Diary of a not-so-baby BarriSTAR

An alternative perspective



It’s Only a Genocide when we say: The Rohingya

The Rohingya struggle is one of the starkest embodiments of the failure of international systems and international law. There are a number of legal and normative frameworks that ought to apply to the Rohingya plight, including international human rights law, international criminal law, international refugee law and the responsibility to protect. Yet there is no relief, no remedy and no effective recourse.

The phrase “never again” is often espoused on genocide commemoration days when we talk about preventing mass atrocities. But, in so many cases such as Myanmar, Palestine, Syria and Yemen “over and over again” is more accurate. Language, labels, and legal definitions are selective because they reflect oppressive relationships of power that enable human rights violations to begin with. Too often, oppressed people have to wait for their suffering to reach an arbitrary threshold imposed by those complicit in their oppression. Consequently, their struggle is appropriated and their suffering is colonized, just like their existence. Just like their place in history—a history that is simultaneously being erased and rewritten.

To navigate within an unjust system, we must first recognize that the political system and the law will never be enough. We must raise our consciousness on an individual level and in community with one another. We must identify shared struggles when we try and support groups in elevating their voices. When we talk about Palestine, we must talk about the Rohingya. When we talk about Standing Rock, we must talk about the Rohingya. When we speak for Syria we must speak for the Rohingya, whose decades long struggle has so often been silenced. We must not be selective in our outrage or condemnation.

We must universally stand with all oppressed people, if we are truly committed to every individual’s right to live in their full humanity, in dignity and with freedom.

An extract from my blog for the Centre for Constitutional Rights. 


Sanctuary in Death

Today feels different.

As I walked to the subway to get to work, the sun was shining. What a beautiful day.

I wonder if the sun is shining in Aleppo.

Despite the corpses littering the streets.

I thought about how many absolute truths we share as humans.

The sky.

The air we breathe.

The blood we bleed.

Yet, how our humanity is qualified. Contingent. Conditional.









Scrolling through social media feeds.

Aleppo has fallen.  Civilians shot dead. Children burnt alive. Scores of men disappeared. The rebels are baddies too. MPs are holding an ’emergency’ debate. The UN says atrocities are being committed.

“A Meltdown in Humanity”

Nothing in actual fact is particularly different today. Innocent people die every single day at the hands of oppressors in this increasingly dark world.

But today feels different.

I hate the international community, governments, the UN every day.

But today feels different.

I feel anger, sadness and helplessness every day.

But today feels different.

Today the tears fall.

Today, I struggle to find hope.


“Families in Aleppo are asking religious scholars if it’s permissible to kill their daughters before they are captured and raped.”


What must one have endured, what must one fear when killing your own child is the better option?

My heart doesn’t just break for Syria. My sadness today isn’t just for Aleppo.

It is for an existence where the only sanctuary for some is in death.

I know for some, they choose not to read what is going on, because it is too sad. Because we feel helpless.

But we must




Over and over.

It is the least we could do.


I want my sadness to consume me. 


The only glimmer of light I have felt today came from what I paste below.

Even if you categorise yourself as an unbeliever, it is at times like this that a belief in eternal divine justice can provide even you, some hope- because what else is there?


Prophet Muhammad (saw) said:

“When the believer is about to depart from this world and go forward into the Next World, angels with faces as bright as the sun descend from the heavens and sit around him in throngs stretching as far as the eye can see. Then the Angel of Death comes and sits at his head and says, ‘Good soul, come out to forgiveness and pleasure from Allah!’ Then his soul emerges like a drop of water flows from a water-skin and the angel takes hold of it.

“When he has grasped it, the other angels do not leave it in his hand even for the twinkling of an eye. They take it and place it in a perfumed shroud and a fragrance issues from it like the sweetest scent of musk found on the face on the earth.”

“Then they bear it upwards and whenever they take it past a company of angels, they ask, ‘Who is this good soul?’ and the angels with the soul reply, “So-and-so the son of so-and-so,” using the best names by which people used to call him in this world. They bring him to the lowest heaven and ask for the gate to be opened for him. It is opened for him and angels who are near Allah from each of the heavens accompany him to the subsequent heaven until he reaches to the heaven where Allah the Great is. Allah, the Mighty and Majestic, says, ‘Register the book of My slave in ‘Illiyun and take him back to earth. I created them from it and I return them to it and I will bring them forth from it again.’”

*Image via Alaa Basatneh

The Silent Rohingya Genocide

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
  • Torture
  • Kidnap
  • 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?

  1. Educate yourself. Who are the Rohingya? What is happening?
  2. Share knowledge. Speak to people. Utilise social media. Fill the gap from mainstream media outlets.
  3. Lobby. Write to your MP.
  4. 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.
  5. Find events in your area such as ‘Silence Over the Rohingya Genocide’ at the London Muslim Centre on 30th November 2016.
  6. Better still, arrange an event/meeting yourself. Organise with other people in the community, pool resources, skills and ideas about what can be done.
  7. Don’t be silent. Don’t allow it to be legitimised through silence.

*Images from All Jazeera, East London Mosque & Restless Beings respectively.

“Silenced Voices: Stories from Srebrenica & Sarajevo” is a an event which has been organised by a group of delegates who travelled to Bosnia & Herzegovina in November through the charity ‘Remembering Srebrenica.’

The group took part in the flagship ‘Lessons from Srebrenica’ programme and hope to share their experiences and insight. The aim is that we can reflect on the past, and learn lessons from history to tackle ongoing challenges in the world today.

5th March, at BPP law school, Holborn


Exhibition | Film screenings | Presentations | Networking


Stories from survivors from the Bosnian conflict | Human rights theatre from Ice & Fire | Film screening of ‘Silenced Voices’ |
Music | Performance poetry

Please join us for as much or as little of the programme. This promises to be a fantastic event!

Further details and tickets:
#Bosnia #BiH #Srebrenica #Sarajevo #London #HumanRights #InternationalJustice #Genocide #RememberSrebrenica Photo credit: Eleanor Zafra Weber-Ballard

An Unbreakable Spirit of Strength and Survival | The NewJurist

It’s 3.14am Sarajevo time.

My mind is in so many places, I don’t know what to say.

Until I can formulate a coherent post describing today in Srebrenica, I adopt the words of one of the Mothers of Srebrenica we met and say this:

Why is a two day old baby here with a bullet through his skull?


Srebrenica memorial & cemetery.
3rd November 2015

The wall of death. 16 meters long containing the names and ages of the 8372 killed in the #Srebrenica #Genocide. Amazing exhibition by the brilliant Tarik Samarah #Bosnia #Sarajevo #Art #Exhibition #Gallery #Photography #TariqSamarah

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