The word ‘Rohingya’ refers to a most oppressed people in the planet. Whenever we come across this word, terms like stateless, oppressed, homeless, and a legally and socially discriminated nation comes to our mind. United Nations and some humanitarian organisations considered Rohingyas as the most persecuted people in the world. From this, we can clearly say that the Rohingya problem is one of the long-standing and deep rooted problems of the world. It is widespread, systematic and institutionalised. In Myanmar and in the rest of the world, it seems, Rohingyas are not human beings. They are stateless. Without the proper identification documents, they have no chance at being a citizen anywhere.
The Myanmar government considers Rohingyas as Bengalis who have migrated from Bangladesh. But the reality is different. It is clear that the Rohingyas are not an ethnic but rather a political construction. There is evidence that Muslims have been living in Rakhine state (at the time under the Arakan kingdom) since the 9th century. They lived in Arakan state which was recognised as an independent state during 1430-1635. During this period, no religious conflict between Buddhists and Muslims were observed but General Ne Win broke this tradition. A Burmese law passed in 1982 denied Rohingya people of their right to Myanmar citizenship which effectively rendered them stateless. And General Ne Win is responsible for today’s humanitarian crisis around Rohingyas because he enforced this 1942 act.
The Burma Citizenship Law denies their rights to nationality, and subsequently, removes their freedom of movement, access to education and services, and allows arbitrary confiscation of their property. They are not regarded as one of the country’s 135 officially recognised ethnic groups.
To get citizenship, Rohingyas need to prove they have lived in Myanmar for 60 years, but paperwork is often unavailable or denied to them. If any Rohingya family/group able to prove them as Burmese by birth but the state denied their request and the Myanmar government argues that they are so much tall but Burmese people are not as tall as Rohingyas or Bangladeshi people; that they aren’t able to speak Myanmar language like a genuine Burmese. The Rohingya people have a darker skin colour and chiselled features; they do not speak Burmese fluently, and above all, they are Muslims. Although they have been living there since 3 hundred year ago and some parliament members were elected from this minority group. Yet they are not citizens of Myanmar! As a result, their rights to study, work, travel, marry, practise their religion and access to health services are restricted. They have been the targets of mass shelling by the Burmese military and the victims of gross human rights abuses including being used as human landmine shields, rape, torture, forced disappearance, forced relocation, and the destruction of food and property. BBC and United Nations stated – the massacre resulted in the deaths of 100,000 Rohingyas, a large exodus of them and complete devastation of hundreds of large Rohingya villages and settlements throughout Arakan. It is surprisingly true that the Myanmar government directed 27 torture drives from 1942 till now aiming at abolishing Muslim Rohingya community from Rakhine state of Myanmar and it is clear to us that by doing it the Burmese army and government are trying to forcibly oust these from their homeland by means of murder, torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, executions, rape and sexual assault, military and paramilitary attacks on civilians, robbery and extortion, destruction of cultural and religious buildings and monuments, destruction of homes, confinement of civilians in camps, purposeful deprivation from foods, and some other means in a most inhuman manner in order to rid Arakan of the Rohingya population. Sometimes pseudo-democratic and sometimes autocratic powers were established in Myanmar but both types of rulers and their attitudes were the same on the Rohingya issue. Over 100,000 now live in internally displaced persons camps with no freedom of movement or access to food, water, sanitation, healthcare and education. A report released by the International State Crime Initiative at the Queen Mary University of London has concluded that Rohingyas “face the final stages of genocide” from learned history. This is a sad matter for all the human rights groups around the globe who expected better treatment of the Rohingyas from the government led by Aung Sun Suu Kyi. However, the Nobel peace prize winner has remained largely silent on the Rohingya issue. During her political struggle over the last three decades, Aung San Suu Kyi has generally spoken out against all kinds of human rights abuses committed by the military rulers against ethnic minority groups. But at the moment, we are deeply upset about her stance on Rohingyas! This has led to innumerable questions raised by peace-loving people around the globe about Aung Sun Suu Kyi.
People of the world expect that global players will rise to the occasion and play due role in ending the persecution of the Rohingyas.
Md. Sharifur Rahman Adil, Fni South-East