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Rohingya Muslims: Citizens of Nowhere

A deadly crackdown on ethnic Muslim minorities forced them to cross dangerous seas and paths on foot to save their lives. United Nations called this genocide a perfect example of ‘ethnic cleansing.

Rohingyas are an ethnic Muslim minority group in majority Buddhist Myanmar who follows Islam and speaks the Bengali language. They are around 1 million in number out of the total 52 million population of Myanmar. They are descendants of Arab traders and other groups who have been in the region for generations. But Myanmar sees them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and refuses to accept them as people with basic human rights.

They are not included among the recognized ethnic groups in the census 2014 of Myanmar which makes the Rohingya Muslims ineligible for citizenship. They live in a stateless condition in the Rakhine state of Myanmar which borders India and Bangladesh. 

In 2017, more than 7,00,000 Rohingya Muslims fled to Bangladesh due to the armed conflict against them, which was the fastest refugee movement in recent history. They faced communal violence and attacks by security forces themselves.

United Nations described this refugee movement as a result of genocide violence and human rights abuse.

Why Genocide Violence and denial of Rights to Rohingyas is happening?

In 2020, the top court of the UN ordered Myanmar to take measures for safeguards Rohingya Muslims from genocide. But contrary to these measures, the army and top leadership in Myanmar, particularly the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi once a symbol of peace and human rights icon, denied these allegations of genocide violence. Instead, they said that they are fighting with Rohingya militants, not Rohingya civilians. 

According to the medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), 6700 Rohingyas, including around 730 children under the age of five were killed in this violence.

Against these numbers, the Myanmar Government reported only 400 casualties as a result of ‘militants cleaning operations’. But BBC correspondents reported these claims as hard to believe.

Two soldiers from the Myanmar army itself gave video testimony and become witnesses to the International Court of Justice and confess that a mass killing, rapes, and destruction of villages of Rohingya Muslims took place in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. 

Basically, Myanmar sees Rohingyas as foreign interlopers and does not consider them as their citizens.

The conflict has started chiefly as religious and social differences between the Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas. 

Children’s Apathy

Children are the worst amongst these refugees. UNICEF reported that Rohingya refugees are mostly children, about 60 per cent. They are the face of brutality and unspeakable violence. They are living a childhood with no purpose, education, nutrition, home, state, and safety. They lack any kind of legal protection and human rights.

These helpless children are witnessing uncertainty, disease outbreaks, lack of education, trafficking, child labour, child marriage, bonded labour, gender-based violence, hunger, insult, mental harassment and overall inhuman conditions to face.

UNICEF reported that Rohingya children in the Rakhine state are facing violence, torture, detention, forced displacement and restrictions on movement.

Until, Myanmar makes settlements for safe home return of Rohingya refugee families with full assurance of basic rights of freedom, citizenship, living spaces, violence-free environment and dignity, these children would remain as people of nowhere, settled in crowded settlements with inhuman conditions.

How are the Rohingya refugees living in refugee camps?

Around 9,00,000 Rohingya refugees are living in the Kutupalong refugee camp in the Cox Bazaar area of Bangladesh, the world’s most densely populated refugee camp. Most of the camp locations in Bangladesh are natural disaster-prone areas. 

They have to face landslides and recurring monsoon flooding. They are forced to live in a sea of mud, tattered shelters and unhygienic harsh conditions.

Due to humid weather and dust prone winds, respiratory ailments are common with watery diarrhoea in combination with malnutrition.

The most concerning issue is that more than half of the refugees are children.

In March 2021, a massive fire took place in the refugee camp area of Bangladesh and destroyed food and water facilities along with 10,000 shelters. The death toll was 15 with major injuries to many more. 

Moreover, mental stress is high due to overcrowded conditions in such camps.

Is the International community responding and helping the Rohingyas?

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres described the situation as a human rights nightmare.

International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Gambia Vs Myanmar case gave a ruling in support of Rohingya Muslims and asked Myanmar to stop the ethnic cleansing of its minority community by security forces and make provision for their safe living conditions. This is a landmark decision that shows international backing and support for the violence against Rohingya Muslims.

Bangladesh is supporting the Rohingya refugees by providing them accommodation in camps but suffering a financial burden and hence initiating a fundraising campaign as Bangladesh alone can not bear the financial aid required for sustaining the lives of Rohingya refugees. As of now, Rohingya refugees are mostly left unaided to help themselves with their basic care.

The World Bank 2018 committed half a billion-dollar support for water, sanitation, food, health care and disaster risk management.

But still, the support is lacking the requirements.

Rohingyas would remain in destitute and helpless conditions until they are accepted as rightful citizens of Myanmar or being granted the status of refugees in Bangladesh with necessary safeguards for their livelihood, education, shelter and right to freedom.

Key Takeaways

How the world can forget the systematic suffering, torcher and human rights violence of such a helpless and poor community. They are humans with emotions, dignity and life. Every human has a place to live a life with utmost freedom and dignity. No one should have a right to throw out its own people where they are born and raised in the name of original people vs outsiders. It’s the responsibility of the world leaders and every sensible person to deny each and every single unjust act and show solidarity for humanity and kindness. After all, humanity lies above all logic and reasons.