A massive herd of refugees, standing stateless in their homeland, have started hitting the headlines every now and then. Dubbed as the world’s most persecuted people, the Rohingyas have had a dark time in the past few years, probably the darkest in their long dark history. Their men are getting butchered, women getting raped and torn apart, kids tortured, and yet the world casts a shadow of doubt on their situation.
The total strength of Rohingyas reach a count of around 1.1 million, more than the population of many nations. All of them have been living in a country that has denied citizenship to them since 1982. They’ve been restricted from freedom of movement, state education and civil service jobs. Yet no country bothered to give them a shelter or even look up to them as humans. Now, negative or positive, they’re at least there in the headlines of almost every nation.
We humans tend to reach a conclusion without going through the complete details. Same has been the case with Rohingyas. Many are unaware about their complete history but still hold a strong opinion about them. To all such people, here are 7 details about the Rohingyas which you ought to know.
1. Who are the Rohingyas?
A community that has its traces in Myanmar since the 8th century, the Rohingyas are one of Myanmar’s 135 minorities. Largely Muslims, Rohingyas are people with a Bangladeshi dialect residing in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. They claim themselves of being descendants of Arabs who settled down in the Arakan valley ages ago. They have somehow managed to reside alongside the Buddhist majority of Myanmar, who loathe them and consider them as illegal migrants poaching upon their land. Rohingyas have had a fair share in Myanmar’s history as well. Many bureaucrats, legislators, and political leaders have come from the Rohingya community.
2. What makes them world’s most persecuted minorities?
Though they’re allowed to live in Myanmar, they’re termed as foreign residents and not citizens. Despite being able to trace the Rohingya history to the 8th century, the Burmese government refuses to recognise them as a national race. As the government failed to feed the 450,000 strong army, the army men resorted to extortion and theft from the nearby fields of Rohingyas. If those battalions were not enough, the local governments made them undergo forced labour without any proper pay.
They have been facing all this and much much more since ages now. The current scenario of Rohingyas fleeing Myanmar for Bangladesh at any cost tells you how terrible their life has been back home. Situation has gone from bad to worse, women and kids too are now facing the ruthless nature of the army men. Thousands have been killed well before this military crackdown and unfortunately for them not a single culprit has been punished by any system. Which underlines the fact that there is no law made to protect them.
3. Is it for the first time they’re facing these atrocities?
If you’re someone who knows anything about refugees, you’re guaranteed to hold some knowledge about the Rohingyas. For the novices, it might be a name they’ve never heard of before. Under British India, the Rohingyas held many significant administrative positions. Post independence, M. A. Gaffar managed to sought official recognition for the Rohingya as one of Burma’s ethnic groups. The discontent however remained constant. Majorities kept up their negative take on the Rohingyas and hardly let them have a normal life. On the pretext of this rising discontent, efforts were made to establish a separate Rohingya province as well. But that too failed due to some ugly political tactics.
This military crackdown is not that he first of its kind either, a similar crackdown had emerged in 1991-92 that made over 250,000 Rohingyas to flee over to Bangladesh. This almost invoked a war between the two nations. The atrocities had however commenced majorly in 1982 when the Burmese National Law which ripped apart the nationality of Rohingyas was enacted by General Ne Win’s government. Since then, all these crackdowns and military tortures have become a daily routine for them with almost no help or justice coming from anywhere.
4. How did the recent military crackdown on Rohingyas began?
As per the official reports, it all began on the 9th of October,2016, when a group of armed insurgents attacked multiple police posts in Rakhine state, leaving 9 police personnel dead. A week later, Harakah-Al-Yaqin claimed responsibilities for the attacks. As a result, a military crackdown was triggered in the northern Rakhine state. 1200 houses were set ablaze in around just 5 villages, women were raped, helicopters were used to shoot at them, and arrests too were made.
The Burmese government denied media entry into the persecuted areas. However, on 3rd February, 2017, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) submitted a report based on interviews with over 200 Rohingyas. They described how military abuses included gang-rape, mass killings, and child killing. Moving on to March 2017, a document listed 423 detained by the police since October 2016 in connection with the attacks on police posts.
On August 25 2017, another group of Rohingya militants attacked government forces. In return, the government forces started hitting back at any and almost every Rohingya they managed to find. This has prompted the Rohingyas to flee from the country as soon as possible. The poor clan is paying almost their everything to somehow move out to some neighbouring nation.
5. What has the Myanmar government done for them?
Ever since the wave of hatred started up in 2012, the Myanmar government has been criticised for its blunt response against the riots. They’ve been so ignorant that the whole incident was dubbed as a terrorist attempt to malign the efforts of people trying to bring peace in the Rakhine region. The government has not spoken a single word about the misdeeds of the military troops. They’re only fuelling the atrocities spread by the military. On 12 June, 2012, a state of emergency was declared by the government but that hardly helped improve the situation.
When Aung San Suu Kyi came to power, many expected the Nobel laureate to refrain the inhuman acts of hatred spread against the minorities. She was sternly criticised for her completely blatant approach. She however opted to put the blame on media saying that the reporting was misinformational and that helped the terrorists. She insisted that her government protected everyone in the Rakhine state. However, it must be noted that media wasn’t allowed any access to the site of persecution since the recent military crackdown.
6. What have other countries done for them?
Majority of Muslim nations have come up on support of Rohingyas and have pressed against the Myanmar government to take some proper action. This is not a common phenomenon as all the members of Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) avoid interfering in any nation’s internal policies. However, Malaysia’s PM Najib Razak said that the can’t sit back and watch a genocide take place. Similar comments came in from the other countries as well.
Many Rohingyas have fled to India as well and walk around as Bangladeshi immigrants. India denies providing them a shelter stating that their stateless nature makes them more vulnerable targets for the various terrorist organisations. They’ve been dubbed as a threat to the nation’s security. India plans to deport the Rohingyas but the problem is India is not a signatory to the 1951 UN refugee convention or its 1967 Protocol.
The only practical run away den for the Rohingyas happens to be Bangladesh. The small nation is the easiest land accessible to the Rohingyas. However, Bangladesh is not a very developed nation and faces problems in handling its own population. Which means that the Rohingyas are disturbing there low economy further. Bangladesh still doesn’t consider the Rohingyas as refugees and keeps sheltering the Rohingyas despite staunch criticism from the Myanmar government.
7. Where do they they stand right now?
The Bangladesh government is planning to relocate all the new Rohingyas in there along with other 232,000 old ones to Thengar Char, a sedimentary island in the Bay of Bengal. The plan was termed terrible by many media houses as the island was completely inaccessible and was only formed due to a washdown slit from the Meghna River.
The UN has been providing them with some or the other basic aid but too has been cut short by the Myanmar government. As of now, they can only run and hope that things get better somehow. The Human Rights associations have came up with a solution but are sure that the Myanmar authorities would reject it completely.
So, over a million humans stand stranded, many dead and many more about to die. Such is the situation faced by Rohingyas. If you still believe helping them doesn’t make any sense, then we can hardly help your inner self. Let us just all stand up in support of the Rohingyas to show that humanity still stands above every other aspect of the modern society.