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They Are One of the Most Persecuted and Friendless Peoples in the World
They are a community of people suffering and trying to survive in a far-off land. They live in Myanmar, the largest country in Indochina in Southeast Asia. To be more accurate, they are striving to live and survive in Myanmar.
According to the United Nations, the Rohingya Muslims are one of the most friendless, the most persecuted and the most oppressed people in the world. There is so much to say about them, more than can possibly be squeezed into one article. They have been terribly persecuted for decades. This oppression in the country is not aimed solely at the Rohingya of course; other Muslim communities as well as the Rohingya have for years been subjected to a systematic policy of persecution and hatred in the country.
They live in Rakhine, in the West of Myanmar on the border with Bangladesh. Rakhine is one of the seven provinces of Myanmar. However, although the Rohingya Muslims live on Myanmar’s territory they are not accepted as citizens of the country. The national administrations regards the Rohingya, who number approximately 800,000, as “Bangladeshi illegal immigrants.” However, the Bangladeshi government does not regard them as its own citizens, either. Therefore, the Rohingya people are a friendless and stateless people struggling to survive in an area between Myanmar and Bangladesh in Southeast Asia.
Prisoners in their Own Lands
Since they are not regarded as citizens of the country, they have no ID or registration documents with which to express their existence. They are forced to carry a document with no validity with the words “belonging to a foreigner” written on it.
They live very different lives to those of people anywhere else in the world. They own almost nothing. Since they have no ID documents they are unable to access the most basic social rights, such as health services, and they are not admitted to hospitals. They are not allowed to work in public offices or access public services. Not one Muslim is currently working in a state office. They are banned from establishing political associations or parties. In order to have a business they have to take a Buddhist on as a partner and that Buddhist is regarded as owning half the enterprise, even though he puts no capital in. They are unable to access education services and are not admitted to schools; thus, 80% of them are illiterate. They are not allowed to own property or land. They have no permission to build concrete homes, only ones made out of timber or bamboo; these can be taken away from them at any time. If these homes, regarded as belonging to the state, burn down as the result of an accident, the owner of the home is punished with imprisonment for up to six years for damaging state property. Muslims have to pay state taxes every year for the animals they own. They are not allowed out of doors after 9 o’ clock at night or to visit neighbors without permission from the police. In order to obtain permission to marry, every possible obstacle is placed in their way. This is part of the Myanmar regime policy of reducing the Muslim population. People who wish to obtain leave to marry have to pay heavy taxes, separately and on both sides. They have to wait two or three years for permission, and permission is sometimes not granted to those waiting after paying their taxes. Married couples are banned from having more than two children. They also have to pay taxes to the state for every child that is born and dies.
There is also a curfew on the Rohingya people. They are not allowed to travel between towns. They have to obtain official permission simply to go to a neighboring village. They are absolutely prohibited from entering Akyab (Sittwe), the capital of Rakhine for any reason, even to travel or for treatment of illness. It is impossible for them to go to the national capital, Rangoon. In order to obtain such permission they have to wait in long lines and pay a fee, and also generally a bribe. Even Muslims with travel permits are sometimes forcibly removed from trains and coaches. The pressures and restrictions on Rohingya are so intense that even the goods that Muslims can buy are limited. They are banned from owning motor vehicles and landline or mobile phones.
The Rohingya are also frequently subjected to confiscations, capricious arrests, physical and sexual violence and torture. In addition, they are regularly forced to work free of charge for the government and military authorities. Children in the region also often have to take part in this forced labor of Rohingya in the province of Rakhine.
Myanmar officials have imprisoned a large part of the Rohingya population where they live on supposed security grounds. Areas inhabited by Rohingyas are surrounded by barbed wire and barricades. They are not allowed outside, and are deprived of all means with which to make ends meet.
How did the ‘Islamic Kingdom of Rakhine’ End up Like This?
The Islamic Kingdom of Rakhine was established in the region in the early 15th Century, and Islam spread quite rapidly throughout Rakhine thereafter. Rakhine remained an independent kingdom for 354 years, until being invaded by the Buddhist kingdom in 1784. When the Burmese occupation ended in 1826, the British occupation that would last for another 120 years began. After the British withdrawal from the country, the Buddhists initiated a policy of intense aggression toward both Indian and Bangladeshi Muslims.
Due to these attacks, the majority of the Muslim population fled the country and sought shelter in India or Bangladesh. Mass killings then started against the remaining Rohingya Muslim population. Thousands of Muslims were killed in a series of massacres that began in 1938, and more than 500,000 had to abandon the area. At least 150,000 Rakhine Muslims were slaughtered in another wave of killings that started in 1942 and lasted for 40 days, their villages were looted and their valuables, goods and animals were confiscated. These attacks were followed by other waves of mass murder in 1947 and 1954 and the ‘King Dragon Operation’ in 1978, and tens of thousands more Muslims were killed during these. Hundreds of Muslims, men, women and children, were detained and killed after being tortured and raped. Terrified by these ruthless attacks, the Muslim population began to flee toward the Bangladeshi border. But these attacks persisted even on the roads, and more lost their lives en route or during attacks on their boats along the coastal strip.
The Worst Massacre of June 2012
In June 2012, acts of violence in the wake of the lynching of 10 Muslims by Buddhists spread throughout Rakhine. Hundreds of Muslims who had gathered in the Central Mosque in the town of Maungdaw to protest the attacks were attacked by Buddhist fanatics and the police; many were injured or martyred. Following these incidents, Muslim towns and villages were raided. More than 300 Muslim villages were burned for sheltering the guilty, and mosques and madrassas were burned down. More than 1,000 people were killed, and thousands were forced from their homes and villages and made to live in the jungle. Thousands of Rohingya Muslims seeking to escape the violence set out in boats for the ocean and the River Naf. However, the Bangladeshis refused to admit these refugees, and hundreds subsequently drowned.
The homes of those people remaining under curfew in Rakhine were burned down by fanatical Buddhists. Those who broke the ban on leaving their homes were shot. Many Rohingya burned to death in their homes, though the bodies were later taken away in trucks, for which reason the number of dead could not be precisely determined.
The New Wave of Killings That Began in January 2014
A new wave of killings in Du-Chira-Dan village affiliated to the Maungdaw region inhabited by Muslims began on January 14th, 2014. Myanmar military forces, police forces (Hlun Hteins) and Rakhine terrorists carried out a vicious and bloody raid on this Rohingya village in Rakhine. A police officer was killed during events that broke out in the wake of a village administrator in the region killing eight Rohingya. After that, authorities in the Maungdaw district ordered the security forces to open fire on villagers. At least 48 people died in the attacks, many innocent villagers were detained and women and girls were raped. Two hundred women, six men and five children disappeared. Arrest warrants were issued for all Rohingya males over the age of 10. Hundreds of people had to flee the region in terror. A settlement area with 340 dwellings and housing 4,000 people was entirely emptied out. The village was declared a ‘forbidden zone’ by the authorities and observers, journalists and Rohingya from outside were forbidden to enter the village. One part of the village, containing some 60 homes, was burned down by police forces and Rakhine terrorists. Some 500 Rohingya who had fled to neighboring villages were forced to return to their village owing to hunger and lack of shelter; but all the homes in the villages, all their goods, animals and food, had been plundered.
Life Is No Different in the Refugee Camps
The aim behind all this is to force Muslims to leave the country. This policy of oppression and persecution over the decades has borne fruit, and today hundreds of thousands of Rakhine Muslims are refugees outside the borders of Myanmar. There are currently 200,000 Rakhine Muslims in Pakistan, 500,000 in Saudi Arabia and 10,000 in Malaysia. There are 22,000 refugees under U.N. supervision in Bangladesh and up to 300,000 undocumented migrants. However, the Rakhine Muslims again face starvation and many other difficulties in these refugee camps in Bangladesh.
What Can We Do for Them?
Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine are living under indescribable conditions and facing the most ruthless oppression. They are kidnapped and used in human trafficking, subjected to the most horrific torture, the women are raped, their homes burned and destroyed, they are forced to work with no rights, like slaves and they are deprived of even the most basic human rights.
The difference between them and many other oppressed people in the world is that their cries for help are “silent.” Nobody hears them. For nearly a century they have been subjected to indescribable oppression and slaughter. Yet no permanent steps have been taken to put an end to it.
Measures at the international level are urgently needed in order to get aid to these innocent people and free them from the terror and fear they are living under, from the threat of systematic oppression and what can only be described as “deep state terrorism”. The U.N. and all other international authorities must apply targeted sanctions against those in Myanmar responsible for this policy of brutality in a determined manner and guarantee the rights of the oppressed there: It is also most important to that end for the appropriate measures to be taken for the sending of a U.N. peacekeeping force to the Rakhine region.
The main steps that need to be taken are putting an end to torture, rape, pillaging, unjust detentions and extrajudicial killings, the ability to initiate investigations and legal proceedings against those responsible for such illegalities, and the international media and human rights organizations being given the means to carry out investigations and report from the scene.
After that, it is vitally important for the U.N. to take steps to guarantee the citizenship rights of the Rohingya people. They must be able to benefit from education and health services and to access drugs and medical treatment, like all other citizens, and it is important to establish contacts with the Myanmar government in order for them to enjoy the same human rights as everyone else.
Rakhine Is Awaiting a Rescuer
However, even if all these measures are taken, a permanent solution to bring tranquility to the people of Rakhine is still needed. If all the Muslims of the world unite and forge an alliance, the result will be a major force representing approximate ¼ of the world’s population, some 1.5 billion people. In the face of such a force in the political, economic and military spheres, no tyrant would have the courage to oppress even one single Muslim.
The Turkish Translation Of the Article: