The Rohingya Muslim Refugee Crisis: Five Things You Should Know

Refugee crisis, ethnic cleansing, or the beginning of a genocide?

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Credit: Foreign and Commonwealth Office - Flickr. More details Displaced Rohingya people in Rakhine State (8280610831)

The Rohingya Muslims have been called “the most persecuted minority in the world” by several human rights organisations and academicians. According to Amnesty International, they have been at the receiving end of human rights violations for 38 years now. This group has been denied Burmese citizenship, and as of November 19, 125 of them who wished to leave Myanmar have been denied entry into Bangladesh.

1. Who are the Rohingya Muslims?

They are a Muslim minority ethnic group belonging to the Indo-Aryan race. They speak a dialect of Bengali. While some of them live in India, Pakistan, and other countries in Southeast Asia, a majority of them reside in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.

They are neither considered to be citizens of this country, nor do they feature in the list of Burmese ethnic groups. They are thought of as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by the Buddhist population of Myanmar, and are called Rohingya Bengalis.

2. What conditions do they live in?

Interfaith relations are far from harmonious in Myanmar, and the majority Buddhist community has been called Islamophobic because of the way that Rohingyas have been treated in this country.

They are not allowed to vote and they have limited opportunities when it comes to education and employment. They have a very low socioeconomic status and a significant number of them live in ghetto-like camps.

3. Why are they being persecuted in Myanmar?

Since October 9, the Rakhine area has been under lockdown because nine police officers were killed in an attack on three border posts. The police suspected that it was the Rohingyas who were behind this attack.

However, this is not the first instance where this community has been targeted; in a series of riots in 2012 and the refugee crisis of 2015, several lives were lost.

4. Why do they want to leave their country?

In the month that has passed since the lockdown, hundreds of Rohingyas have been killed, hundred others have been detained by the military, and 1.5 lakh people have been deprived of basic necessities like food and medical aid. Accusations of rape have been made by Rohingya women against Burmese officials. The extent of the destruction is so large that satellites have captured images of razed villages. This treatment of the community has been called the beginning of orgnanised genocide and ethnic cleansing.

In an attempt to escape the violence spewing in Rakhine, Rohingya Muslims are fleeing the country. Of the 125 people who wanted to flee 61 are women and 36 are children. They got into seven boats and travelled across the Naf River to Bangladesh, where they were stopped at the border by the Bangladeshi Border Guards.

5. What action have the Myanmar and Bangladesh governments taken?

The staff of one of the Border Guards of Bangladesh provided food and medicines to 82 people. However, these people were turned back and two boats with 86 people were pushed back.

The Bangladesh government has increased security measures along the border and hundreds of troops have been deployed for patrolling. Nobel Peace Prize winner and the State Counsellor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised because the government has denied the Rohingya claim of persecution at the hands of the army. On November 19, the Myanmar media also denied the claims of the Bangladeshi army about the presence of Rohingya refugees at the Bangladesh border.