By Dr. Habib Siddiqui
The Rohingya people of Myanmar (formerly Burma) are the most oppressed people in our planet. They face elimination in the Buddhist majority country, which is rightly called the ‘den of hatred and intolerance’ in our time. Not a single day goes by when their community members don’t face repeated persecution and harassment from not only the Gestapo-like members of the government but also from the fellow Buddhists who have swallowed Hitler’s poisonous pills of xenophobia and bigotry. Not surprisingly, in today’s Myanmar Nazi swastika and similar insignia are in great demand!
The two-year long pogrom against the Rohingya has resulted in the internal displacement of hundreds of thousands of their fellow men, women and children. Many have been slaughtered by blood-thirsty Buddhists. Others have been forced to live inside squalid camps that are described by independent fact-finding observers as worse than prison camps. Many of the desperate Rohingyas have braved the stormy seas and oceans to find shelter elsewhere, and in so doing many of them continue to be preyed upon by the criminal human traffickers who engage them as slave labors. So hopeless is their condition inside Myanmar that they think such life-threatening risks are worth-taking and better than what awaits them inside Myanmar.
Aung San Suu Kyi – once touted as the democracy icon has shown her real ugly image. She has proven to be morally bankrupt. Being too keen in becoming the next president by any means possible, she feigns ignorance and is criminally silent on the plight of the Rohingya people.
As to the Buddhist monks – the so-called followers of Gautama Buddha – the least said the better. They ignore all the non-violent teachings of their founder showing their hideous selves. Guilty of participating in genocidal campaigns and inciting extermination campaigns against the Muslim minorities, esp. the Rohingya people, they appear spiritually more connected to Hitler’s dreaded SS than anyone else.
Under the 1982 Citizenship Law, the Myanmar authorities do not recognize Rohingya, classing them as Bengali and illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite hard evidences proving that their family roots are in Myanmar. The R-word (i.e., Rohingya) is unacceptable to the genocidal regime epitomizing Myanmarism which is a toxic cocktail of ultra-nationalism, fascism and religious fanaticism. As such, those Rohingyas who have chosen to live either inside or have no wherewithal to leave the killing fields of Buddhist Myanmar are forced to register as “Bengalis”, denying their root and ancestral ties to the soil of their birth. If they refuse to register as such, they face lengthy prison terms. On December 2, eight Muslims, who identify themselves as Rohingya, were jailed in the Maungdaw Township Court in Arakan (Rakhine state of Myanmar, bordering Bangladesh) for two years for their refusal to register as “Bengali” during the March-April countrywide census. During the trial, no lawyers were provided for the accused and family members were not allowed to attend as observers.
Many Rohingyas are dying of starvation and lack of healthcare services, which are denied to them by the Myanmar government and their partners-in-crime within the broader Buddhist community. Many of the Rakhine Buddhist doctors are proving to be monsters killing Rohingya patients. A two year old Rohingya boy died at Sittwe General Hospital in Arakan State’s capital, Sittwe on December 6, 2014 after he was given an injection by the doctor. Alqama, mother of Twariq Zia, took her son to the hospital on December 5th at 2:30 pm. At that time he was treated well and recovered quite well. Alqama thought her son could be discharged from the hospital on the following day. However, on the second day, December 6th at 8:00 am, a different doctor came and gave an injection. Immediately after the injection the boy lost breathing and died.
The government of nearby Muslim majority Bangladesh, seemingly more mindful of not jeopardizing its precarious relationship with Myanmar than ensuring the human rights of the Rohingya people, is, sadly, setting a new low standard in witch-hunting and harassment. Not only are the Rohingyas refused entry in this country but also their refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar are put as off-limits to Muslim NGOs. Worse yet, they are imprisoned for trying to get out of Bangladesh to a third country. Last week, five Rohingya women were arrested in Pabna for just attempting to do so.
Without valid passports people risk being put behind the bar for traveling to a foreign land. The Rohingyas, being declared stateless by the Myanmar government, obviously don’t have valid passports. No matter how those refugees entered Bangladesh, they can’t travel to a third country without such passports. The arrest of those Rohingya women raises the vital question: how should the international community, especially Bangladesh, deal with such matters? What is better and morally right – they be allowed to travel to a third country where they are welcome and prosper or restrict such travels on legal grounds while denying them the very means necessary to better their lives, thereby forcing them to a life of an unwanted refugee inside Bangladesh where the government is utterly hostile to them? I am sure the verdict of the conscientious human beings is for the former option.
Will the tragedy of the Rohingya people ever end? The answer lies in the attitude and sincerity of the Myanmar government and her people who for decades have been fed the toxic pill ethnocentrism and bigotry to hate and eliminate the Rohingya and other Muslims in this Buddhist majority country. Thus far I haven’t found anything to believe in Thein Sein government’s sincerity to resolve the matter peacefully. What we have noticed, instead, is simply sinister. Rather than reining in the ultra-racist and bigoted monks of the fascist 969 movement it has been promoting their incendiary activities. In recent days, it has passed bigotry-ridden laws in the parliament which violates several international laws.
Through a calculated policy of starvation, forced poverty, denial of all the basic rights (enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) of the Rohingya people and inaccessibility of humanitarian aids reaching them, the Myanmar government is guilty of scripting the Rohingya genocide. It is creating forced exodus and bringing in slow death of the Rohingya people. Thus, what this pariah regime is doing is an international crime of the highest proportion which must be stopped by the UN and its member nations failing which the Rohingya people face extinction inside Myanmar.
While the violence against the Rohingya and other Muslims is mushrooming out of control, almost completing their ethnic cleansing, the international community is sending mixed messages. Sanctions by the powerful USA and the EU have long been lifted against the murderous regime. What is shocking is the mere fact, as reported in the BBC, that the last of the EU sanctions were lifted six hours after they reported this on the Burma riots: “In the sequence where policemen look on as a man rolls on the ground having been set on fire, someone in the watching crowd is heard to say: “No water for him – let him die”—a video goes on to show the police standing by as Monks participate in dragging a man from a nearby brush, and beating him to death (BBC, “Burma Riots”).
The consequences of enmification (a term coined by Professor Alan Tidwell of Georgetown University) for the Rohingya are reaching the stage of genocide. They are called kular (a derogatory term similar to niggers) as well as dogs, thieves, terrorists and various expletives. Spiteful Buddhist commentators urge the government to ‘make them disappear’ and seem particularly enraged that the international NGOs, human rights groups and the United Nations High Commission for the Refugees are highlighting their plight.
As we all know, one of the more troubling aspects of enmification is that when it is seeded deeply enough as it was in Rwanda, nominal differences between groups can be relatively perceived as existential threats. Cockroaches (inyenzi, during the Rwandan genocide), dogs, and thieves are dehumanizing epithets that make the effective parties easier to eliminate psychologically. Sadly, this is already well under way in the case of the Rohingya.
If the Rohingya people are not considered human, are enmified, and persecuted with tacit recognition from the state and the Buddhist Sangha, it is high time that the international community comes to their rescue. Through their stern actions and biting sanctions, they must play a crucial role in reversing some of the attitudes and actions of the regime—preventing further violence against the Rohingya people. They simply cannot kowtow with the murderous regime and send mixed messages that show that the political and psychological backlash from the violence against the Rohingya is not severe enough.
As noted by Samuel Feigenbaum in his thesis work – the Oppressed of the Oppressed (Georgetown University, 2013), if there is not a dramatic paradigm shift, which looks unlikely, the Rohingya will be systematically cleansed from Myanmar under the guise of communal violence, states of emergency, and national unity. This is the preemption of a genocide, which simply cannot be allowed to happen in our time. We can surely avoid this tragedy if our generation is serious.
The lessons from Rwanda and South Africa are sufficient to guide us all.