Oppressed, Stateless, Stripped of Dignity. What is the Rohingyas fault?
What sets us humans apart from the rest of the living organisms is humanity, compassion and intelligence. If one open their eyes, and look past the front cover news, they would realize the world we live in today seem to lack the very aspects that makes us unique. If one has a heart, you would even question how the heartless people that put others through so much misery sleep at night. Just the news headlines, the pictures leaves your heart unsettled. Headlines and words that jump out when you type in Rohingya are not limited to the following: “800 Rohingya houses razed in Myanmar” “428 Rohingya killed, 192 Rohingya women raped, 440 arrested and 160 suffered beating and physical violence from ‘clearance operations’” “30000 displaced by violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine” and ”Myanmar’s War on Rohingya”. The question that booms is, what WAS their fault? What IS their fault?
Myanmar (Burma) bordered by Laos, Thailand, Bangladesh, and India is in South East Asia.
A population of 56,890,410 people are divided among the ethnic groups of Burma (68%), Shan (9%), Karen (7%), Rakhine (4%), Chinese (3%), Indian (2%) Mon (2%) and Others (5%). The Rohingya people, a Muslim minority live in the city of Rakhine (Arakan) State.
The first settlement was in the 1400 CE. Unlike now, they were welcomed by the ruler King Narameikhala. However, when the Buddhist Burmese conquered Rakhine in the 1785 while they drove some out, the others were executed. Some were lucky to escape to Bengal and India. Then in 1826, when the British took control of the area, they encouraged farmers to move from Bengal to populate the area. The immigrants included Rohingyas originally from the area and native Bengalis. This was believed to be the ignition of the hate for the Rohingyas.
The dynamics of the situation drastically changed when the World War II broke out. Britain withdrew in the wake of the war when Japan expanded in Southeast Asia, while the Muslims and Buddhist groups inflicted massacres on each other. Things got worse for the Rohingyas when the Japanese caught them being spies to the Britains. The punishment for this included, murder, rape, and torture of Rohingyas. Forcing them to flee once again to Bengal.
In the year 1962, between the end of World War II and General Ne win’s coup d’etat, the Rohingyas advocated for a separate nation in Rakhine. This did not happen, and when the military junta took power, they came down hard on Rohingyas. One main thing was denying the Rohingya people Burmese citizenship. Leaving them stateless, stripped of basic human rights and stuck in the middle of a “game of human ping pong”.
A three-way game of human ping pong
Mid May of 2015, the media went crazy when over 2000 Rohingyas who escaped in boats tried to land in either of the country, Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia were pushed back to the sea, by the countries.
Regarding this inhuman act, Human Rights Watch, Deputy Director Mr. Phil Robertson released a statement which contained the following “The Thai, Malaysian, and Indonesian navies should stop playing a three-way game of human ping pong, and instead should work together to rescue all those on these ill-fated boats,”. Bringing the extremely catchy term “game of human ping pong” to us, one that summed up the whole situation finely and a term which covered the media headlines in the weeks that followed. Sympathizing, calling on the Myanmar government and human right organizations to bring justice, and provide the Rohingyas of their basic rights as human and to end their suffering. More than ever, this brought to light the different state governments blind eye to this vulnerable population group.
The Harsh Reality
Every day the sun rises and sets leaving the Rakhine State in eerily dread. Some worrying if themselves, their wife or husband, mother or father, sister or brother, son or daughter would see another day without being executed, raped or tortured. Where somewhere else another plan to leave the stable ground, and get on a boat hoping to seek refuge in another country. Hoping they won’t be rejected and pushed back but receive compassion and care. While, another Rohingya pays an entire life’s saving to an illegal smuggler to smuggle the person or a loved one to another safe location. With not even a hint of a guarantee of reaching such a safe destination as getting killed, burnt, raped were likely realities.
Like myself, you can only try to imagine the state, the pain, the frustration they are going through. Poet, Mohammad Rafique Habib Abu Safwan stringed a bunch of words to put together the hard reality of the situation.
“The Ghost of Devil flamed with dancing!!
The helpless oppressed Rohingya Compelled to leave away
From their native motherland, Arakan.
The yellow Dreams of having a shelter in abroad,
The colored hope of ray
Gathered in their eyes;
Hence, they sailed their tiny boat of migration near to the boarder.
The aimless Rohingyas are floating on the water,
Who will give them shelter?
The border is closed by means of so called territorial law,
The Buddhist Terrorists are blindly mad
In having revenge from this helpless ethnic minor-community
There will they seek the drop of Humanity?
The in vain vowing of UN& Humanitarian Organs,
The bloody Myanmar is not paying heed to the International slogans
The Helping-Donors pushing among them,
The Ocean-daughter raised her head and says to the International community,
It remains silent below the boot of Myanmar Dictator Military
“The Groaning of Humanity.”
I don’t know the Rohingya; I don’t see any race or tribe
Even I never do partiality.
I do know merely that, “They are made of flesh and blood-
They are the human beings, the best creature of you (the creator).
Save them by Your Heavenly Hand
Hence they have the sense of man”
It is my inner long-cherished solemnity
How long will groan in Arakan the Humanity?”
How long will the Rohingyas indeed last? A couple of years from now, will they be a minority wiped out? Sadly, it does not feel too far from the truth. Like human rights activist, Mr. Aamir bin Harun said, the two main choices for them is “die under the bullet of the government of Myanmar “or” leave the country to become Refugees because they are not allowed to access any field of humanitarian aids especially medical field”. Neither of the options seem like the solution, but that is the truth.
Call to World Leaders
In an ideal world, some believe the solution would be to move the Rohingya to somewhere else. I wholeheartedly disagree, the people at discussion are an estimate of 1.2 million, and like the rest of the Myanmar population they have every right to be citizens of that State as the rest of them.
When I wrote this article a week back and looking at the situation now I am shocked. The way the crisis has escalated. How are the respective human right defenders standing back while all this is happening? Is putting everything on paper a job well done for you? If someone have common sense, I cannot, I cannot imagine them being able to fathom what is happening and why it is not being addressed.
So, I call on the leaders of the World, United Nations, Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and Human Right Organizations kindly step up and address this crisis. Yes, we must respect the sovereignty. However, does that mean we are going to sit on the side lines as one human after the other get stripped of their basic human rights, get discriminated and oppressed, if they manage to escape torture or kidnapping to die in the middle of the sea. Is that the kind of leaders, is that the kind of image you want to portray to your citizens and communities. That though you have great power, you decide to turn a blind eye and deaf ears to the cry of help of thousands of people? Hiding behind a few statements such as “sovereignty of the state” while you have the backing of Universal Declaration of Human Rights to name one, makes no logical sense.
Dear leaders, when your citizens trusted you with that post, they trusted you to uphold human values and do what is right. With great power comes great responsibilities. The moment you decided to remain quiet turn a blind eye makes you no worse than those that harm them. The blood, the rights stripped from them will lie on your hands just like the oppressors. The time to act, the time to raise your voice for the voiceless, the time to set things right is NOW! Every second you wait longer is a second where another innocent Rohingya face the cruelty of humanity and doubt the universal system of brother and sister hood. We might belong to different regions, states, race, ethnicity even religions, but we all seek one thing. To live without fear, with dignity and in harmony.
Today, I urge you dear readers to do a little bit, share this article, share other articles and pictures of Rohingya people. Share the reality of the case. But please do not stop there. Talk about it. If you have the power push and advocate on these people’s behalf. If they turn at your door step, open your doors and welcome them. Show some humanity. Let us pledge to stand up for our fellow human beings rights the way we would for our own. Let us be fair and compassionate to one another. Because at the end of the day we all are the same.