I didn’t know who the Rohingya people were before I started working with international human rights organisation Restless Beings in 2010.
A stateless persecuted minority in Myanmar (Burma) who despite being able to trace their ancestry in Myanmar through generations as natives, are deemed as “illegal Bengali immigrants.”
Although many Rohingya refugees have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, there is an increasing “push back” policy including forcible returns and detention.
Despite being referred to as one of the most oppressed minorities in the world, the Rohingya plight has been widely underreported which perhaps explains why so many people still do not know who the Rohingya are.
In recent years, there has been some media coverage of particular ‘crack downs’ or ‘flare ups’ – as is happening at present.
However, it would be wrong to think that the persecution of the Rohingya is a new issue. This has been going on for decades.
The international community is silent on the Rohingya. It is not ‘fashionable’ enough and clearly serves nobody’s political agenda.
The silence of Aung San Sui Kyi, so called nobel prize winner, and ‘human rights’ icon, is particularly damming.
Some of the horrifying atrocities that are currently being reported include:
- Mass rape- women and girls
- Indiscriminate shooting
- Killing- adults and children
- Burning down of villages
The Rohingya Muslim minority are being ethnically cleansed.
It is the word that people are afraid to use. Genocide.
When looking at the ‘8 stages of genocide’ in the context of the Rohingya – the parallels are stark.
Classification. Symbolisation. Dehumanisation. Organisation. Polarisation. Preparation. Extermination. Denial.
In the face of such impotence from international players, it is us who must speak out.
What can we do?
- Educate yourself. Who are the Rohingya? What is happening?
- Share knowledge. Speak to people. Utilise social media. Fill the gap from mainstream media outlets.
- Lobby. Write to your MP.
- Engage with organisations working on this issue for example Restless Beings who have a three pronged ‘Rohingya Rights’ campaign: a petition, collecting donations and a protest in London on 2nd December 2016 from the FCO, marching to the Burmese embassy.
- Find events in your area such as ‘Silence Over the Rohingya Genocide’ at the London Muslim Centre on 30th November 2016.
- Better still, arrange an event/meeting yourself. Organise with other people in the community, pool resources, skills and ideas about what can be done.
- Don’t be silent. Don’t allow it to be legitimised through silence.
*Images from All Jazeera, East London Mosque & Restless Beings respectively.