The Rohingya are faced with violence and imminent death, and the world must come forward
Instead of three bullies on bicycles, there is the Myanmar army and government who are hell-bent to cleanse their soil of the grotesque Muslim blood, and instead of leg braces to break free from, there is the weight of a religion too heavy to carry and the label of a minority too permanent to shatter.
There is no way out except to walk for miles and rely on luck to reach the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in one piece, which includes escaping capture to be burned alive or shot dead or beaten to death or beheaded or mutilated.
And if not captured, then they must attempt not to starve to death or step on mines or let bones break from this immense pressure and fear. There is no happy ending, lest you forgot that this is no movie. But there are plenty of reruns of history episodes.
I only read about the Bosnian genocide and watched a movie on the Rwandan genocide nearly a decade after their occurrence. And around the same time, came the wars of the 21st century in Afghanistan and Iraq — or the then American president’s dreams.
But time and distance helped. Even with the internet, these atrocities, harrowing political games and glory, gains in greed and power, and of course, death to the innocent masses — all of it, seemed far.
The last 20th century genocides and then the first 21st century wars seemed far, I could empathise, but time and distance helped to keep these information at the backseat of my thoughts.
Yes, I understood the world is a terrible place and that unimaginable things happen, but I thought to myself (I blame the naivete of age), that at least it happened a long time ago, and that even if it is happening again (at that time), it is far away.
War and genocide often go hand in hand, and it helps to digest the news more easily. Maybe the righteous mind won’t allow us to admit it loudly, but I think I speak for most when I say when genocide takes place alone, without civil wars or invasion — reality checks become twice, if not manifolds, harder to accept.
Genocide, on its own, means the international community has failed, the UN has failed, and every global alliance and body has failed, again.
Because “never again” was promised after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide loudly and collectively, but the Srebrenica massacre and Darfur genocide told a different story, shortly thereafter.
Not to dampen our collective rose-tinted glasses (my personal favourite are the ones which come with unicorns and leprechauns), but war, genocide, and injustice prevail at any cost all the time because greed, power, and authority are the driving forces of our civilisation.
Rohingya, dubbed as the most persecuted minority in the whole wide world, are no different than all who have fallen under the claws of the unpalatable system, “politics.”
A deafening silence
What is strange though, is that in the 21st century, long after the “never again” slogans and promises, and efforts and interventions (remember how America said it invaded Iraq to save its people from Saddam Hussein?), there is absolutely no pressure on the Myanmar government to stop its blatant and relentless slaughter of its own Rohingya population.
And this time, this genocide is happening at our doorstep and right now. Time and distance aren’t helping much to put the mind at ease.
Footage of the beheaded four-five year olds, slain women cut in half, piles of dead bodies, bodies hanging from noose, mutilation, medieval and barbaric torture methods, masses lined and beaten — is only the physical aspect of the on-going genocide which had failed to urge heads of states and world leaders in power to pressure Myanmar to stop its uninterrupted reign of terror.
Bangladesh needs to ensure that the ones on the run are not turned away back to their hell
What is more is that Israel continues to arm Myanmar amid its military “crackdown,” and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday sang Aung San Suu Kyi’s song about the perils of “insurgency and terrorism” in the Rakhine State.
Beacause you see, these heads of states are concerned about the security of its people from the Rohingya — the slain, the dead, and the dying Rohingya. The one and the same.
Death in greater numbers
Scores of unarmed Rohingya are being mercilessly killed by the Myanmar army and security forces while the world stands still and witnesses this genocide unfold. Atrocities of unimaginable nature are being committed at an unprecedented scale, while the world takes its time to come to terms about how to address the Rohingya crisis.
What have they done to deserve such a fate? They belong to a faith that is not the Buddhism. They did not take up arms to protest Myanmar regime, the likes of Syria war origin. They are not a people in a land, invaded by a foreign force; but hunted down like livestock to be slaughtered.
That is the number of Rohingya who walked into Bangladesh since late August 2017, fleeing violence and inevitable death.
With little to no help from the international community, with the only exception of Indonesia (who had come forward in the hour of need to offer assistance in tackling the immense influx of Rohingya) — Bangladesh still remains Rohingya’s safe haven.
Undoubtedly, this humanitarian crisis puts us in a very difficult spot. But it also reveals the nature of the global order at large.
One of the most ill-equipped regions surrounding Myanmar is having to bear the burden and fight this battle at the front-line alone, while “superpowers” in Southeast Asia remain silent, tone deaf, and/or exploitative of a perilous situation.
The audacity of the countries in Southeast Asia to remain silent regarding the ongoing Rohingya genocide marks a grotesque characteristic of human civilisation that will most likely be documented and cried over by all parties in 50 years or a century, when new promises will be made for a better world.
As the Aung San Suu Kyi-led government sees through with the genocide with an iron fist and denies international aid agencies and organisations alike access to Rakhin state, with 140,000 Rohingya internally displaced and scores more on the run, the end seems near — a complete ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population in Myanmar.
Now the most basic humanitarian initiative for Bangladesh needs to be strengthened and supported by the international community to ensure that the ones on the run on foot or boat are not turned away back to their hell.
Now the most needs to be done on our part to help and shelter Rohingya on our side of the border, at least on a temporary basis, to let our humanity remain intact, to remain on the right side of history.
Nusmila Lohani is an Editorial Assistant at the Dhaka Tribune.