A Muslim Rohingya man sits at his burnt home at a village in Minpyar in Rakhine state on October 28, 2012.
Centuries ago, groups of Muslims from Iran, India and some Arab nations settled down in a region that’s now part of Myanmar. To date, Rohingya Muslims, as they are called, have endured tremendous pain and suffering. Tens of thousands of them have been killed and many more displaced in the last century alone at the hands of local Buddhists, British colonial forces and the invading Japanese army--all seeking to eliminate a people described by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
The plight of the Rohingya Muslims came into the spotlight a few months ago thanks to citizen journalism and social networking websites. Activists have tried to shed light on what has come to be known as communal unrest in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state whose main victims are “stateless” Muslims. They also revealed--in the absence of mainstream media coverage--that Yangon’s plainclothes generals have given the “peace-loving” monks the green light to kill hundreds of defenseless Muslims, many of them women and children, in the past few months.
Myanmar’s Muslim community has long suffered as the result of systematic discrimination by the central government. Muslims there, at best, are not allowed to purchase land, do business freely and enjoy education opportunities. International human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International as well as UNHCR have repeatedly called for protecting the Rohingya people’s rights.
A very alarming joint statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Tomas Ojea Quintana and independent experts on minority issues says, “This situation must not become an opportunity to permanently remove an unwelcome community.”
The UN investigator and experts fear Myanmar is seeking to get rid of nearly one million of its population. However, the US, Britain, France and other Western governments that claim to be the world’s flag-bearers of democracy and human rights have chosen to take Yangon’s side by remaining silent.
But why has Myanmar decided to settle its centuries-old scores with Muslims at this point in time? The answer could be that world media attention is currently focused on Syria. Therefore, even media outlets run by Western-backed Arab monarchies are so busy propagating in favor of anti-government insurgents in Syria that they will find little airtime to cover the worsening situation of Muslims in Myanmar.
Aljazeera and Al-Arabia, for instance, prefer to use the funds provided by their dictatorial regimes to fan the flames of violence in Syria rather than working to put out the fire in Myanmar.
There are a number of major violators of human rights in the world that enjoy a high level of impunity. One can easily find instances of gross human rights abuses in the US, Israel, Canada, Britain, France, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, etc., that are never investigated by international rights bodies and the United Nations. And now, the club has a previously-unwelcome addition; the civilian-looking military regime in Myanmar.
Yangon is being rewarded for its recent attempts to reach out to the West. This is the same regime that the US and its allies condemned for decades for its brutal crackdown on dissent. The house arrest of Myanmar’s so-called democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi made TV and newspaper headlines across the world for a long time. But the deadly discrimination against a million people in Myanmar’s western region never got as much attention. And now that Suu Kyi has been set ‘free’and even joined the ‘former’ junta’s political project, she still refuses to defend the Rohingya Muslims’ rights. Ironically enough, she is a Nobel Peace prizewinner.
It’s just a matter of time before Myanmar’s Muslims start proving to the whole world that their threshold of pain is not as high as the international community thinks. They have already been extraordinarily patient. And while they may know that taking up arms to defend their families against Myanmar’s repressive regime and its killer monks could put them on the West’s terror lists, they know it well, too, that they must defend their human dignity at any cost. They have already paid too high a price for their failure to stand up to the oppressor and maybe that’s why they have had to suffer for so long.
The government of Myanmar has already won US approval to join the Pentagon’s war games in neighboring Thailand and is seeking to win more hearts in Western capitals through its new envoy, Aung San Suu Kyi. However, it seems like the ‘retired’ generals in Yangon do not read the news and still think that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Tunisia’s Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak and Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi who polished Western shoes for decades are still doing the same.
In: Regional News
Tags: islam, myanmar, burma, genocide, islam, asia, middle, east, syria, iran, arab, india
Location: Myanmar (load item map)
Marked as: approved
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