Monday, September 15, 2014

Deciding a nation

 Bangladesh announced that it will send back 2,415 Muslim Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. A similar attempt in 2011 failed. The Rohingyas have long faced persecution and discrimination, including being stateless in the eyes of Burmese law. Myanmar's government claims that historically they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and labels them 'Bengalis', vehemently denying the existence of any people called 'Rohingya'. Myanmar Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs U Thant Kyaw explained in a statement that Myanmar was prepared to receive the 2,415 Burmese citizens after the joint committee was formed, but asserted: "We have never had ethnic nationals called 'Rohingya', according to official list of indigenous ethnic groups of Myanmar as well as our historical records."  The 800,000-strong population of Muslims in western Myanmar now faces increasing efforts to eradicate the very word they use to identify themselves as a group. Under pressure from Myanmar’s nominally-civilian government, the international community sometimes appears complicit in the airbrushing of “Rohingya” from official discourse yet a 1799 study lists an identity called “Rooinga” in what is now Myanmar’s Rakhine State.

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh greeted the announcement with mixed emotions. Life as a refugee in Bangladesh is difficult; but the humanitarian situation in Rakhine State, which Rohingyas call home, has worsened in recent months as some aid agencies have withdrawn following attacks on facilities in March over perceived pro-Rohingya bias. Aid workers fled Rakhine State after being targeted by Buddhist mobs who threw rocks at homes and offices in Sittwe (Rakhine's capital.) For years, Rohingyas have had their rights - from movement to reproduction to citizenship - restricted by what a human rights organization called deliberate state-designed "policies of persecution." An international observer report called the census process in Rohingya areas “a complete failure”, explaining that Rohingyas “very much wanted to participate in the census but were prevented from doing so by the census field staff and the Department of Population officials.” Anyone who asked to be recorded as “Rohingya” went uncounted.

Mohammad Islam, a Rohingya refugee who lives at the Noyapara Rohingya Camp in Cox's Bazar, told IRIN:
"Our biggest concern is if we will be safe back in Burma? We don't have any rights in Burma. We don't have any dignity as human beings there. We are not entitled to our identity. Our properties and religious institutions are damaged. How we can be assured that we would be safe out there?"

 Mohammad Zubair,  another Rohingya refugee at Noyapara Camp, explained:
"Now under these circumstances, if we go back, who will ensure that we will be safe there?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This, is what eventually drives people with no where to go towards the IS.