The treatment of the Rohingya people is one of the greatest human rights atrocities of recent times. Over half a million Rohingya refugees have been forced to flee to Bangladesh in the wake of mass slaughter and destruction of their homes, on a scale analogous with 'ethnic cleansing'. This leads us all to question: How did this start, and why? Pass the Crayon volunteer, Aggie Andrews, explores these questions in her article.
A BRIEF HISTORY.
Since August 2017, over 600,000 Rohingya people have been forced to leave their homes to escape the persecution of the Myanmar army. Extreme violence is reported to have taken place within the Rhakine State, resulting in the Rohingya travelling via foot or boat to neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh.
Before this violence ensued the Rohingya were living amongst other ethnic groups in the Rhakine state on the West coast in Myanmar. The Rohingya people have been specifically targeted out of many groups, raising the question of why the Rohingya have been selected as the victims of such catastrophic crimes?
(via World Relief)
Historically, there has been a longstanding clash of ethnicities, causing great tension between the Buddhists in Myanmar and the Muslims of Rohingya, often resulting in violence on both sides. However, as an ethnic minority living amongst a majority, the Rohingya have had to withstand more ethnic hate crimes than the Myanmar people.
It is important to note that there are other Islamic subgroups living within the Rhakine state which refer to themselves as the ‘Arakanese Muslims’. These Muslims do not suffer the same abuses as the Rohingya because they identify themselves with the Buddhists of Myanmar, speaking Burmese and affiliating themselves with Burmese culture.
The Rohingya, however, recognise themselves as indigenous to Myanmar- this goes unacknowledged because Rohingya people are viewed as synonymous with British colonial powers. Having given support to British colonialism before the independence of Myanmar in 1948, the Rohingya have been treated with animosity ever since.
A particularly poignant moment for the Rohingya people was in 1982 when they were denied citizenship by Myanmar officials, thus making them stateless.
Neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh have allowed the Rohingya people to make base in refugee camps on the border, but they also reject them as citizens.The Rhakine State was the closest thing the Rohingya had to call home; now that dream has fallen, they not only face a struggle for survival, but cultural bereavement and a profound identity crisis.
AN ORGANISED CAMPAIGN OF VIOLENCE.
The horrific persecution suffered by the Rohingya feature the Myanmar army burning their villages, and massacring and raping civilians as they move through land previously occupied by the Rohingya.
Amnesty International reports of satellite images which reveal blazing villages, suggesting what they refer to as an ‘organised campaign’ of violence. These news reports, combined with the sheer mass of Rohingya locals fleeing to escape the violence and destruction, make it self-evident why the United Nations is referring to this crisis as a ‘textbook example of ethnic cleansing’.
For the people that have been able to escape the violence, the journey to relative safety would have been treacherous, with refugees walking through fields, over mountains and travelling on board unsafe vessels without any substantial food for days, arriving at the refugee camp exhausted, and weak with hunger.
In a staggering statistic, Amnesty International has revealed that more refugees have fled to Bangladesh in the space of three weeks than the total number of people who journeyed by sea to Europe in 2016
THE REFUGEE CAMP.
At the refugee camp on the border of Bangladesh the situation is dire. With many humanitarian aid workers claiming it is the worst camp they have seen.
The risk of severe dehydration and disease is high and people are sharing meals amongst family and friends. NGO’s such as the Red Cross and Médecin Sans Frontier have been in the refugee camp providing food, water and healthcare assistance to as many as they can. But it is simply not enough.
As many as 300,000 children, according to UNICEF, are thought to be living in the refugee camp. Many of these children will have been recently orphaned, and due to the chaotic situation, are in an extremely vulnerable position.
NGO’s such as Save the Children and UNICEF are desperate for further funding. Save the Children is making it known how high the risk of sex trafficking is for these children, in the hopes that raising
awareness amongst the international community will increase support, and ensure their safety.
THOUSANDS OF LOST ROHINGYA.
It is important to consider that out of the 1.1 million Rohingya thought to have been living in Myanmar, there remains 400,000 people that have not been accounted for.
It seems likely that they have been killed, died on the journey or are still in the Rhakine State suffering from injuries. To make matters worse, Amnesty International claims humanitarian agencies have been denied entrance to the Rhakine state to help those that remain there. This is causing concern over the aid that the government has sent, as people question if the aid is really helping the Rohingya people at all, and if so, is it being distributed fairly?
(via Dunyan News)
In general, what has taken place within Myanmar has clearly caused a great amount of anxiety, with the lack of media coverage in the Rhakine State allowing a wide scope for atrocities to take place. As a result, the Myanmar government is facing an increasing amount of pressure from World leaders, the UN and NGO’s.
Amnesty International reports on the widespread unhappiness over Aung San Suu Kyi and her decision to stand by as the Rohingya people are massacred. Other accredited institutions are also taking a stand against this injustice, with Oxford University and the University of Bristol stripping the leader Aung San Suu Kyi of awards she received from these institutions. However, it cannot be solely Aung San Suu Kyi’s responsibility; the entire international community must come together to condemn these atrocities and stand in solidarity with the Rohingya people.
As this uncertainty continues it is most important to consider the fate of the Rohingya people. With the situation at the refugee camp being referred to as the worst case seen yet, it is essential that they are not forgotten. Word needs to continue spreading about the circumstances at the refugee camp so that humanitarian agencies can get the funding they need to sustain and improve the lives of these people. After that, it remains unclear whether the Rohingya will be able to return to the Rhakine state or not. Maybe they will finally find somewhere safe and stable to call home.
**If you enjoyed Aggie's article and would like to read more posts from our PTC volunteers, why not check out volunteer Niamh's recent post? And don't forget to 'like' and share on social media! :) **