Tuesday, November 13, 2012
The history and plight of the Rohingyas
The Rohingyas are one of the most persecuted communities in the world. Although, they have been living in the state of Arakan since the 8th century (which is now part of Burma), the Rohingyas have been under extreme scrutiny by the Burmese government. They haven’t been recognized as citizens of The Union of Burma since Burmese independence in 1948, instead they are known as ‘non citizens’.
The Burmese Junta have discriminated the Rohingya because:
• They are not similar in looks
• Speak a different language
• Have a different religion.
As a means of clamping down on the Rohingya, the Junta has restricted even the most basic of rights such as education, marriage and citizenship.
The Burmese government endorses the Burmese culture and the Buddhist faith for their national citizens; the Rohingyas fall outside of this ideal criteria because they want to retain their own culture and the Muslim faith. As a result, the Rohingyas, sidelined and marginalized, have to live with their derogatory national status of ‘non-citizens’.
Between 1978 and 1992, approximately 200,000 Rohingyas left Burma to escape the tyranny of the Burmese military. Most of them moved to southern Bangladesh where they remain as refugees. In one of the most densely populated countries in the world, life in Bangladesh proved just as hard as it did in Burma.
In Bangladesh, the Rohingyas are faced with hardly any protection from their host country. A burden to the densely populated country, the Rohingyas are denied humanitarian aid which forces them to turn to other means of income such as drug trafficking.
There is one registered camp situated meters away from the registered camp where 90,000 refugees live. Another camp 15 miles away, in Leda Bazaar where approximately 25,000 Rohingya live, is where Restless Beings focus has been.
In 1962, the Rohingyas were systematically denied of political, civil, economic and social human rights. Today, the Rohingyas in Burma cannot commute from one village to another due to the security forces known as ‘Nasaka’ that patrol their movement at various checkpoints. This affects their education and access to medication.
Rohingyas are denied citizenship despite living in Arakan for centuries because Muslims are portrayed as ‘relics of a colonial past’. This stems from the fact that Muslims supported the British during the colonial period because they were promised autonomy in Rakhine previously known as Arakan.
Rohingyas have been subject to the systematic use of rape as a weapon of war, forced labour, and land confiscation. Over 3,500 villages have been destroyed since 1996.
Similar to the Rohingyas living in Burma, the Rohingya refugees are limited in their movement and subject to exploitation. In refugee camps, the Rohingya women are victims of sexual violence, children are denied education and there is limited access to health and medical aid.
The hostile environment for Rohingyas in Bangladesh urges the refugees in Bangladesh and Burma to seek help in other parts of Asia such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia; however, these parts are not usually welcoming.
Update from Restless Beings
Reports have been flooding in this afternoon of a new wave of attacks on Rohingya this afternoon leaving hundreds homeless and looking for shelter on foot during torrential monsoon rains whilst others were left dead. The recent clashes have been reported from 4 villages near Rauthedoung were as many as 12 have been killed with 1,000 Rohingya displaced as well as in 3 villages south of Maungdaw where 3 people have been killed this Thursday, August 16, 2012.
In the minutes leading up to sunset as many Rohingya were preparing to open their fasts (Ramadhan) hundreds of Rakhine activists armed with sticks, batons and other weaponry forced their way into Rohingya houses in three adjacent villages. As the villagers attempted to fight back against the Rakhine who had violated their homes, Lun Htin and Nasaka (Burmese armed forces and paramilitary) opened live rounds of fire on the villagers.
Three men and one woman have been shot dead whilst many others have been injured. In total the three entire villages are being evacuated with the Rohingya unsure of where they are to move to next. Whilst one of the sources was describing the events, shooting and wailing could be heard in the background.
In a separate incident, but most likely part of this new wave of violence, four villages near Rathedoung were attacked late last night, Wednesday, leaving more than 12 dead and over 1,000 Rohingya displaced. Similar to incidents in Maungdaw today, Rakhine had attacked the villages and were backed up by Burmese armed forces and paramilitary servicemen.
The forces pushed the Rohingya villages from their homes, across the river and now the camp of 1,000 are moving north through mountainous terrains and during monsoon season looking for shelter. 12 people have been confirmed dead – 8 were shot dead and 4 more have lost their lives battling against the elements whilst being shelter less.
As international media have recently been reporting from the region and as an aid deal has been agreed by the President with OIC, this is seen as the final, brutal wave against the Rohingya during the recent clashes. It is feared that this move will be drawn out over many days surely; many more lives will be lost.
The author is Mabrur Ahmed of Restless Beings – http://www.restlessbeings.org