If Burma won’t take them why won’t you, Bangladesh?

Published: July 23, 2012
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A Rohingya mother is seen in a refugee camp in Teknaf. PHOTO: AFP

A family, who says they belong to the Burmese Rohingya Community from Myanmar, sits at a makeshift shelter in a camp in New Delhi. PHOTO: REUTERS A Rohingya mother is seen in a refugee camp in Teknaf. PHOTO: AFP Myanmar Muslim Rohingya people dig ditches outside tents at a temporary relief camp for people displaced by days of sectarian violence on the outskirts of Sittwe. PHOTO: AFP Since Bangladesh is indigent, over-populated and bereft of resources, the Bangladeshi government has finally banned Rohingya refugees from entering into the country. PHOTO: AFP

The calamitous ordeal of the Rohingya community of Myanmar has received woefully inadequate media coverage over the years despite having been declared one of the most hectored, tyrannized and aggrieved tribal minorities in the world by the United Nations. This observable fact can be unswervingly attributed to the thought-out recalcitrance of the media oligopolists to underlining the copious atrocities being committed against Muslims in different parts of the world in general as part of a ploy to legitimize the ongoing war on terrorism.

For decades these ill-fated people have been shunned, browbeaten and subjected to ghastly physical and emotional abuse by the Government of Myanmar which indefatigably maintains, the fact they are Muslims who verbally communicate in a local dialect of Bengali is reason enough to believe they are illegal Bengali immigrants. This unsubstantiated assertion is effectively countered by the veracity of the centuries-long existence of this specific ethnic group in the Arakan region. Conversely, the Government of Bangladesh contends the Rohingyas are native to Myanmar with no ties whatsoever to Bangladesh.

This insalubrious predicament has resulted in the denial of citizenship and insufficient access to basic rights and privileges including food, shelter and education to the Rohingyas by the central government of Myanmar. The former are vituperatively subjugated in different ways some of which include absolute and unwarranted exclusion from the larger Buddhist communities, forced toilsome labour, prohibition from working in either the private or the governmental sector and/or enlisting in either the police or the armed forces. There is also a severe restriction on each family from having more than two children by virtue of Burmese law.

Be that as it may, in spite of all obstacles and adversities the Rohingyas have managed to placidly dwell in synchronization with the Buddhist Rakhines in the Arakan region. While many have fled to countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Pakistan to escape oppression, the bulk of the younger generation has relocated to the adjacent state of Bangladesh which is currently home to an estimated 300,000 Rohingyas. Since Bangladesh is indigent, over-populated and bereft of resources, the Bangladeshi government has finally banned Rohingya fugitives from entering into the country. Therefore the majority of dispossessed Rohingyas is now apprehended by the Bengali border security personnel while attempting to cross over and is afterwards battered and discarded into the UN refugee camps situated alongside the Bangladesh-Myanmar border. It is estimated that approximately 30,000 Rohingyas currently reside in these camps. Those fortunate enough to have lived through the tribulation seek refuge in villages located at a convenient distance.

It was not until recently that the troubles of the Rohingyas spiraled out of control. The incident which led to the mass genocide and ethnic cleansing of this already heinously maltreated race was the alleged rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by three Rohingya males. Immediately afterwards the local Arakanese Buddhist population in cahoots with the political leadership and law enforcement officials of Myanmar retaliated by brutally assaulting, torturing, raping and murdering scores of innocent Rohingyas including men, women and children while concomitantly annihilating their homes and businesses.

The recurrent violence and blood-shed have compelled large numbers of Rohingyas to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh in boats and fishing trawlers some of whom are reported to have been ravaged by freebooters whilst on the way. Nonetheless, the Bangladeshi government is reluctant to accommodate more of them in lieu of the aforementioned reasons and the emphatic denial of Burmese citizenship to the Rohingyas. Consequently they are forced to retreat to their native soil wherein they are more than likely to be victimized by the vicious local Buddhist inhabitants.

The refusal of the Bangladeshi Government to open its borders for the Rohingyas irrespective of escalating global pressure and scrutiny has sparked a furor within and outside the country as this conduct infringes upon more than just a few international UN laws pertaining to refugees. According to a recent survey conducted by The Daily Star the overpowering majority of the general public of Bangladesh, as opposed to the government, is in favour of the Rohingyas being granted safe passage into the country. Many of these individuals have displayed auspiciousness candidly by forming and/or joining different support groups for the Rohingya populace on face book and other social networking sites.

Given the dourness of the wretched plight of our Rohingya brothers and sisters it is vital that all Muslim nations should conjointly endorse this worthy cause by pressing for Bangladesh to open its borders for them, in turn, pledging munificent moral and financial contribution for their subsequent rehabilitation. Additionally they should ensure the Bangladeshi government that each in its own right and individual capacity is agreed upon sharing the burden by offering to allow and to accept into its domain as many Rohingya refugees as possible. This enterprise is bound to profoundly assuage if not completely resolve the misery of these tormented, destitute and vulnerable souls.

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Uzma.Rathore

Uzma Rathore

The author is a practicing lawyer who specializes in civil/corporate law. She holds a Bachelors and a Masters degree in "Criminal Justice" from the University of Central Oklahoma USA apart from a Master of Laws degree from Queen Mary University of London.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.