is another aspect that, you know, Myanmar has gone through this so-called very peaceful revolution. It seems that Muslims are the victims of the bonding, sort of, process between the military and the so-called pro-democracy on the basis of nationalism, super-nationalism.
Super-nationalism which results in massacring and ethnic cleansing of the Muslims, is the bonding elements; and the international community knows this and wants to keep quiet about it because at the end of the day, they really don’t care if a group of people become victims of this sort of atrocities. We saw that in Bosnia. We are seeing it in Palestine. We are seeing it in Kashmir. Really, here is no different.
What the West usually concerns or shows its concerns with the human rights, in reality when it comes to the real term, they are not willing to lift a finger because politically there is no will to actually protect innocent lives when there is no financial award at the end of it.
Press TV: How likely is that to happen, what [previous guest speaker] Mr. Jennings has suggested, that they need to become citizens of that country, that they have been at hundreds and hundreds of years? What will it take to actually get that to happen?
Shadjareh: The international community needs to put sanctions against the Myanmar government for not allowing or ignoring the reality that since the 7th century, these people have been part and parcel of those citizens of that area.
Indeed, we need to sort of make sure that the international community articulates that and sanctions anyone who opposes that reality and that truth.
But I’ll go beyond that. I will say, you know, if the Rohingyas weren’t Muslim and they were indeed from the Jewish background or other religious group, there would have been a huge outcry, a much greater outcry over the international community.
The reason that is not happening is we are seeing a rise in hatred against Muslims and, indeed, a fascism and a racism which is legitimized.
The only form of legitimized racism and fascism right now is anti-Muslim hatred, and we are seeing that in the streets of Europe, we are seeing that among the politicians in Europe, in Holland, in Germany, in Britain, in the United States and elsewhere.
This level of demonization, it’s always in the past has left to either genocide, holocaust or ethnic cleansing, be it in Nazi Germany, in Bosnia or right now in Myanmar.
I think what we need to do is immediately put pressure on the international community to give the recognition and support that the Rohingyas need; but also long-term, we need to fight the rise of this fascism which has been legitimized through Islamophobia, and we need to actually turn the corner, otherwise the whole of the world community is going to face the consequences of this sort of atrocities, will become a norm elsewhere.