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.