Between 400 and 3000 Rohingya Muslims have been murdered and another 400,000 have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since August, according to the UN. It’s an ethnic cleansing by very definition and one that the world is choosing to ignore and in turn condone.
The minority group, estimated to be around 1 million people, come from the Rakhine state of Myanmar (formally Burma), where they have been persecuted for decades. A predominantly Buddhist country, there are laws on interreligious marriage and minorities are subject to discrimination. In 1978, the military government launched a purge of Rohingya Muslims, forcing them to flee to surrounding countries. The most recent of which was sparked after a group called Arahan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched a series of small attacks on the border police, killing 12. Government security forces brutally retaliated against Rohingya civilians; burning down villages, raping and beating the women and shooting children. Many have chosen to face the dangerous trip towards Malaysia and Bangladesh on boats that are not suitable, rather than stay in their homeland. Those who choose to stay are in ghettos surrounded by fencing and barbed wire. In the last two months, 212 villages have been burned to the ground in Rakhine and families have been forced to flee to the mountains to escape.
Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi has said that the attacks were carried out by ‘terrorists’ and has failed to condemn the actions of her military. The 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner has faced international backlash for her lack of condemnation, with some calling for her to stripped of the award all together. Suu Kyi, a woman who faced persecution for years, should be the voice against this violence, not the one ignoring it. The price of power for Suu Kyi seems to have been silence on issues that she once held so dear. The 1982 Citizenship Act stripped the Rohingya people of their citizenship and classified them as illegal immigrants, making them a ‘stateless’ community. They have no rights within Myanmar, cannot vote and are exposed to discrimination, human trafficking, torture, and rape. This has been allowed to happen for years and it is a genocide that no-one is talking about. The situation gains very little attention worldwide, with few people even knowing what is going on there. The Myanmar government have blocked UN officials from investigating the claims of ethnic cleansing in Rakhine, drawing an even darker curtain on what is taking place.
While there is some discussion amongst UN members, very little has been done to stop the violence. The incident has also gained minor attention from the media, so the suffering has continued. The picture of 3-year-old Syrian refugee, Alan Kurdi, washed up on a beach is scorned on our memory forever. It was an image that shook the world and changed our attitudes towards refugees. Yet, now this image is being forgotten and allowed to happen again. A genocide that is ignored, is a genocide that is condoned. The world needs to extend a hand to the Rohingya people and demand change from their government.