Sep 12, 2017 04:59 pm


Rohingya warn of 'another Srebrenica' if violence rages

Members of Myanmar's Muslim minority urge international community to stop a 'targeted military campaign' against them.

Faisal Edroos

Rohingya Muslims are warning that unless the international community takes a firm stance against the violence in Myanmar, the country could witness "ethnic cleansing on the scale of the Srebrenica massacre".

More than 22 years after 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered by Bosnian Serb troops in the UN "safe haven" of Srebrenica, separate Rohingya sources have told Al Jazeera that at least 1,000 of the persecuted Muslim minority, including scores of women and children, have been killed over the past two weeks.

Myanmar's security forces says they have killed at least 370 Rohingya "fighters" since the latest round of violence in Rakhine state began on August 25.

The violence has sent more than 164,000 Rohingya fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh, according to UN estimates.

On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also warned of the risk of ethnic cleansing, appealing to Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the country's security forces to end the violence.

Two sources told Al Jazeera on Thursday that several people had been shot dead near the Maungdow township in Rakhine, with thick plumes of smoke seen billowing from the village of Godu Thara after security forces burned down the homes of fleeing Rohingya.

The sources said that in other villages affected by the violence, community leaders had been unable to offer Islamic burials after imams had fled into the forest.

Access to the area has been blocked to foreign media so Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the sources' accounts.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Maungdow township under a pseudonym, Anwar, 25, said there was a "sustained and targeted military campaign against Muslims".

"The Myanmar army and Buddhist extremists are specifically targeting the Muslim population," he said.

"Women, children, the elderly - no one has been spared. The situation is continuing to get worse and Aung San Suu Kyi's government is failing to raise its voice," Anwar added.

Aung San Suu Kyi, a former political prisoner of Myanmar's military rulers, has so far not spoken publicly about the plight of the fleeing Rohingya.

Speaking for the first time on the issue on Wednesday, she said her government is doing its best to protect everyone in Rakhine and blamed "terrorists" for "a huge iceberg of misinformation" on the strife in the state.

But her silence has drawn sharp criticism from rights groups, activists and some politicians.

"Unless the international community acts, and stops giving our plight lip service, we will witness another genocide - our time is running out," Anwar said.

The latest bout of violence began when suspected Rohingya fighters attacked police posts and an army base in Rakhine.

The Myanmar government blamed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) for the violence, but so far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Fleeing Rohingya refugees accused the country's security forces of responding with a campaign of arson and murder in a bid to force them out of Myanmar.

Myint Lwin, a resident of Buthidaung township, said photos being widely circulated on Twitter and Facebook "exposed a systematic campaign against Muslims".

"Our situation is no different to the massacres we witnessed in Bosnia," Lwin said.

"Only Muslims are being targeted by the Myanmar army. Buddhists, Christians and other ethnic groups living in Rakhine have been spared from much of the violence. There is a clear plan to wipe out Rohingya Muslims."


The Rohingya, an ethnic Muslim group who have lived in Myanmar's Rakhine state for centuries, have suffered decades of repression under the country's Buddhist majority.

Stripped of their citizenship by the military junta in the 1980s, they have endured killings, torture and mass rape, according to the United Nations - between the 1970s and early 1990s, around one million were forced to leave the country.

"We have been denied food, water, shelter, identity and now our very existence," said Ro Nay San Lwin, a 39-year-old Rohingya activist based in Europe.

"Other minorities are also being persecuted by the army, but our situation is far worse. We don't have freedom, dignity and citizenship. We are surrounded and suffering on several fronts."

The latest surge of refugees, many of them sick and wounded, has strained the resources of aid agencies and communities that are already helping hundreds of thousands displaced by previous waves of violence.

Many of the Rohingya are stranded in "no-man's land" - an area between the Myanmar-Bangladesh border - without shelter, with aid groups unable to provide clean water, sanitation and food, according to Joseph Tripura, a UN aid official in Cox's Bazaar.

Jamila Hanan, an independent human rights activist and director of the #WeAreAllRohingyaNow online campaign, said the "currently military operation was far greater than previous attacks".

"The dehumanisation process has reached unprecedented levels with government and Buddhist propaganda equating the Rohingya with vermin, insects and diseases," she said.

"The government's communication office has effectively given the military a green light to perpetrate these atrocities," Hanan added.

"And with the international community failing to condemn the violence and regional powers eyeing up Myanmar's economic potential, it's unlikely we'll see condemnation anytime soon."



Aung San Suu Kyi does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize
A person so blatantly affiliated with genocide should not carry the title "Nobel Peace Prize laureate".

Police officers watch as protesters hold signs against Aung San Suu Kyi, during a rally in support of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority, outside of the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta [Reuters]
Hamid Dabashi


Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

"There are no more villages left, none at all." The accounts of the systematic ethnic cleansing of Muslims in Myanmar, now effectively ruled by the world renowned Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, are finally making it to the mainline news these days. "There are no more people left, either. It is all gone."

The pathological hatred of Muslims ingrained in the leading US and European media (now aggressively replacing the historic anti-Semitism of these societies) scarcely allows them to see or to report the magnitude of the calamity masses of Muslims face at the hands of Myanmar security forces and the Buddhist nationalist vigilante mobs.
WATCH: Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi faces international condemnation over Rohingya (2:45)

Just imagine, for a minute, if it were Jews or Christians, or else the "peaceful Buddhists" who were the subjects of Muslim persecutions. Compare the amount of airtime given to murderous Muslims of ISIL as opposed to the scarcity of news about the murderous Buddhists of Myanmar. Something in the liberal fabric of Euro-American imagination is cancerously callous. It does not see Muslims as complete human beings.

"Nearly 20,000 Rohingya flee to Bangladesh from Myanmar," Al Jazeera reports, "refugee flow gathers pace amid renewed fighting as the international community expresses concern for civilian safety."

"More than 100 Rohingya Muslims massacred in Rakhine state," other reports confirm, as the icon of human rights in the West, the sweetheart of every single European and US leader, Ms Suu Kyi has either remained deadly silent on the slaughter of innocent human beings or else dismissed such widely reported facts as "propaganda".

"I don't think there is ethnic cleaning going on," Suu Kyi told the BBC in April. "I think ethnic cleansing is too strong an expression to use for what is happening." Why so? What word should we use to please Her Majesty's lexicography of murder and mayhem?

"It is not just a matter of ethnic cleansing as you put it," she said. "It is a matter of people on different sides of the divide, and this divide we are trying to close up."

Is this Trumpian charlatanism at work in Myanmar or is it another entirely different kind of Aung San Suu Kyi Newspeak? Hard to tell. But more urgently: Does this shameless power monger deserve to carry the title of a "Nobel Peace Prize laureate?"

"No one told me I was going to be interviewed by a Muslim," she complained indignantly in 2013, after a BBC reporter questioned her hypocrisy in refusing to address the slaughter of Muslims in Myanmar. The more blatant her hateful racism is and the more evident her implication in the ethnic cleansing of her country, the more the Norwegian Nobel Committee must ask itself about the moral grounding of bestowing any such honour on the next recipient.
A Nobel 'Peace' Prize?

Nobel Peace Prize has become something of a global recognition. The fact, however, is that it is a Swedish-Norwegian, or Scandinavian-European, or as they say "Western" recognition force-fed to the world at large. We may agree or disagree with their choices but their choices have become a global marker in science, literature, and peace. They make the decision for the world. We have to live with it.

Today Aung San Suu Kyi must be the single most embarrassing name on the roster of the Nobel Peace Prize recipients.


There are choices they have made that at the time they were made, they may in fact have made some sense - such as Barack Obama (and later you cringe at the very idea of it), and then there are choices they have made that make you reach for your pillow when you heard their name in association with Nobel Prize for the first time: the director of a poisonous gas factory Fritz Haber (1918 - chemistry), the inventor of lobotomy Antonio Egas Moniz (1949 - medicine), the war criminal Henry Kissinger (1973 - peace), or more recently the European Union (2012 - peace).

In the more recent years, however, it is the more egregious case of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese politician, who is now at a head of a state apparatus engaged in mass murder of Muslims that needs urgent attention.

The widely documented slaughter of Muslims in Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi's callous disregard for their fate and even possible political collusion with the mass murderers now leaves no doubt that even if she originally deserved the Nobel Peace Prize, she most certainly no longer does.

Here is the point where the United Nations Human Rights Council, the European Union, the International Criminal Court, Amnesty International, and any other international organisation concerned with human rights should be among the global institutions to put pressure on the Norwegian Nobel Committee to rescind the honour they once bestowed upon such people who are now implicated in gross violation of the very idea of "peace" on which they had awarded this prize in the first place.
Correcting wrongs

The world at large cannot be at the mercy of the Nobel Peace Prize spectacle to bestow such spectacular honour on a person and then wash its hands of the subsequent actions of these people.


To be sure the idea of at least regretting the award of Nobel Prize to certain recipients has perfectly logical foregrounding and precedent. For example, we know for a fact how "Nobel secretary regrets Obama peace prize". Geir Lundestad is reported to have said: "Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to US President Barack Obama in 2009 failed to achieve what the committee hoped it would."

If the idea of the Nobel Peace Prize is to acknowledge and honour those who have contributed significantly towards the realisation of peace, the committee awarding it must stay apace that cause and monitor the behaviour of its awardees to see in what ways they have remained true to it or else diverted from it. Otherwise the whole ceremonial spectacle is an exercise in futility.

The point of this proposal to the Norwegian Nobel Committee is not to single out Aung San Suu Kyi or any other past recipients of the prize for reprimand or rescinding of the prize but to rethink the very logic of the recognition in a manner that makes it more engaging, responsible, and enduring. Today Aung San Suu Kyi must be the single most embarrassing name on the roster of the Nobel Peace Prize recipients. That global embarrassment is necessary but not sufficient. The committee must restore its own credibility and the credibility of the future recipients it will honour by publicly rescinding this prize from a person so blatantly affiliated with genocide.

Dismissing the Nobel Peace Prize altogether as irrelevant or too political or Eurocentric in politics and taste is of course too easy and yet too pessimistic and nihilistic. We only have one world and that is the world in which we live and the urgent task at hand is to see how we can save this world against its own evils with any means at our disposal. The task is therefore to see how the very logic and mechanism of Nobel Peace Prize can be used to save it for a better global mechanism of encouraging peace and denouncing violence.

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature a Columbia University.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.


Global split over Rohingya crisis as China backs Myanmar crackdown

COX'S BAZAR: International divisions emerged on Tuesday (Sep 12) ahead of a UN Security Council meeting on a worsening refugee crisis in Myanmar, with China voicing support for a military crackdown that has been criticised by the US, slammed as "ethnic cleansing" and forced 370,000 Rohingya to flee the violence.

Beijing's intervention appears aimed at heading off any attempt to censure Myanmar at the council when it convenes on Wednesday.

China was one of the few foreign friends of Myanmar's former military government.

Beijing has tightened its embrace under Aung San Suu Kyi's civilian government as part of its giant trade, energy and infrastructure strategy for Southeast Asia.

The exodus from Myanmar's western Rakine state began after Rohingya militants attacked police posts on Aug 25, prompting a military backlash that has sent a third of the Muslim minority population fleeing for their lives.

Exhausted Rohingya refugees have given accounts of atrocities at the hands of soldiers and Buddhist mobs who burned their villages to the ground. They can not be independently verified as access to Rakhine state is heavily controlled.


Myanmar's government denies any abuses and instead blames militants for burning down thousands of villages, including many belonging to Rohingya.

But international pressure on Myanmar heightened this week after United Nations rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the violence seemed to be a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

The US also raised alarm over the violence while the Security Council announced it would meet on Wednesday to discuss the crisis.

Opprobrium has been heaped Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who was once a darling of the rights community but now faces accusations of turning a blind eye to - and even abetting - a humanitarian catastrophe by Western powers who once feted her as well as a slew of fellow Nobel Laureates.

But Beijing offered more encouraging words to her on Tuesday, with foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang voicing support for her government's efforts to "uphold peace and stability" in Rakhine.

"We condemn the violent attacks which happened in Rakhine state in Myanmar," Geng told a regular news briefing.

"We support Myanmar's efforts in upholding peace and stability in the Rakhine state. We hope order and the normal life there will be recovered as soon as possible," he said.

"We think the international community should support the efforts of Myanmar in safeguarding the stability of its national development."

The Rohingya minority are denied citizenship and have suffered years of persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.

"An estimated 370,000 Rohingya have entered Bangladesh," since Aug 25 Joseph Tripura, a spokesman for the UN refugee agency, told AFP.


Bangladeshi volunteers from the Chhagalnaiya village council distribute food donations to Rohingya Muslim refugees at Naikhongchhari in Chittagong on Sep 10, 2017. (Photo: AFP/Adib Chowdhury)

The real figure may be higher as many new arrivals are still on the move making it difficult to include them in the count, the UN said, adding 60 per cent of refugees are children.

Most are in dire need of food, medical care and shelter after trekking for days through hills and jungles or braving dangerous boat journeys.

In a statement late on Monday Aung San Suu Kyi's foreign ministry defended the military for doing their "legitimate duty to restore stability", saying troops were under orders "to exercise all due restraint, and to take full measures to avoid collateral damage."

Britain and Sweden requested the urgent Security Council meeting amid growing international concern over the ongoing violence. The council met behind closed doors in late August to discuss the violence, but could not agree a formal statement.


The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has said the latest violence may have left more than 1,000 dead, most of them Rohingya.

Myanmar says the number of dead is around 430, the majority of them "extremist terrorists" from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

It says a further 30,000 ethnic Rakhine and Hindus have been displaced inside northern Rakhine, where aid programmes have been severely curtailed due to the violence.

The exodus of Rohingya has saddled Bangladesh with its own humanitarian crisis, as aid workers scramble to provide food and shelter to a daily stream of bedraggled refugees.

The UN-run refugee camps in its Cox's Bazar district were already packed with Rohingya who had fled from previous waves of persecution.

Dhaka is providing them temporary shelter.

But Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who visited a Rohingya camp on Tuesday, stressed it was up to Myanmar to "resolve" the issue.

"We will request the Myanmar government to stop oppressing innocent people," she said during a tour of a camp in Cox's Bazar, according to local outlet

Dhaka, which has refused to permanently absorb the Rohingya, said it plans to build a huge new camp that will house a quarter of a million refugees.

But it remains unclear if or when they will be able to return.

Plumes of smoke continued to rise on the Myanmar side of the border this week despite the militants' announcement on Sunday of a unilateral ceasefire.

There was no direct response from Myanmar's military, though government spokesman Zaw Htay tweeted: "We have no policy to negotiate with terrorists."
Source: AFP/ec

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh: Pressure mounted on Myanmar on Tuesday to end violence that has sent about 370,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh, with the United States calling for protection of civilians and Bangladesh urging safe zones to enable refugees to go home. But China, which competes for influence in its southern neighbor with the United States, said it backed Myanmar’s efforts to safeguard ‘development and stability’, reported Reuters.

The government of Buddhist-majority Myanmar says its security forces are fighting Rohingya militants behind a surge of violence in Rakhine state that began on Aug 25, and they are doing all they can to avoid harming civilians.

The government says about 400 people have been killed in the fighting, the latest in the western state.

The top U.N. human rights official denounced Myanmar on Monday for conducting a “cruel military operation” against Rohingya, branding it “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

The United States said the violent displacement of the Rohingya showed Myanmar’s security forces were not protecting civilians. Washington has been a staunch supporter of Myanmar’s transition from decades of harsh military rule that is being led by Nobel peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

“We call on Burmese security authorities to respect the rule of law, stop the violence, and end the displacement of civilians from all communities,” the White House said in a statement.

Myanmar government spokesmen were not immediately available for comment but the foreign ministry said shortly before the U.S. statement was issued that Myanmar was also concerned about the suffering. Its forces were carrying out their legitimate duty to restore order in response to acts of extremism.

“The government of Myanmar fully shares the concern of the international community regarding the displacement and suffering of all communities affected by the latest escalation of violence ignited by the acts of terrorism,” the ministry said in a statement.

Myanmar’s government regards Rohingya as illegal migrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship, even though many Rohingya families have lived there for generations.

Attacks by a Rohingya insurgent group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), on police posts and an army base in the north of Rakhine on Aug 25 provoked the military counter-offensive that refugees say is aimed at pushing Rohingya out of the country.

A similar but smaller wave of attacks by the same insurgents last October also sparked what critics called a heavy-handed response by the security forces that sent 87,000 Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh.

Reports from refugees and rights groups paint a picture of widespread attacks on Rohingya villages in the north of Rakhine by the security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, who have put numerous Muslim villages to the torch.

But Myanmar authorities have denied the security forces, or Buddhist civilians, have been setting the fires, instead blaming the insurgents. Nearly 30,000 Buddhist villagers have also been displaced, they say.

‘Stop the violence’

The exodus to Bangladesh shows no sign of slowing with 370,000 the latest estimate, according to a U.N. refugee agency spokeswoman, up from an estimate of 313,000 on the weekend.

Bangladesh was already home to about 400,000 Rohingyas.

Many refugees are hungry and sick, without shelter or clean water in the middle of the rainy season. The United Nations said 200,000 children needed urgent support.

Two emergency flights organized by the U.N. refugee agency arrived in Bangladesh with aid for about 25,000 refugees. More flights are planned with the aim of helping 120,000, a spokesman said.

Worry is also growing about conditions inside Rakhine State, with fears a hidden humanitarian crisis may be unfolding.

Myanmar has rejected a ceasefire declared by ARSA to enable the delivery of aid there, saying it did not negotiate with terrorists.

But Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Myanmar should set up safe zones to enable the refugees to go home.

“Myanmar will have to take back all Rohingya refugees who entered Bangladesh,” Hasina said on a visit to the Cox’s Bazar border district where she distributed aid.

“Myanmar has created the problem and they will have to solve it,” she said. ”We want peaceful relations with our neighbors, but we can’t accept any injustice.

“Stop this violence against innocent people.”

Myanmar has said those who can verify their citizenship can return but most Rohingya are stateless.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, “The international community should support Myanmar in its efforts to safeguard development and stability.”

Pakistan called on Myanmar to stop making “unfulfilled promises”.

In a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, Pakistan said, “Discrimination, violence and acts of hatred are intolerable.”

270,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh in two weeks

Another UN official says more than 1,000 people, mostly Rohingya Muslims, may have been killed.

The number of Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh in the last two weeks to escape the violence in Myanmar has shot up to about 270,000, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said.

Vivian Tan said the number had jumped from an estimate of 164,000 on Thursday because the agency had found new pockets of refugees in border areas.

A UN official told AFP news agency on Friday that more than 1,000 people may already have been killed in Myanmar, mostly minority Rohingya Muslims.

"This [the refugee figures] does not necessarily reflect fresh arrivals within the past 24 hours but that we have identified more people in different areas that we were not aware of before," said Tan.

"The numbers are so alarming. It really means we have to step up our response and that the situation in Myanmar has to be addressed urgently."


The fresh influx of refugees across the border has overwhelmed camps in Bangladesh that were already bursting at the seams.

"The two refugee camps in Cox's Bazar in southeast Bangladesh - home to nearly 34,000 Rohingya refugees before this influx - are now bursting at the seams. The population has more than doubled in two weeks, totalling more than 70,000. There is an urgent need for more land and shelters," UNHCR said in a briefing note for reporters in Geneva.

"The vast majority are women, including mothers with newborn babies, families with children. They arrive in poor condition, exhausted, hungry and desperate for shelter."


The Rohingya have long been subjected to discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which denies them citizenship and regards them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even if they have lived in the country for generations.

Myanmar's army has previously said it had killed 387 Rohingya fighters. Authorities say they have lost 15 security personnel since the August attacks.

Myanmar's Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who spent years under house arrest when Myanmar was a military dictatorship, is now the country's de facto leader with the title of State Counsellor.

Rights groups, activists - including many who campaigned for her in the past - and her fellow Nobel laureates Malala Yousafzai and Archbishop Desmond Tutu have condemned her.

Nepal failing to recognise Rohingya as refugees
When it awarded Aung San Suu Kyi the 1991 Peace Prize, the Nobel committee said that she "emphasises the need for conciliation between the sharply divided regions and ethnic groups in her country".

But earlier this week, in her first statement since the violence erupted, Aung San Suu Kyi, 72, condemned a "huge iceberg of misinformation" on the crisis, without mentioning the Rohingya flocking to Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, Rohingya Muslims are warning that unless the international community takes a firm stance against the violence, the country could witness "ethnic cleansing on the scale of the Srebrenica massacre".

On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also warned of the risk of ethnic cleansing, appealing to Aung San Suu Kyi and the country's security forces to end the violence.

Two Rohingya sources told Al Jazeera on Thursday that several people had been shot dead near the Maungdow township in Rakhine, with thick plumes of smoke seen billowing from the village of Godu Thara after security forces burned down the homes of fleeing Rohingya.

Access to the area has been blocked to foreign media so Al Jazeera cannot independently verify the sources' accounts.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Maungdow township under a pseudonym, Anwar, 25, said there was a "sustained and targeted military campaign against Muslims".

"The Myanmar army and Buddhist extremists are specifically targeting the Muslim population," he said.

"Women, children, the elderly - no one has been spared. The situation is continuing to get worse, and Aung San Suu Kyi's government is failing to raise its voice," Anwar added.