Tale of woe of Rohingya people

Escape story towards murder, lost identity

Dr.Nasser Mamoun Issa
Latest posts by Dr.Nasser Mamoun Issa (see all)

Translated from Arabic by Shaimaa Behery

Since the eruption of violence against the Rohingya Muslims in the Arakan region in western Myanmar (formerly Rome) with the acquiescence of Buddhist extremists, then the army and police forces soon became involved in those massacres in the sixties of the last century, the tragedy is still ongoing with systematic persecution, alienation, displacement, murder, burning and mass rape before the eyes of the world, especially those billion and a half Muslims. Although these genocidal campaigns have affected the world in 2017, the issue has old roots and here we’re trying to identify some of them after shedding the light on the identity of the Rohingya people.

Roots of persecution practiced against the Rohingya

Rohingya Muslims represent a non-negligible number in the population of as they constitute more than 15% of the country’s population, estimated with 60 million. However, the Myanmar government still refuses to recognize them as citizens and considers them illegal immigrants. They speak their own language (Rohingya), an Indo-European tongue related to the language (Chittagong) that is used in Bangladesh. Perhaps this is what prompted the Buddhists to say that they are of Bangladeshi origin while to date Myanmar still considers them stateless.

Some analysts have argued that Islam entered the state of Arakan in the first century of Hijra, while others traces it back to the reign of King Harun al-Rashid, believing Islam trod Arkan lands  with the Arab merchants in the seventh century.

Arakan region Muslims are called the Rohingya, a word was derived from the word “Rahan” or “Rua” means “mercy”. This name goes to the Afghani origin while some attribute it to a Bengali origin, although the meaning is the same in both dialects. Then, the Arakan people formed an Islamic kingdom founded by King“Suleiman Shah” and lasted for centuries, as 48 Muslim rulers took over in succession.”

After that, it was humiliated and the Burmese occupied it in 1824 during the reign of King “Bodabai”  who annexed it to Burma then the British occupied the area in 1848 before returning to Burma again in 1948.

When the British occupied the Arakan region, its people showed fierce resistance, which led the occupier to use the Buddhists against the Muslims of the region after arming them and to sow rancor between both sides which deepened the ideological dispute and as a result thorns of both sides were broken.

This was confirmed by a report on the persecution of the Muslims of Burma issued by the Al-Azhar Observatory in 2015. Even after Burma’s independence from the British Indian government that was known later as the British government of Burma, the fierce attacks of the “Buddhist Mag” group against the Rohingya Muslims continued with British support until the number of deaths in 1938 reached to 30,000 while the death toll from 1942 to 1947 exceeded 10,000.

The situation even worsened after the army took power in a military coup in 1962, when a forced displacement campaign launched against the Rohingya people, which forced more than 300,000 people to flee to Bangladesh in 1978 and almost the same number in 1992.

Such violent persecution practiced against these Muslims compelled them to carry arms under an armed group banner was known as “The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army“, which the Myanmar government took as a strong pretext for its persecution, alleging that it resists an extremist armed rebel group.

There are many movements that operate according to the approach of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, top o which is the “969 movement”, which is a Buddhist nationalist organization founded in 1999 and aimed at limiting the spread of the Islamic religion until it pushed the government to enact special laws that criminalize the marriage of Muslim women before the age of 25 and the young men before the age of 30. It uses religious and cultural motives to justify violence against the Rohingya. In the slogan, the first number “9” means the characteristics of Buddha and the number 6 refers to the teachings of Buddha and what is known as the Dharma while the last number 9 refers to features relevant to monks or the sang.

In 2017, the pace of violence against the Rohingya took a dangerous turn, reaching the point of burning them alive as well as raping and converting mosques into pig barns.

Meanwhile, between 2012 and 2015, an extremist nationalist tendency emerged against the Rohingya Muslims, led by the Committee for the Protection of Ethnicity and Religion, known by the acronym (Ma Ba Tha), then violence erupted from killing and burning Muslim homes and mosques while genocidal campaigns were renewed more systematically in 2017, reaching a climax of burning alive and burial of groups in mass graves alive in shackles combining an old man, a woman and a child. They even held parties for the mass rape of women.

The international situation

As for the situation of the international community, Salimullah Abdul Rahman described it with insincerity as it supported the situation of Myanmar, claiming the matter has not yet reached the level of genocide, while calling for easing the international pressure on Myanmar.

The international community has betrayed the Rohingya people by supporting the massacres secretly, publicly and in international forums

As for the Chinese situation, it went further as it stood against a British-language resolution condemning Myanmar for its genocide of the Rohingya Muslims in the UN Security Council in 2017 at a time when crimes against the Rohingya Muslims were facing the whole world. Even during the visit of former US President Barack Obama to Myanmar, he did not mention this massacre except in a phrase was shrouded in timidity, “The government must work to provide decent ways of life for the Muslim minority and preserve their rights.” As for the current administration, it doesn’t follow a different approach as it disclosed that they seek with Myanmar for “a partnership to help them.”

The United Nations stated in a report issued in 2014 that the Muslims of Arakan faced a religious discrimination, but the international accommodations had an impact on the situation of the largest organization in the world. In 2016, a fact-finding committee went on this issue headed by Kofi Annan, UN Secretary-General. It was formed by State Counselor (Prime Minister in Myanmar) Arnage San Sochi, daughter of Burmese, Nobel Peace Prize winner. The committee delivered its report deliberately incomplete in 2017 according to the international human rights organizations. It ignored the description of what is known as complete crimes against humanity and genocide as it included four of the five articles adopted by the United Nations in description of a genocide incident (*).

Accordingly, they called for an international committee but not advisory, appointed by the Myanmar state advisor. A responsive report was issued by the United Nations afterwards, describing some of the actions of the army and police forces there as acts (killing, displacement and mass rape), but the Security Council had failed to legalize this accusation with a Chinese veto in March 2017.

Islamic situation

Credit goes to the Islamic neighboring country, Bangladesh, being one of the Islamic countries that has paid the most of the bill for what happened to the displaced Rohingya people. It contained nearly a million displaced persons despite its poor economic conditions.  It opened its borders to them despite the immorality with which the Myanmar army dealt with the displaced and even after they had planted internationally prohibited mines at the border points with Bangladesh that the displaced people use to cross from Myanmar into Bangladesh. It allocated the area of Tengar Char Island in the Bay of Bengal to absorb a large part of them until the crisis is resolved.

At the meantime, India received some of them in the Muslim regions of Hyderabad and Faridabad, and Islamic and non-Islamic civil society institutions, motivated by the All-India Islamic Council, provided living aid and educational means for their children.

Saudi Arabia has absorbed a number of them and Turkey, through the TIKA Humanitarian Agency, provided assistance to the displaced in their camps in Bangladesh while Iran declared its full support for the Rohingya Muslims, considering what is happening with them as a Zionist conspiracy, and it called on the Islamic world to cut all forms of relations with Myanmar.

Finally came the role of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, it has asked the 57 member states to provide aid and extend a helping hand to the Rohingya Muslim people, submitted a draft resolution to the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, whose decisions are not mandatory, sponsored sessions and seminars within the salons of the United Nations and formed committees to visit the displaced in their shelters.

The Gambian response to the issue: –

The Gambia State, the smallest African country in the region that was announced by its president, Yahya Jammeh as an Islamic state in 2015, under the mandate of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, filed a lawsuit before the International Criminal Court in November 2017 against the Myanmar government. It accused it of committing acts that constitute genocide and crimes against humanity against the Rohingya Muslim minority, demanding the punishment of the army and police officials who contributed to these acts, as well as obligating the Myanmar government to provide them with the means of protection and the due care until the case is settled. Myanmar had objected to the case on the pretext that it had not yet signed the court’s charter while court had the right to consider this case because Bangladesh is a member of the court.

In response to the lawsuit, the court set hearings lasted from 10 to 12 December 2019 at its headquarters in The Hague. The Prime Minister of Myanmar headed the country’s delegation before the court, denying all the accusations and considering what had been done, although the army had transgressed in its deeds, was to face a rebel group without an intention to commit any genocide. The Myanmar appearance before the court was accompanied by limited demonstrations by some of its supporters before the court in The Hague as well as in major cities in Myanmar in support of its situation.

On the other hand, Mr. Abu Bakr Tambado, Minister of Justice in the government of Gambia, headed the prosecution delegation by virtue of his previous work as a lawyer before that court. Although the rulings of that court are not executory, its rulings have great legal weight t, and Gambia has succeeded in introducing a judicial act for the court to form a committee of three international judges. The committee is to follow up and supervise the government’s implementation of its commitment to provide protection for the Muslim minority and provide a report of observations that may be made during the follow-up process.

Litigation before that court may continue for years and needs a large financial cover, which is not available for this country (Gambia) who won the respect of all civilized world members. The national income of the State of Gambia does not exceed 1.48 billion USD annually as its population does not exceed 2 million, which requires the member states of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation with deep pockets to contribute to bearing most of the expenses of the case.

Nevertheless, there is a question about the reason behind choosing the Gambia State specifically to lead the litigation scene rather than mandating a major Islamic country of international weight  that may support the Rohingya situation. Still, Gambia has so far provided a respectable example and indeed the experience of the Minister of Justice, Abubakar Tambado resulted in withdrawing the court’s judges to the situation on the ground, engaging them in action, working outside the stage, and participating in the entries of this humanitarian file in the first place.

Expected scenarios

First scenario

Continued intransigence from the part of the Myanmar government, and this matter may expose it to international sanctions, at least economic, and such scenario is believed to be unlikely to happen after this international momentum this case has gained.

Second scenario

The right of self-determination to the Rohingya people may be recognized in response to the global pressure and by virtue of the Burma independence agreement from the British government of India. This agreement had stipulated that the British Burma government shall give any region who wants the right to determine its own destiny whenever it is requested.

Nevertheless, this scenario is unlikely to happen as well in the light of an international community that did not act until after Injustice has reached its extent and the number of victims has doubled ten times, and it has become required to finance the displaced are estimated with more than million in more than one country in the world.

Third scenario

It is relevant to the Myanmar government. It may calm down and bend to the high international winds until it passes and then inevitably will start again. This is because the problem is due to a doctrinal dispute which is critical and preferred by the human being as it is closer to the jihad, a path of martyrdom and eternity. This is the prevailing scenario from our point of view.

Even so, Islamic countries still have an important and original role. They have to exercise their right to show their much belated amount in the political and diplomatic boycott to the Myanmar government and most importantly economic blockade by closing Islamic markets in front of their products while urging moderate international friends to participate in this and use their economic and political weight t in forums and international organizations to affect the Myanmar and force it to respect human rights. The human rights that has become a mere voice casted in a selective manner and a threatening tool in the matrix of interests until it has unfortunately lost its sublime meaning.

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