Myanmar, Burma, Rohingya; 3 key words leading to one issue

Muna Al Fuzai

There is a lot of confusion about the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. I don’t think many of us are fully aware of the root of the problem there. Perhaps the geographical dimension or preoccupation with our own problems has kept the Arab media inactive. I believe it is time to reconsider this issue seriously – and without any more delays. After reading many reports on this issue, I realized that knowing the history of these people is important – so as to know the reality of what is happening today. The news of Muslims being persecuted sends across a frightening image. The reason behind such violence seems to be religion but it is inconceivable to believe that the sole reason. India is a secular country with many religions but they still live in relative peace and harmony.

In 1989, the Burmese government changed the name of the state from Burma to Myanmar. While the United Nations recognized this new name, there are still countries that call it Burma, including the United Kingdom. Most of the Muslims which remain a minority in the country are from the Rohingya community. During colonial times, the British rulers brought many Muslims from India to Burma to help them in their office work and trade.

This information from the past will help us to understand the future. I am becoming more convinced that although what is happening today seems to be a kind of persecution against the Muslims because of religious differences – that is not the entire picture.

Anti-Indian and anti-Muslim sentiments began during British rule itself. Most of the reasons were due to old conflicts between the Indians and the Burmese because of a lack of jobs which triggered riots against the Indians in 1930. The conflict in Burma is historic and old and I fear that the widespread fanaticism we are seeing today may worsen the situation amid the silence and the neglect.

International human rights organizations have repeatedly documented and condemned the widespread human rights violations. The government of Myanmar has been accused of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya population and crimes such as mass murder, torture, and forced displacement. In August 2017, a new massacre occurred in many Rohingya villages.
Unfortunately the Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is facing severe international criticism over her government’s treatment of 1.1 million Rohingyas who are now one of the worlds’ most persecuted ethnic groups.

UNESCO has called the Nobel Committee to withdraw Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel Peace Prize, which was awarded to her in 1991. They argued that it is unreasonable for her to remain a Nobel Laureate amid the mass killings of innocent people.

Pakistan has stated that it is committed to providing humanitarian assistance but has not elaborated further. The solution to this issue needs a quick and effective political intervention. I suggest an imposition of strict economic sanctions against government of Myanmar because it holds full responsibility for what is happening on its land and its people regardless of their origin and religion. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has announced that more than 87,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh because of recent abuse over the last 10 days. I hope swift action is taken from governments and international organizations in the coming days.

By Muna Al-Fuzai

This article was published on 09/09/2017