Genocide - the Rohingya of Burma
Genocide – the Rohingya of Burma
By Neda Tehrani
The world needs to understand why the Rohingya are escaping Burma (AK Rockefeller under a Creative Commons Licence)
It’s in the news – the migrant emergency of the Rohingya refugees. Thousands of Rohingya are still in the Andaman Sea. People are looking at how they are trying to escape Burma by boat because of so many other migrant crises. But the Rohingya story is also about the genocide of their people – and the media generally do not talk about this.
The Rohingya are an ethnic minority of about 1.3 million people in Burma. They face a lot of oppression from Burma’s government. They cannot get citizenship or basic human rights and the authorities could kill all their community. They live under apartheid in Burma. To understand this, we have to look at the bigger conflict between the Rakhine community (a Buddhist ethnic majority) and the Rohingya (a Muslim ethnic minority).
The government helped the Rakhine Buddhists commit war crimes against the Rohingya Muslims. In June 2012, there was a lot of violence against the Rohingya, and more in October. The Rakhine community (and government) were carrying out ethnic cleansing, killing many Rohingya people or forcing them to move away. There is evidence that Burma’s government was involved in human rights abuses eg. stopping humanitarian aid. And President Thein Sein said the Rohingya did not exist.
The Rohingya story is one of many stories about genocide in the world. Because of all the many disasters in the news, sometimes we stop feeling compassion. And sometimes the media do not report on genocide, so it is difficult for us to understand.
Genocide is ‘the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group’. And this is what is happening to the Rohingya; so why don’t the media call it genocide? The 2014 Israeli ground invasion of Gaza, causing 1,777 Palestinians deaths, was a war crime. But the media didn’t call it a war crime. If we don’t call these disasters genocide, it shows we don’t care about the deaths.
Also, it is difficult to understand the suffering of the Rohingya people, when the world sees Muslims as extremist and Buddhists as nonviolent and peaceful. If we accept the suffering of the Rohingya, we have to accept that other religious communities, not just Muslims, are violent and kill people. There is little space for this in mainstream Western media.
We have to find out what the media do not tell us. How are they treated badly? Is it more than ‘poor’ living conditions? Many people still think that refugees go to richer countries to try to steal jobs and grow rich. It is natural for all humans to hope for a better future. But trying to cross borders is a very dangerous risk – we know this from the many migrant deaths at sea – and they are doing it to survive. Migrants like the Rohingya are risking their lives at sea because they will be killed if they stay at home.
It is good that media is talking about the ‘boat people’. But it is worrying that they are not talking about the genocide. It is important to put pressure on Southeast Asian governments (who say the Rohingya cannot enter their countries) to respect international law, and rescue them at sea. But it is even more important to say these governments (and Western authorities that have done nothing against the oppression) are responsible for not stopping the genocide. The media might not be so responsible for the abuse. But if they do not report the reality of genocide, people will think genocide is not happening. Many people think genocide only happened in the past. But history is being made now too. And history often repeats itself.
Neda Tehrani is a graduate of Religion, Philosophy and Ethics from Kings College, London
NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: http://newint.org/blog/2015/05/21/rohingya-genocide/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).