More than 370,000 Rohingya Muslims have recently crossed Myanmar’s border into Bangladesh since violence intensified last month. According to Myanmar’s military, it is fighting Rohingya militants and denies targeting civilians. UN agencies and independent eye witness accounts however suggest that a great lot of the 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims are being persecuted by the Myanmar authorities in what has been dubbed “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
Who are the Rohingya Muslims?
Often described as “the world’s most persecuted minority”, the Rohingya are a minority ethnic group in majority Buddhist Myanmar. Mostly found in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, the Rohingya Muslims have been denied the right to citizenship since 1982 when a law was passed effectively rendering the group stateless.
The Rohingya are mostly found in the western coastal state of Rakhine. Their freedom of movement is greatly restricted by the Myanmar authorities. Due to their continued persecution and the discrimination meted out to them, the Rohingya live in poor run down ghettos without the basic water and sanitary services. Finding livelihood for the Rohingya is a tough challenge.
Due to ongoing violence and persecution, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims continue to flee into neighboring countries either by land or boat. This phenomenon has been a repeated occurrence over the course of the last many decades.
The current wave of violence stems from the killings of nine Myanmar border police officers late last year. The Myanmar government swiftly blamed Rohingya Muslims especially what it termed as “fighters” for the killings. A massive crackdown began in the Rakhine State where the Rohingya live. Government troops have been accused of a litany of wrongdoings against the Rohingya. These charges include grave human right abuses, illegal killings, rape and arson.
Many fleeing Rohingya women and girls have recounted horrific tales of rape. The UN and international agencies have documented thousands of claims of rape meted out by Myanmar government operatives. “Rape is effectively a weapon of war for the Myanmar authorities”, this according to an international diplomat familiar with ongoing investigation into possible crimes against humanity being carried out by the Myanmar security forces in tacit support of the Myanmar government.
Arson is another weapon of war that the Myanmar security forces is using against the Rohingya Muslims. Human Rights groups are reporting that more than 10 fires were documented since the recent resumption of violence erupted. Wide areas are being set ablaze by the security forces to force the Rohingya to flee or to discourage them from returning as everything they own is being turned to ashes.
Latest available data show more than 370,000 people have fled the violence. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) is reporting that several thousand Rohingya are currently trapped in inhabitable areas between Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The diplomatic push to end the conflict and protect the Rohingya is not making any change to the plight of the Rohingya Muslims. So far the diplomatic spat as who is to really blame continues while hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims’ suffering continues unabated.
May Allaah protect our Rohingya Muslim brethren in Myanmar and those fleeing conflict there.