Friday, April 06, 2018

The Humanitarian Obligation to React and Protect

A group of Rohingya refugees after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border, September 1, 2017. Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters
Rakhine Province in Myanmar (Burma) continues to be cleansed by the Burmese military of the presence of Rohingya. This, even while the Myanmar government, desperately self-defensive over worldwide condemnation of the persecution of the minority Muslims they characterize as 'Bengalis' and originally from Bangladesh, promise that they will allow the fearful refugees taking refuge in Bangladesh -- which doesn't want to keep them, as an impoverished nation with its own problems -- to return to their homes.

Their homes, unfortunately, no longer exist, in large part. Their homes have been torched by mobs of Burmese Buddhists who hate the presence of the Muslim Rohingya and fear them as interlopers whose religion is geared toward conquest. Their villages were destroyed even as the Burmese military killed many inhabitants and caused villagers to flee in panic for their lives. There is nothing to return to. Even if their villages and homes had been left intact they would return to the same aura of hatred and persecution which was brought to a head the summer of 2017.

Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's lack of contrition, let alone denunciation of the situation has earned her condemnation from around the world. Although she is viewed as the political leader of the nation she loves, she has no control over the Burmese military, that same military that kept her a house prisoner for years, for her humanitarian efforts to democratize Myanmar, and whose resistance to the brutal military rule won her the Nobel Peace Prize.

Rohingya Muslims carry their young children and belongings after crossing the border from Myanmar into Bangladesh on Nov. 1. Canada's special envoy Bob Rae released his final report on the crisis today. (Bernat Armangue/Associated Press)

Canada tasked Liberal politician Bob Rae, a former foreign affairs minister, as Special Envoy to Myanmar, to assess the situation by personally embarking on a fact-finding mission to Myanmar. The United Nations had dispatched its own Special Rapporteur on human rights to Myanmar who concluded the atrocities borne by the Rohingya "bear the hallmarks of genocide". Mr. Rae met with survivors and humanitarian workers, he travelled to Rakhine State -- where over 670,000 desperate Rohingya were forced to flee fire, mass rape and murder -- to form his assessment.

"I think we're living in a world without adult supervision at the moment. We got into the habit after 1945 of looking to the Americans for leadership, or others, for a long time the British and so on. Those days are gone -- it's a different world", he assayed in an interview with the Canadian broadcaster, CBC. "Our first obligation is to protect lives" he wrote in his report. And he has proposed that Canada should increase its $46-million relief contribution for the region to $150-million to include the "necessary work on accountability and the gathering of evidence" for potential prosecution of the bloody pogroms and expulsions.

"This evidence has to be collected, and we need to find a way to move forward to bring those responsible for these crimes to justice", he wrote. The UN General Assembly several years ago established the International Impartial and Independent mechanism to investigate war crimes taking place in Syria. The head of that investigative body to look into mass murder in Syria pointed out in her report that it lacks regular budget funding, the regime refuses to permit investigators into the country, and her researchers are incapable of maintaining track of all war crimes committed on an ongoing basis.

So, would it be of any value to construct just such a committee to investigate the humanitarian situation yet unfolding in Myanmar? Mr. Rae feels Canada should work with the UN High Commission on Refugees so that Rohingya can be processed for resettlement, and in his opinion Canada should welcome Rohingya refugees. According to the assistant seretary-general for human rights of the UN, "The government of Myanmar is busy telling the world that is ready to receive Rohingya returnees, while at the same time its forces are continuing to drive them into Bangladesh". Now that is a problem.

But why isn't it a problem for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which was formed for just such a purpose; to protect and come to the aid of embattled Muslims worldwide. Next month the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC is meeting in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Why isn't this item top of their agenda? Why haven't any Muslim countries opened their doors to the Rohingya? Why haven't the wealthy Gulf States emptied their pocket books in support of the Rohingya, aiding penurious Bangladesh to pay for nurturing those poor refugees? Why is it the West that always steps forward with its personal humanitarian solutions. Such as Bob Rae's:

  • Canada should continue to pursue a policy of active engagement with the government of Myanmar and should continue to provide development assistance focused on the needs of all communities in that country.
  • Canada should increase development assistance to Rakhine State and all of Myanmar, focusing on the needs of women and girls, reconciliation, security and human rights.
  • Canada should work with allies to initiate an investigation into crimes against humanity and genocide.
  • Canada should establish a Rohingya Working Group within the government, chaired by a senior deputy minister, to ensure a "whole-of-government" response.
  • Canada should urge allies to establish an international working group to pursue joint efforts.
While the West musters outrage, the 50 Muslim-majority nations of the world sit on their hands, protecting their turf, minding their own business, hands firmly shutting off their wealth. A total of 57 Muslim nations are part of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, none of them appearing to be the least bit troubled by the plight of the Rohingya. Just as the Middle East nations are in constant conflict and wait for the West to intervene to sort things out, sacrificing their own military personnel and national wealth in the process while the Arab League does nothing, here too the OIC awaits the West's action.

The truth is out there; it represents what the facts are to be reckoned with, that the Rohingya are nothing but human fodder to advance the fundamentalist ideology of Islam. There is a reason why Myanmar Buddhists are fearful of the presence of Rohingya; Islam is well known for its determined penchant to encourage its umma to grow, to have influence, to make demands, to eventually overcome resistance and to dominate by any means possible; population growth, invidious political interference, violent terrorism. All in the name of a dominating religion of conquest.

The Rohingya in general may be innocent of plotting any of this; they simply want to be able to live their lives in security free of threats and fear just like anyone else. But the inherent threat in Islam dominates the minds of those among whom they live, setting them apart. Islam has a mission and that is one that originated with its founding; that of conquest. It is what the Prophet Mohammad embarked upon, taught his followers and succeeded in proselytizing by the sword. The great academic institution of Islamic scholastics, Al Azhar in Cairo can not, will not condemn Islamic State, for it exemplifies all that the Koran ordains.

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