Turkey breaks the stoic world-silence, offers help
Syyyed Mansoor Agha
The plight of Muslim Rohingya of Myanmar is once again in news. The present problem is rooted in the Citizen’s Law of 1982. The Military Junta of Myanmar, under Gen Nu Win, brought the unscrupulous law, outlawing an entire population of nearly one million ‘Rohingya’, residing in former independent Kingdom of Arakan, bordering the Chittagong region of Bengal. Their forefathers had migrated centuries ago from Indian sub-continent and settled in the Arakan. Then the borders were not so defined and migration from one part of the land to another was unrestricted. Aryans by origin, these migrants comprised of Hindus, Muslims, and Buddhist. The British regime also brought many Indians to Burma to help run administration and cultivation. As time passed, Hindus and Buddhists assimilated in local culture, as they have had common features in cultural and religious traditions and practices. The Muslims kept their identity as Monotheist. Having their roots in Bengal, Bangla language and dialect is inter-woven in their mother tongue. Bangla culture has also deep imprints on their day to day life. The Myanmar regime, formerly known as Burma, refuses to recognize them as a local race and call them “illegal Bengali Migrants.”
Till the independence of Burma in 1948, there was no problem. But British, as are known, sow the seeds of divide in the population before they left the country. The Muslim Majority Kingdom of Arakan was a battlefield during WW II, in 1942. The majority of local Muslims sided with Japanese. After U.S. Nuclear attack on twin cities of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan conceded defeat and withdrew; Arakan was taken over by the British Army. After some time the British regime merged the Arakan state with Burma. After independence in 1948 Burmese regime redefined the boarders of Arakan and changed the demography. New state was named as “Rakhine State”. The 1982 law under the unethical and illegitimate pressure of radical Buddhist monks restricts full citizenship to Indian migrants. 1823 is set as dead-line. Now the people who live in thatched houses in the slum clusters and in hutments in jungles are being burdened to prove their migration date before 1823. It is deliberate strategy to deprive the genuine citizens their civil rights. The country is intended to drive them out.
Vast majority of Rohingya are Muslims. Despite promises of equality by Myanmar's popular leader Aung San, the Rohingyas, Rohingyas are facing deadly attacks of the blood-thirsty Monks and the Military crackdowns as were in 1978, 1991–1992, 2012, 2015 and now in 2016–2017. UN officials have described the act of persecution “as ethnic cleansing”. There have been warnings of a systematically “unfolding genocide” of a religious and ethnic minority. This is a grave situation. Till now thousands Rohingya have drown in sea while fleeing from Burma. Unaccounted number of men, women and children died in mob and military action and their dwellings burnt and destroyed.
Yanghee Lee, the UN special investigator on Myanmar, believes the country wants to eliminate its entire Rohingya population from the country. A report published this February in “Global Population” Gabriella Canal described this tiny population as "one of the most persecuted minorities in the world". Under 1982 law, most of the Rohingya are restricted from freedom of movement, state education and civil service jobs in Myanmar. They are forced to restrict to manual jobs like rage-picker etc.
On August 31, Thursday AP published a horrifying picture of dozens children and women floating in a river in bordering Bangladesh. Three boats of Rohingyas mysteriously sunk while crossing over to escape firing squids of Burmese military. The report says, “The recent clashes in the western State of Rakhine have claimed over 70 lives and forced thousands of Rohingya to flee across the border into Bangladesh, in a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis.” According to the UN’s International Organisation for Migration, “Most of the victims are women and children.”
The military crackdown on un-armed people has been widely condemned as excessive. The military action came after some violent incidents were reported. The civil government is being accused of being an onlooker. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also rebuked Nobel Prize winner and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Aung San Suu Kyi’s for irresponsible statements. The AP report says, “She has failed to exert any moral pressure to secure humane treatment and humanitarian assistance for the systematically persecuted Rohingya.” And that, “She continues her silence over the army brutalities.”
The report further pointed out, “In fact, the UN agency’s report in February, based on a study of the military crackdown, had described the slaughter of thousands and displacement of even larger numbers as crimes against humanity.” The radical Buddhist nationalists, who replicate in Burma, the Indian “Hindutva” proponents, have been resisting the recognition of the Rohingya. They are pressuring the government and the Army for even harsher action against the minority. They rubbished the findings of the UN Advisory Commission headed by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. The report calls upon the Myanmar government, “to act on the recommendations of the Commission, on the guarantee of citizenship rights to the Rohingya, freedom of movement and enforcement of the rule of law.” The Myanmar administration is deaf and blind towards fulfilling the legal obligation. And the world community is a silent spectator.
Ruling National League for Democracy, under the pressure of military junta, and radical Buddhist Monks influence on voters, do not have courage to stand for justice and morality. The Bangladesh regime, who takes pride in hanging most pious and elderly people of the country, is naturally blind to the curse of Rohingya men, women and children. The Indian government, which has her own discriminatory prism, is reportedly planning to deport Rohingya Muslim migrants from her soil. A leading human rights activist, Prashan Bhushan, Advocate has approached the Supreme Court, and the court has accepted his PIL for hearing.
The Myanmar regime is clearly following the policy of apartheid on the strength of hardcore communalist Buddhists Monks who have dumped Buddha’s teachings of non-violence and humanity. At the time when world is seeing all this with silent pleasure Turkey has raised her voice. According a media report (guardian.com) from Ankara, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday raised his concerns on the "genocide" against the Rohingya Muslim minority. Erdogan in his address on Eidul Azha said in Istanbul "Those who close their eyes to this genocide, perpetuated under the cover of democracy, are its collaborators".
The report said, “To escape the violence, about 20,000 Rohingya have massed along the Bangladeshi frontier, barred from entering the country, while scores of desperate people have drowned attempting to cross the Naf, a border river, in makeshift boats.”
Mr. Erdogan declared that “Turkey would bring up the issue at the next UN General Assembly later this month, adding that he had already talked to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other Muslim leaders.”
Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency reported that “Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Bangladeshi authorities to "open your doors," adding that the country would cover the costs associated with letting in more Rohingya.” Reportedly Bangladesh is not averse and is working on the Turkish suggestion. This may lessen the financial burden of Bangladesh and bring some relief to the migrants but do not address the real cause of displacement.
At present Bangladesh hosts around 400,000 Rohingya. She has been harshly reluctant to accept more, though the life of many is in danger. The Turkish Minister told the media, "We have called upon the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.We shall organise a summit this year" on the issue. "We have to find a definitive solution to this problem".
The minister stressed that Turkey was "deeply concerned" by the situation in Myanmar and called for "restraint and calm to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe".
The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Wednesday to discuss the violence, but there was no formal statement on the crisis.
The world, especially the Muslim world is facing acute problem of peoples being uprooted from their homes. UN statistics (2015) revealed 244 million migrants are living abroad worldwide. “All thanks to the interests of western powers and the blind eye of the third world.” It is to be seen if Turkish voice multiplies in near future or will be forgotten till some new man made tragedy is flashed. (04.09.17)