Friday, December 15, 2017

The Agony of the Rohingya

"These women were claiming they were raped, but look at their appearances -- do you think they are that attractive to be raped?"
Rakhine [Burma] minister for border affairs, Phone Tint

"What we uncovered was staggering, in terms of the numbers of people who reported a family member had died as a result of violence, and the horrific ways in which they said they were killed or severely injured."
"The numbers of deaths are likely to be an underestimation, because we have not surveyed all refugee settlements in Bangladesh and because the surveys don't account for families that never made it out of Myanmar."
"We heard reports of entire families who perished after they were locked inside their homes and set on fire."
"With very few independent aid groups able to access Rakhine, we fear for the fate of Rohingya people who are still there. The signing of an agreement between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh over the return of refugees is premature. Rohingya should not be forced to return, and their safety and rights need to be guaranteed before any such plans can be seriously considered."
Sidney Wong, Medecins Sans Frontieres 
A Rohingya woman and child walk through the Jamtoli refugee camp in Bangladesh. More than 640,000 Rohingya people have fled Myanmar.
A Rohingya woman and child walk through the Jamtoli refugee camp in Bangladesh. More than 640,000 Rohingya people have fled Myanmar. Photograph: Tracey Nearmy/AAP

When we think Buddhist, we think the Dalai Llama, who preaches peace, thoughtfulness, kindness, respect and who urges humankind to make the choice to consider well of one another. A man of quiet diplomacy and humour, who most certainly finds no humour in the fact that Buddhist-majority Myanmar (Burma) has gone berserk over the presence of minority Muslims in their midst. There are other minority ethnic and religious groups in Myanmar who live among the Burmese Buddhists, but it seems only the Muslims are so loathed and feared.

In a sense, perhaps that is not entirely surprising. From Al-Shabaab to Islamic State, Boko Haram to the Taliban, Hezbollah to Hamas and al-Qaeda, the sectarian violence continually erupting in the Middle East between Sunni and Shiite, the incidents of Muslims living in Europe and North America who have taken Islam to the extremes of violent jihad, slaughtering non-Muslims for the sake of the Koranic injunction to engage in jihad, the non-Muslim world has good reason to view Islam and its faithful with a certain level of suspicion.

In Myanmar there is no social stigma in being accused of "Islamophobia"; that kind of reverse psychology is effective only in socially-conscious leftist circles of liberal democracies wallowing in the guilt of overplayed responsibility for colonialism. The Rohingya, originally squeezed out of Bangladesh, one of the poorest of Muslim countries, found a haven for themselves across the border in Burma, but it was not to last. Though they accommodated themselves there for generations, living under less than ideal conditions, they were evidently an improvement over Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has no wish to accept the 600,000 Rohingya who were forced to flee the campaign of ethnic/religious slaughter and rape and the torching of entire villages, leaving people nowhere to return to. If some of the lavish wealth wasted by oil-rich Middle East countries were shared with Bangladesh alleviating a degree of its poverty perhaps it would have the effect of welcoming the Rohingya back to the country, but Bangladesh hasn't the wherewithal to establish permanent places for the returned Rohingya.

Sending them back to Myanmar where they are scorned and detested and where they face ongoing discrimination even if the current military campaign to decimate their numbers, degrade and humiliate them, violate their women and victimize their children is put to a halt, there is still no solution to the situation that currently prevails where a genuine humanitarian crisis is still unfolding and there is no remedy for what these people have suffered and lost.

Myanmar security forces deliberately targeted the Rohingya in mass atrocities. The military explained that it was simply engaged in driving out the terrorists, Rohingya militias who had attacked a number of army bases, killing Burmese soldiers in the process, and which sparked this latest campaign of slaughter and rape, upgrading the tormented lives the Rohingya are usually exposed to in a country that doesn't want them and conspires to expunge them from their territory.

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