Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Peaceful Buddhists and Threatening Muslims

"Then they shot the men and boys. I saw them kill my husband and son. I was screaming."
"They took my baby and cut his throat."
"One soldier held me down, and another raped me."
Dilbar Begum, Tula Toli, Myanmar

"I saw everything."
"My father was the best man in the world. We were a good team."
Noor Kalima, ten, Southeast Bangladesh

"I was trying to hide my baby under my scarf, but they saw her leg. They grabbed my baby by the leg and threw her onto the fire."
"When I fall asleep, I look for my baby. I wake up screaming."
"They killed my family members, and they killed my world. When I tell my story, I feel terrible, and afterward I go cry to myself. But we need justice, and maybe this will help."
Hasina Begum, 21, Southeast Bangladesh

"I was unconscious, so I don't know what they did to me."
"I want to tell the whole world my story. I want to tell what happens in Myanmar."
Shafika Begum, 15, Southeast Bangladesh
Rahima, 15, fled Myanmar in September. She was gang-raped by soldiers, one of whom bit her cheek, leaving a scar. “I don’t know why he bit me,” she said. “There are many things I don’t understand.” Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

All of the women who recounted the horrors they had survived came from one small village in Myanmar called Tula Toli. They are among the survivors of their village; no men, only women and children. They speak of witnessing the most obscene brutalities that human beings could ever visit on one another; soldiers of the Myanmar military brutalizing, raping, slaughtering the Burmese minority Rohingya. They are safe now, living tenuously in refugee camps in Bangladesh, a Muslim country that does not want them.

The denied ethnic cleansing that has taken place, is still taking place, has resulted in countless deaths and dislocations and hundreds of Rohingya villages burned to the ground, but not before individual homes were torchedm often women and children locked inside for good measure, representing, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum along with a human rights group called Fortify Rights, "growing evidence of genocide". Myanmar rejects the presence of Muslims living for generations among its Buddhist population.

The intention was to return them to Bangladesh, the country where they originated generations ago. Burmese leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Laureate, spoke of "a huge iceberg of misinformation" on what has been happening to the Rohingya. Citing the attacks by Rohingya militant groups on Burmese military encampments, the killing of members of the military and of Buddhist Burmese being the cause of the backlash, where the military were simply responding, seeking out the attackers, doing no harm to the ordinary civilian Rohingya who were themselves torching their own homes.
Women and children make up a majority of Rohingya who have settled in camps in Bangladesh. Thousands of Rohingya men were killed in Myanmar, while others may have stayed behind to fight. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

There is a kind of raw organization among the military of Myanmar in responding to the perceived threat of the existence of the Rohingya in a nation that despises them and wants to rid itself of their presence. Soldiers enter the villages, isolate the men from the women and children, lead the men away to their deaths if they aren't killed on the spot, then order the women into huts to rape and murder them along with their children. Commonly, the women and children are locked into the huts which are then set ablaze.

Some escape and take their still-living children with them. Young girls do not escape rape and attempted murder. An estimated 345 villages have been burned. According to Doctors Without Borders, an estimated 9,000 Rohingya, among them a thousand children, have been killed in devastatingly brutal attacks of gruesome savagery. While it remains guesswork how many women and girls have been raped, refugee camp doctors report an surge in pregnancies.

In the vast refugee camps in Bangladesh at the border with Myanmar, the Rohingya, shaken, traumatized, injured and ill, live in tents and shacks with inadequate food, water, toilets and medical care. Bangladesh will not permit aid organizations to teach Bengali, its national language, to the children, nor provide an education beyond primary school. China has proposed that the refugees be returned to Myanmar, meaning that the nation that has so viciously persecuted them can repeat the performance.

Kutupalong, in Bangladesh, is the world’s largest refugee settlement, part of a network of camps that has taken in more than 655,000 Rohingya from Myanmar since August. Credit Adam Dean for The New York Times

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