Myanmar Muslims suffering amid media blackout
As Muslims around the world prepare for the holy month of Ramadan, the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar are being painfully subjected to barbaric and appalling atrocities of extremist Buddhists. Their lives are in a constant state of trepidation and suffering.
Branded by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities of the world, Rohingyas are a Muslim people living in the Rakhine State, located in the west of Myanmar. With a population of 3 million, Rakhine state is bordered by the Bay of Bengal to the west and the majority of its residents are Theravada Buddhists and Hindus.
The suppression of the Rohingya Muslims of the Arakan region dates back to World War II. On March 28, 1942, about 5,000 Rohingya Muslims were brutally massacred by the Rakhine nationalists in the Minbya and Mrohaung Townships. After this incident, the Muslims of the region were frequently subject to harassment by the Burmese government which has so far refused to grant them official citizenship. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, this lack of full citizenship rights means that the Rohingyas should tolerate other abuses, including restrictions on their freedom of movement, discriminatory limitations on access to education, and arbitrary confiscation of property.
It’s said that as a result of dire living conditions and discriminatory treatment by the government, some 300,000 Rohingyas have so far immigrated to Bangladesh and 24,000 of them have also escaped to Malaysia in search of a better life. Many of them have also fled to Thailand, but neither Bangladesh nor Thailand has received them warmly. Bangladesh is negotiating with the Burmese government to return the Rohingyas and Thailand has sporadically rejected them. There have been instances where boats of Rohingyas reaching Thailand have been towed out to sea and allowed to sink, sparking international anger among Muslims and non-Muslims.
Human Rights Watch says that the government authorities continue to require Rohingya Muslims to perform forced labor. According to HRW, those who refuse or complain are physically threatened, sometimes with death, and children as young as seven years old have been seen on forced labour teams.
Writing for The Egyptian Gazette, University of Waterloo professor Dr. Mohamed Elmasry has enumerated the different hardships the Rohingya Muslims have historically undergone. He writes that they are subjected to various forms of extortion and arbitrary taxation, land confiscation, forced eviction and house destruction and financial restrictions on marriage. Rohingyas continue to be used as forced labourers on roads and at military camps.
The Myanmar government’s mistreatment of the Rohingyas, however, has long been contested and protested by international organizations. For several years, human rights activists have decried the arbitrary measures levelled against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar by the government and extremist Buddhists. In May 2009, Elaine Pearson, the Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director issued a statement in protest at the deteriorating conditions of the Rohingya Muslims, calling on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to press the Burmese government to end its brutal practices: “the treatment of the Rohingya in Burma is deplorable – the Burmese government doesn’t just deny Rohingya their basic rights, it denies they are even Burmese citizens.”
Now, conflict has escalated in the Rakhine State again and Muslims are once more experiencing difficult days. It was reported that 10 Rohingya Muslims were killed by a mob of 300 Rakhines while on their way back from the country’s former capital Rangoon. According to a group of UK-based NGOs, 650 Rohingyas were massacred from June 10 to 28. The United Nations estimates that between 50,000 and 90,000 Rohingyas were displaced since the eruption of violence in the Asian nation. However, due to the absence of independent reporters and monitors in the country, it’s impossible to verify the exact number of those who have been displaced.
It’s also reported that some 9,000 homes belonging to Muslims in the western state of Rakhine were destroyed. On July 20, Amnesty International called the recent attacks against minority Rohingyas and other Muslims in Myanmar a “step back” in the country’s recent progress on human rights, citing increased violence and unlawful arrests following a state of emergency declared six weeks ago.
The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has voiced its concern over the recent violence in the state of Rakhine and the varying reports which have leaked out as to the number of the Muslims killed. As reported by the TimeTurk News Agency, over 1,000 Rohingya Muslims have been murdered thus far in conflicts in the region.
The mainstream media in the West have been largely silent about the massacre of Muslims in Myanmar and the ordeal that has befallen them.
Along with the mainstream media, the Western governments have also blatantly turned a blind eye to the heartrending anguish and suffering of the Rohingya Muslims. Even the renowned Burmese political activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who has been released from house arrest and was just invited to Norway to deliver her Nobel acceptance speech 21 years after being awarded the prize, preferred not to speak about the affliction of her fellow citizens.
People around the world, however, should realize that coming to the help of a subjugated minority that is undergoing excruciating hardship is a moral responsibility and although the so-called international community is silent about the inhumane massacre of Muslims in Myanmar, each of us can lend a hand in putting an end to their suffering.
Feeding hungry in Ramadan: Who will feed Rohingya Myanmar Muslims?
July 16, 2012
Francis Wade – Dawn.com
AID groups have warned of an impending humanitarian catastrophe in western Myanmar as authorities attempt to isolate tens of thousands of the displaced ethnic Rohingya minority in camps described by one aid worker as “open air prisons”.
Aid has struggled to reach those affected by sectarian unrest in early June. The UN announced on Friday that 10 aid workers in Arakan state had been arrested, five were UN staff. Some have been charged, although the details remain unclear.
Rates of malnutrition among the Muslim Rohingya, who have borne the brunt of emergency measures implemented in the wake of fierce rioting in June between the minority group and the majority Arakanese, are said to be “alarming”. Most aid workers have either been evacuated or forced to flee in recent weeks.
“We are worried that malnutrition rates already have and will continue to rise dramatically; if free and direct humanitarian access accompanied by guaranteed security is not granted with the shortest delay, there’s no way they won’t rise,” said Tarik Kadir of Action Against Hunger.
Its staff were forced to leave northern Arakan state, where 800,000 Rohingya live and where malnutrition rates were already far above the global indicator for a health crisis. With scant medical care reaching the area, the situation is likely to worsen.
“There’s no way of measuring the impact over the past month because staff have either been evacuated or forced to flee,” he said. “And given that rainy season is under way, when you factor in all these other problems, we don’t need to measure it to know it’s a catastrophe.”
President Thein Sein, who has been praised for reform, on Wednesday unsuccessfully requested UN help in resettling nearly one million Rohingya abroad. Critics likened it to mass deportation.
Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said it “would expect a strong international response” to any attempt to deport the Rohingya. HRW staff who recently returned from Arakan state said that while both Rohingya and Arakanese were complicit in “terrible violence” during the rioting, subsequent mass arrests “focused on Rohingya”.
“Local police, the military, and border police have shot and killed Rohingya during sweep operations, those detained are being held incommunicado,” she said.
A resident of Maungdaw in northern Arakan said he had witnessed Rohingya men and children as young as 12 being tortured in a police station in early July. After interrogating them about arson attacks in the town, police “handed them over” to Arakanese youths inside the station.
“I saw these youths burning the vital parts of old men with a cheroot [cigar] and also hitting young Muslim detainees with an iron rod.” The official death toll of the rioting and its aftermath has been put at 78, although the real figure may be much higher. International observers are banned from visiting northern Arakan state.
A 1982 law refuses to recognise the Rohingya as Myanmar citizens, and hundreds of thousands have fled to Bangladesh. The aid problems have coincided with a dramatic rise in food prices in Arakan. — The Guardian, London
MuslimVillage.com Editors Note: The Myanmar government is not allowing aid agencies to enter Rakhine state to help the Rohingya Muslims. If you know of any organisations that are able to render aid and accept online donations, please contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org