Thursday, June 28, 2012

Rohingya BurmaWhile the heroine of the West, Aung San Suu Kyi, was visiting her old home in Oxford last week, three thousand miles away a nightmare was unfolding in Burma. Her fellow Burmese were carrying out an orgy of violence against some their fellow citizens, the Rohingya. In this latest example of inter-ethnic violence, the Buddhist majority were targeting the Muslim minority for termination. Members of the Rohingay minority in Rakhine State were being dragged from their homes and being burnt alive in the streets. No one was spared; men, women and children all suffered the same fate. This wasn't just violence involving civilians. Members of the Burmese army and police also joined in the killing spree, including raping their victims. The blood-lust included babies being sliced in half by swords

Many have attempted to flee Burma by boat and have tried to seek refuge in Bangladesh. Burmese helicopter gunships have then murdered many of those attempting to get to safety by strafing boats while out at sea. The few that have made it to Bangladesh have been trying to tell the world about the horrors they have witnessed.

To give a scale of the ethnic cleansing, over 30,000 refugees have fled to Bangladesh. There, instead of being given refuge and care, the survivors are being treated with little compassion. Forced to sit on piers in the baking sun, they are barely being given enough water to survive by the Bangladeshi authorities. They are given a bottle of water and small bag of rice and being forced to return to Burma and to near certain death. Indeed many of the Bangladeshi soldiers have been taunting the refugees with the refrain “Allah will look after you”. Shockingly, these are the lucky ones. Over 1,500 survivors have simply been turned back by the Bangladeshis.

Aung San Suu Kyi is regarded by many in the West as the most poignant symbol of non-violent struggle against armed oppression and feted as the successor to Nelson Mandela or Mahtma Ghandi. Indeed she has spent over 14 years under house arrest imposed on her by the Junta that runs Burma for daring to run for election, but her halo has slipped in a way that will disappoint even her biggest supporters. When she collected an award from Amnesty International in Ireland she was asked if the Rohingya should be regarded as Burmese, she replied: “I do not know,” and refused to speak up for them.

We cannot let another massacre reminiscent of the scenes in Gujrat, India in 2002 go unanswered. British Muslims should contact the Bangladesh High Commission and demand that their government offer more assistance to the refugees fleeing the violence immediately as is their responsibility under UN conventions and listen to the UN's calls to do more.

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