As the Rohingya pour into Bangladesh, we must do the right thing
Genocide, a hated word in history, was first introduced in 1944 by Polish-Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin who coined the term in a book documenting the Nazi policy of systematically destroying the national and ethnic group.
Since then, this word has been accepted in all judicial lexicons and in most crimes against any ethnic community. Time and again, we had only hope for a peaceful, calmer world where the much-hated word “genocide” would perish forever.
Unfortunately, history has come to inform us that humanity has failed, the devil incarnate has risen with its deadly talons, killings, raping, maiming, burning village after village in the pretext of searching for militants in the Rakhine state in Myanmar.
The story of the Rohingya
In October of 2016, an alleged homegrown militant group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked some border military camps of the Mynamar government. Since then, the government carried out their killing of the Rohinhya Muslim population and most recently, even the Hindu population in Rakhine State.
Distrust between the government of Myanmar (mostly controlled by the military junta) and the Rohingya has deep-rooted, historical animosity.
The government of Myanmar tends to demonise their Rohingya population, calling them migrants from Bangladesh, and in many governmental notes and discussions, they cleverly and deceptively term them as “Bangalis” — which is nothing short of a planned strategic manipulation of the masses, in other words, a blatant lie.
It is also an affront to Bangladesh, because its majority ethnic community is “Bangali.”
The death and devastation now is so pervasive that Rohingya inhabitants of Rakhine State, mostly Muslims, are pouring in through the Myanmar-Bangladesh border with empty hands.
Run or die
The numbers have risen beyond 100,000, causing serious pressure on Bangladesh. The magnitude of depravity is alarming and gripping; one feels complete dejection at the horrendous state of affairs that they are living in — harrowing conditions with no food, water, medicine, and shelter.
With little children, the elderly, and young women in the family, the Rohingya are fighting off death every step of the way — only with the hope of freedom of life.
As a citizen of Bangladesh and an avid supporter of human rights, I strongly condemn the gross violations of human dignity and atrocities committed in Myanmar.
The most persecuted minority in the world had the choice of clinging to their ancestral homes and face brutal annihilation, or run for their lives.
The border guards of Bangladesh initially tried to push back.
However, when the flood of people rose to thousands, they rightly showed magnanimity and allowed them temporary abode in Bangladesh territory under the open skies; some lucky ones even found make-shift tents.
In 1978, a similar ethnic clash led to thousands of Rohingya entering Bangladesh, but the then government channels negotiated to resettle close to 30,000 Rohingyas
The government of Bangladesh, local bodies, the general public, voluntary and aid organisations, and religious bodies have all played their role, and rose to the occasion by extending support. Our security forces also compassionately reached out to the dying and suffering, providing necessary medical care, as some had bullet-wounds and scars of mutilation and torture.
What can we do?
In this abhorrent situation, we urge the government of Bangladesh to invite global bodies, agencies like the United Nations, European Union, and other communities to step in and broker peace as soon as possible, before more torture, mutilation, rape, and death in Myanmar take place.
In 1978, a similar ethnic clash led to thousands of Rohingya entering Bangladesh, but the then government channels negotiated to resettle close to 30,000 Rohingyas in 1979 through a six-month period.
An immediate effort must be launched to have a count of documented Rohingya, and inter-governmental talks must be initiated in this regard.
A call for raising global awareness is urgent; we ask all to voice complete condemnation, disgust, and frustration on this grave, merciless, and outrageous brutality against the Rohingya.
Being the historically under-privileged and down-trodden community in Myanmar, they are being tortured and decimated. They are fleeing under the watchful eyes of the Myanmar administration and military, leaving land to be happily grabbed by the state machinery or ruling elites.
Aung San Suu Kyi has been tone deaf in these times of sheer madness in her country. At times, it seems that this brutality is part of a grand scheme to control large land patches that may have untold riches waiting to be excavated — merrily with all Rohingya slain or forced to cross over to Bangladesh, all to the benefit of vested local and international interests. These two state organs are allegedly complicit to the crimes, and we also seek justice against these perpetrators.
We saw with flickering hope how the pope condemned this genocide. We want the military and administration in Myanmar to immediately stop their nefarious acts and establish peace and harmony.
The regime of carnage in Myanmar should not go unchallenged, and international human rights organisations must take on legal battles against the evil-doers in Myanmar.
The power of the people
The President of Turkey Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib Razak, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Nobel Peace-prize winner Malala Yousafzai, and many other world leaders have spoken of their disgust for the heinous acts committed — once again, let us collectively speak against these crimes against humanity of all shades, religions, and colours.
Decisive leadership engagement with the Myanmar regime must continue while keeping world bodies involved in the negotiation process.
The government of Bangladesh must also pressure the international community to show a sign of humanity to the Rohingya, even possibly offer them citizenship. λ
Advocate Ziaur Rahman is the CEO, IITM.