By Fayas Ahmed
Many a people asked the question: “Why did the Rakhine mobs with the collaboration of security forces attack the Rohingya dwellers in rural areas and towns across the Arakan State?” The direct answer to the point, as many experienced, is the Rakhines are deeply influenced by racism and Islamophobia. For being Muslims in South Asian appearance in contrast to South Asian, the Rakhines do not tolerate them although the Rohingya and their fellow Muslims in Arakan are true embodiment of the ancient inhabitants of Arakan — the people of Chandra dynasty in particular — whilst the rulers and ruled were Indians similar to that of Bengal. Mention may be made that in recent historical seminar held in Naypyidaw the Rakhines, with their make-believe history, made unsuccessful attempt to deny Rohingya’s historical roots in Arakan. Analysts comment it as a ‘disappointment’ for most Rakhines.
Rakhine’s hostility towards Rohingya has long been parented by the successive Burmese governments, gravely from 1962 military takeover by Gen. Ne Win. Those military dictators came after Ne Win were/are crueller. Time and again, they have had created senseless riots and violence against Rohingyas. The ruling civil-military hybrid regime of Thein Sein breaks the record of Rohingya persecution.
President Thein Sein has encouraged the Rakhines in their onslaught against Rohingyas. He has ensured them of full support suggesting deporting Rohingyas to third counties which amounts to “ethnic cleansing”. It reflects the true wishes of the Rakhines. So, both the government and Rakhines are working in unison on the extermination of Rohingyas. Together with Rakhine extremists, the government police, army, Lon Htin, Nasaka and security forces were directly involved in the killing of Rohingyas, raping of their women, torching and destruction of their villages, and committing other inhuman acts of crimes against humanity.
The recent violence which reoccurred from Oct 21 to 28, 2012 in nine Townships– Kyaukpru, Minbya, Mrauk-U, Mayebon, Rathedaung, Kyauktaw, Paukta, Rambree and Sandoway — caused massive deaths of Rohingyas and destruction of their villages and properties. The government announced that 89 people were killed, 136 were injured and more than 32,000 made homeless and more than 5,000 houses were burned down. These figures are largely distorted and simply untrue. So, a UN commission of inquiry is most urgent to find out the fact.
Since June violence over 5,000 Rohingya have been killed and missing, many thousands of homes have been destroyed, hundreds of women have been raped, and more than 110,000 people have been forced to flee their homes. In addition, many Rohingyas are starving in their own homes, villages and displacement camps or under open sky. Some of them have died of starvation and dehydration. There is a severe overcrowding, above emergency levels of child malnutrition, totally inadequate water and sanitation, and almost no education available in the camps. A system of apartheid is being practiced forcing the Rohingyas to live in the current situation of segregation outside of the town in Sittwe.
While there is humanitarian imperative to provide assistance to the needy without further delays, humanitarian aid workers continue to face a hostile environment in Arakan State. The UN stated that there is strong anti-UN and NGOs sentiment among Rakhines. On October 18, Medicine Sans Frontieres (MSF) decided to cancel re-opening of its clinic in Sittwe after 30 protestors picketed the site claiming that MSF received funding from the organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and would give preferential treatment to Rohingya.
Rohingyas are not considered Burmese citizen even though they have been living in Arakan from its beginning, generations after generations. UN considers that Rohingya community is one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. But, the Burmese government and many Burmese see that Rohingyas are the illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh. Rohingya claim that they did contribute for the common good of the people of Arakan. In fact, “history testifies that the heyday of Arakan began with the spread of Muslim civilization in Arakan. “
United Nations and the International Community have been urging the Burmese government to stop the violence and restore peace in Arakan State. Despite current deployment of more security forces to Arakan, many doubt the government’s sincerity because the violence against Rohingya has been masterminded by the administration for its own political interests.
Even kitchen knifes have been seized from the Rohingyas but not from the Rakhines. Rakhines are set free during curfew hours and their gangsters could still carry weapons. The humanitarian aids received from foreign donors or countries and humanitarian agencies have hardly reached the affected Muslims because of the blockages imposed by Arakan State Chief Minister U Hla Maung Tin in collaboration with Central government. Until now the Rohingya victims of violence in Rathedaung and Maungdaw townships have received no aids from any quarters; on the contrary, the small numbers of Rakhine, some of whom are self-claimed refugees, have been regularly receiving relief goods from the government and donor agencies. .
The world great general Napoleon said,” the world suffers a lot not because of the violence of the bad people, but because of the silence of the good people.” Burma opposition leader and democracy icon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, on whom Rohingya have high expectation, has uncharacteristically silenced on the mass destruction or racial extermination of Rohingya. She insisted “I will not use ‘moral leadership’ to back either side in deadly unrest in west Myanmar”. It is an irrelevant statement because she lacks ‘spiritual moral force’ to call a spade a spade lest it will hurt the sentiments of the majority Buddhists. It appears that If the Rakhines were in the situation of Rohingya she would definitely speak out. In the case of Rohingya it can be inferred that, despite her commitment for democracy and human rights, she has little respect for the human rights of Rohingya. Thus she hardly believes the universalism of human rights. We believe that she could have stopped or reduce the violence in Arakan by simply admonishing the fellow countrymen to respect the human rights of the Rohingyas, as stipulated in Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.”
The Burmese quasi-civilian government continues its ethnic cleansing policy against Rohingyas. The government is not only manifestly failing to protect the Rohingya people but it has been a primary force in the extermination of them. Therefore, the “responsibility to protect” lies on the international community. Now the UN and the international community must act at this perilous time. They should immediately send UN peacekeeping force to Arakan for the purpose of preventing further crimes against humanity against Rohingyas.
Surprisingly the onslaught against the Rohingyas in Arakan has been described by the media as “sectarian violence”. If truth be told, it is state sponsored and one-sided violence against the Rohingyas and other Muslims in Arakan. In Arakan, most of the police, Lon Htin, and Nasaka are Rakhines and have sided with their Rakhine community. But the Rohingyas are helpless and hapless living in sub-human condition, with all their basic freedoms seriously restricted, while daily facing institutionalized persecution and international crimes. On top of that they have been rendered stateless and their life is a story of woe upon woe while living round the clock in fear and frustration. It is logically impossible for this ‘dying alive’ people to attack the proud and privileged Rakhine community. The Rohingya, in their self-defence, could not even offer resistance. In this 21st century media era, the truth will appear not in a too distant future. The world will know soon who the criminals are. .
What is happening today against the Rohingya Muslims in Arakan and what happened in Bosnia in the early 1990s against the Bosnian Muslims?
In 1935, years before the Jewish Holocaust happened in Germany, anti-Jewish racist and bigotry-ridden laws were promulgated in the German stopping social and economic contacts with the Jews. The recently issued religious edicts from Buddhist monks banning social and economic ties with the Rohingya people, in particular, and the Muslims, in general, is a sufficient reminder and a dire warning about the ugly head of genocide that is emerging now in Myanmar, esp. in its western state of Arakan.
Last but not the least, right now the priority must be restoring peace and providing urgently needed aid to the affected areas.