Following the triumph of Nobel laureate and democracy advocate Aung San Suu Kyi from the opposition in the November elections last year, the new Myanmar Parliament has held its first session recently along with the military junta.
In the history of the country, this is the first time that there are no Muslim deputies in the country’s Parliament. Although it is inspiring that a democratic Parliament is established after more than 50 years of military rule, Suu Kyi’s omission of the Rohingya during the election process is conspicuous. Considering that the junta is still a part of the government, such conduct may be regarded as temporary only so as not to overstep the limits.
However, the weight of the junta that allows it to block legislation in Parliament is still a concern. The junta’s governing of ethnic issues is the major obstacle to any favourable decision that can be made for the Rohingyas.
Discrimination against the Rohingyas continues to persist as 140,000 of them live in concentration camps, and 1.3 million have no access to humanitarian aid.
A 78-page report published by Yale University in the United States in October last year suggested that the Myanmar government has been trying to commit genocide against Rohingya Muslims through radical Buddhist groups (http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/article41822457.htm).
Just because of their ethnic origin and religious belief, Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to torture, arbitrary arrest and rape.
In addition to explicit physical and psychological torture, Rohingya Muslims have no financial power as they are isolated and cannot participate in social life. As a result, they can neither meet their basic needs nor benefit from any medical and educational services.
Regrettably, for instance, Mohammed, 14, died of tetanus caused by a minor cut, even though it is a disease that can be easily treated and prevented, because he was unable to receive proper treatment at a concentration camp. Meanwhile, Begum, 20, died of hepatitis A that is not usually life threatening. Lives of women, children and infants are under threat due to severe hunger.
Families, having been imprisoned in concentration camps since 2012, are not able to reach their assets even if they have bank accounts (http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/10/opinion/sunday/myanmars-peace-prize-wi...).
Rohingyas, confined without basic necessities, have been clearly left to die in the camps.
The junta has always been against not only the Rohingyas, but also all other ethnic groups and those with differing opinion. Dozens of people were subjected to extra-judicial executions between 2011 and 2014. The junta has seized the land of the Rohingyas so that they can send them to concentration camps. Extreme taxation is another method used to discourage Rohingya resistance to stay on their land (To Recognise and Repair, Unofficial Truth Projects and the Need for Justice in Burma, Network for Human Rights Documentation 2015).
Besides the junta, there is also the radical Buddhist movement led by monks, who make anti-Muslim statements and call people to join a boycott campaign against Muslims. Nevertheless, these people certainly cannot be considered as representatives of Buddhism, known for its peaceful perspective.
This has been clearly stated by several Buddhist monks and eminent Buddhist scholars, who dedicated their lives to protect the rights of the Rohingyas.
It is definitely obvious that these rebels are just gang members who have no connection with Buddhism whatsoever. These gangs have been distributing anti-Muslim stickers for the people to stick them on their vehicles and residences.
Running their monkey business, the monks turn to the government to justify their acts through legislation enacted to preserve ethnic origin. Unfortunately, the Myanmar government has turned a blind eye to anti-Muslim campaigns (They Want Us All to Go Away, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum).
It seems as if the government is trying to get Rohingyas out of mind and out of sight. The name Rohingya is not recognised and, by doing so, their whole existence is rejected. The Rohingyas have limited contact with human rights’ organisations and the media. That is to say, it is not only that the Rohingyas’ existence is being rejected, but also they are deprived of all opportunities to make their voices heard.
Last, but not least, the probationary citizenship documents assigned to Rohingyas were abolished prior to the first free elections and, hence, they were deprived of their right to vote during the elections.
Notwithstanding that, Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate and leader of democracy, won the elections in November last year.
That was a result favoured by the Rohingyas. However, they got very upset to see that Suu Kyi made no mention of them during the election period. Even so, considering that the military junta still exists in the government, it will be wise to think that this is only a temporary approach to avoid pushing the limits.
We wish to see this be reconciled as soon as possible and see Suu Kyi fight for the human rights of the Rohingyas.
Furthermore, let us remember that neither international peace nor aid organisations have taken any tangible action, despite dozens of genocide reports being published.
Although all of this is happening in the open for the entire world to see, there is simply no action to help the Rohingyas, who are oppressed and needy.
Neither Nobel Peace laureates nor EU nations that are known as the guardians of human rights are doing anything. The junta and radical gangs are specifically against the Rohingyas because they are Muslims.
Although there is slight chanting only against this anti-Muslim oppression, it is not prevented on the whole. Obviously, all Muslim states must unite to stop this persecution against the Rohingyas.
A union of Muslims and unanimous loud voices will certainly have a great political impact on the Myanmar government and on the international arena.
Yet, instead of uniting around a notion of love and alliance, Muslim states quarrel with one another and thus, lose courage and influence. As a result, persecution and oppression against Muslims are seen all around the world. The leaders of these Muslim states must keep in mind that they are responsible for this oppression. A collaboration based on love and peace must be formed at an intellectual level.
It is a nice development and important step that leaders of the new government will be meeting United States President Barack Obama in the following days. It is vital that Muslim leaders, non-governmental organisations, the media, human rights institutions and academicians facilitate the shaping of public opinion by starting an initiative for the Rohingyas through Obama and Suu Kyi.
Only then, will the world open its eyes and see how oppressed the Rohingyas are. And only then, will it be possible to find solutions that last for good.
Adnan Oktar's piece in New Straits Times & Burma Times: