Ethnic cleansing has been the motivation behind some of the worst genocides in history. Unbeknownst to many people, this format did not end with Hitler. A small country in Asia, Myanmar, is going through this in full force, and the group being targeted is the Rohingya Muslims.
More than 600,000 Rohingya refugees have been forced to leave their homes because of the brutality inflicted by Myanmar’s government.
A Rohingya girl from Myanmar, Yasmine Ullah, describes this as a genocide, disagreeing with the United Nations simply classifying the atrocities as “ethnic cleansing.” She stated, “the word ethnic cleansing, it doesn’t bring about as much responsibility … It doesn’t bring anyone to be accountable for this.”
The United Nations recognizes ethnic cleansing as a bad thing, but not bad enough to actually warrant them stepping in. The classification of ethnic cleansing, while actual genocide is going on, is a common occurrence in UN classification of atrocity.
While it is wise not to jump to a serious ruling like genocide hastily, the genocide in Myanmar has been going on long enough to where making this ruling would no longer be considered hasty. The ethnic cleansing classification means that Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims won’t receive international intervention to stop the horror plaguing them at the hands of Myanmar soldiers.
It all started with the loss of civil liberties. Rohingya Muslims were stripped of their citizenship in 1982, and along with it, all of their rights. Rohingya Muslims are not allowed to attend school and are segregated from the rest of the people of Myanmar. The Rohingya are often incarcerated without charges.
Ullah describes this. “My uncle has just said to my mom last night that the military have come in and tried to take away men in the villages again and two men were incarcerated yesterday without charges.” Her own cousin’s husband was subjected to this plight. “He doesn’t have any rights to fair trial. So it’s either he will be murdered later on or he would be kidnapped. That’s just the plight of the Rohingya.”
Men aren’t the only ones being subjected to this horror. Rohingya women are frequently gang-raped by Myanmar soldiers, often getting significantly injured in the process. Human Rights Watch asserts that this is used systemically to attack the Rohingya.
An 18-year-old girl, Noor, recounted her experience when the Myanmar military raided her village. She recalls the women and girls of her village hiding from the soldiers.
After locating them and then leaving, they returned and began to search and strip the women and girls. Several girls were tied up and taken away, including Noir. When resisting this, she was choked and gang-raped until she passed out.
“About 10 to 15 army men raped me, and left me there and went away… I had blood and urine all over my clothes,” she said. After being revived by village women, she walked to Bangladesh in agonizing pain.
She is still, weeks later, suffering from internal bleeding. Due to stigma, she can not even tell doctors or her husband what really happened to her. “My husband even threatened to leave me if I do not recover from bleeding soon,” she said.
Noor’s story is one of many. This is something that permeates the lives of so many women and affects them for the rest of their lives. These brutal gang rapes are a tactic used to wound, scare, damage, and control Rohingya women to the fullest extent possible in a way that causes the most harm possible.
Now, Myanmar claims that they are ready to take Rohingya Muslim refugees back, and the countries sheltering them are on board. However, it’s horrifying to think of what the Rohingya could be coming back to.
With genocide in full swing, brutal gang rape a common occurrence, and the Rohingya being completely devoid of human rights, Myanmar is in no state to be able to accept Rohingya refugees back into the country with giving them an acceptable quality of life. Sheltering countries must consider this before deporting refugees back to Myanmar.
Rohingya refugees do not wish to be sent back to Myanmar, and the imminent return of the refugees to Myanmar is not based on a desire for the Rohingya to have their home back or any other relatively noble cause. Their imminent deportation is done out of an unwillingness to help a people in need and utter disinterest and apathy toward human rights and genocide.
There are about 16,500 Rohingya refugees in India that have been issued identity cards by the United Nations. However, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, Karen Rijiju, describes the refugees as “illegal immigrants.”
We must stand with the Rohingya refugees. Deporting them would mean shipping them back to be subjected to unlawful imprisonment, systematic rape, and organized mass murder. Deporting them would be assistance to genocide.
Photo: DYKT Mohigan