The Rohingya are an ethnoreligious minority of about 1.1 million living in the Southeast Asian country of Myanmar (also known as Burma). Although Myanmar recognizes over 130 official ethnic groups, the Rohingya are not one of them. This has rendered them stateless for decades. Statelessness has been a huge problem in recent years; most people have undoubtedly heard the term in reference to the Syrian refugee crisis. Stateless peoples are not considered citizens by any nation/state/country, which means that they lack access to services provided by the governments, such as education, housing, healthcare, voting, freedom of movement, employment, etc.
The Burmese government has persecuted the Rohingya for a long time prior to these most recent horrific events. In 1991, 250,000 Rohingya Muslim refugees “fled forced labor, rape and religious persecution at the hands of the Burmese army”. Myanmar claimed they were trying to bring order to the area (Rakhine). Two decades later, riots between the Buddhist majority and Rohingya killed over 100 people, the vast percentage of which were Rohingya. Rohingya which had been living in Myanmar for generations were herded into refugee camps and labeled as illegal Bengali immigrants by the government. As explained earlier, this status denies them basic human rights. Additionally, multiple allegations of rape and torture along with other human rights violations were expressed by those kept in the camps. Tensions increased when a violent Rohingya rebel group killed nine soldiers. This resulted in army push back and caused thousands of Rohingya to flee from Burma. As before, many told stories of rape, arson, and torture at the hands of the Burmese government. Human Rights Watch labeled the actions of Myanmar as ‘ethnic cleansing’ in 2013.
The latest installment in the persecution of the Rohingya people began on August 25th, 2017 and continues to this very moment. According to the refugees, Myanmar’s government has been sponsoring mass killings. These massacres purpose? To force Rohingya Muslims out of the country. (To clarify, this is the purpose as explained by the refugees. The Burmese government denies any such thing.) Anonymous refugee sources describe the military burning down houses and Rohingya establishments and businesses.
As the indiscriminate killing and cruelty continues, nearly 75,000 Rohingya wait for the Bangladeshi government to accept them.
Bangladesh is a small, poor country already housing hundreds of thousands of refugees. Estimates now suggest that the number of entering refugees will be greater than 100,000 people. It is unclear how the Bangladeshi government intends to handle this crisis. However, I sincerely wish them the best.
Image Source: Hossain, M. P. (2017, September 3). [Rohingya refugees walking the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Teknaf, Bangladesh]. Retrieved September 3, 2017, from http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/rohingya-exodus-continues-73000-flee-myanmar-170903082612403.html