20 September 2017 | Words and images: Azhar Vadi | Cox’s Bazaar
Featured image: A mother hold her one day old baby born at a refugee camp. She has 5 other children
The rain has been falling incessantly in Cox’s Bazaar region and the Rohingya living in makeshift refugee camps on the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh have another day to survive.
Despite their blood churning stories finally drawing the attention of the world towards their plight, it seems that nothing different will happen today and not much will change.
For each individual, newly born babies, weakened grannies, barefooted men and women, their only mission for the next 24 hours would be to stay alive, find something to eat and looking forward to the next 24 hours.
The task is easier said than done in flapping plastic camps alongside roads that have become mud pools.
With close to 500 000 new arrivals in Bangladesh since a surge in violence against the Muslim minority group in Myanmar by the army on August 25, NGO’s have been struggling to keep up.
There has simply not been enough food, medicine and shelter being provided and with the Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s address to the world on Tuesday regarding the crisis, it seems as if she has created more questions than answers.
In her 30 min speech, the Nobel Peace laureate said the Myanmar government wanted to find out the reason why the Rohingya had fled the country and poured into Bangladesh. Her proposed ignorance to the issues were put forward despite a report published on 23 August 2017 by the former Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan.
This report was commissioned by the Myanmar government and clearly pointed out the core problems faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar’s Rakhine state: statelessness, a lack of citizenship, police and military brutality, the lack of jobs and economic opportunity.
Her claim of not knowing can only seen as a weak attempt to protect the Myanmar military as the facts on the ground have long since pointed towards a constructed and directed genocide. The aim has simply been to ethnically cleanse the Rakhine state of the Rohingya people, a population not even regarded as citizens of the Myanmar by a decree of 1982.
And this particular point has long been the objective of the Myanmar regime. As early as October 2014 the International State Crime Initiative at the Queen Mary University in London published a report indicating that the aim of the Myanmar government has been to remove the Rohingya systematically from the region. The British research institute noted that this has been a slow genocide already spanning three decades.
Suu Kyi’s desire to now want to find out why the Rohingya have fled is preposterous.
Referencing the report, the US Newsweek publication noted as early as in 2015, that the Rohingya have been subjected to deliberate lack of food, employment opportunities, health care and severe discrimination at the hands of the Buddhists monks and the other non-Muslim villagers.
“Human rights violations against the Rohingya include rape, torture, killings, arbitrary detention and confiscation of land, while gettoization, sporadic massacres and limits of movement amount ‘to a long–term strategy by the state to isolate, weaken and eliminate the group’”, the report noted.
New born babies have not been issued with birth certificates and as of 1982 the entire population of around 1,3 million people have become stateless.
In August this year a group of men belonging to an entity that has come to be known as the Arakan Rohingya Solidarity Army (ARSA) attacked a police post leaving 12 policemen dead. ARSA made its first appearance a year earlier in October 2016 when they attacked three police outposts with sticks and knives leaving 9 police officers dead.
Their leader is a man called Ataullah Abu Amar Jununi who claims to have directed the assaults on the police as a response to the ongoing violence against the Rohingya. Has the group’s actions though been in the interest of the Rohingya people?
The 2017 attacks provided the perfect pretext for the military crackdown that has now left thousands possibly dead, although the government claims that less than 1000 Rohingya militants have been killed. The 1 million odd Rohingya living in the disapora have very little chance of ever returning home.
There are those in the NGO sector, speaking on condition of anonymity, who believe that ARSA may have even been created by the Myanmar rulers to provide the spark required to justify the military offensive against the Rohingya. The supposed justification of clearing the region of terrorists would allow the Myanmar regime to push forward with their plan of ethnic cleansing. The claim has yet to be proven.
Be that as it may, ARSA’s actions have been a result of years of repression against the Rohingya. Speaking to Al Jazeera, Maung Zarni, an adviser to the European Centre for the Strategic Studies of Extremism noted the following regarding ARSA: “This is not a terrorist group aimed at striking at the heart of the Myanmar society as the government claims it is. They’re a group of hopeless men who decided to form some kind of self-defence group and protect their people who are living in conditions akin to a Nazi concentration camp.”
On the ground in the Bangladeshi refugee camps, the Rohingya continue to languish in the mud and rain. Their outstretched hands reach to the world begging for assistance. Their misery shoots forth from their eyes, piercingly. Yet they consider themselves to be the fortunate ones. They worry about those left behind.
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Ref: Rohingya (lillah/zakaat)