U.S. must stand up for the Rohingya


JOSEPH CANNING  | canni001@rangers.uwp.edu

In the final weeks of summer, a barrage of disasters has shaken the Americas, dominating news feeds and social media. Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hammered the Caribbean and American South, but a tragedy unfamiliar to most Americans has been unfolding in Southeast Asia.

Unconscionably underreported in the west, heinous violations of human rights in Myanmar have been allowed to continue unhindered.

The victims

The Rohingya—a mostly Muslim population—form a large ethnic minority in Buddhist Myanmar and are the victims of what the UN and HRW have both recognized as ethnic cleansing. According to international children’s aid organization UNICEF, some 400,000 Rohingya men, women, and children have been forced into neighboring Bangladesh by Myanmar’s military as of September 14.

The violence and terror follows an August 25 attack on several Myanmar police posts by Rohingya insurgents, who use violence to try to win better rights for their people. Enraged, the military has taken it upon themselves to unleash a outpouring of violent reprisals against the civilian Rohingya population.

An ugly reality

Justifying their actions as a necessary response to terrorism, military gangs freely roam the country raping, killing, and robbing from the Rohingya. Entire villages have been burned to the ground.

Refugees reported to CNN that land mines have now been placed along Bangladesh’s border.

These appalling reprisals are not unprecedented: the Rohingya people have faced a long history of oppression and discrimination in Myanmar.

The country’s law has barred the Rohingya from citizenship, tracked their movement, and even attempted to limit their reproduction since the 1970’s.

Myanmar’s civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has stunned the world with her indolence in reigning in the military’s rampage.

A popular elected leader, she was the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for her commitment to democracy, but now she appears unsympathetic and complacent in the face of calamity.

Outcry in the east

Since word of the military crackdown first broke in late August, the Muslim world has shown vocal solidarity in their condemnation of the ethnic cleansing.

More than a million protesters rallied in Grozny, capital of the majority Muslim Russian subject of  Chechnya. Protests have also erupted around many Myanmar embassies.

International Muslim leaders were quick to label the situation in Myanmar as genocide and Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan promised the delivery of 1,000 tons of foreign aid. Interestingly, the Taliban expressed their sympathies as well.

America remains silent

On the morning of September 14, the EU joined the Muslim world in condemning Myanmar’s crimes. America’s leaders should be showing similar conviction to pressure Myanmar’s military.

Even if our leaders refuse to respond, one can always write to local and state leaders to urge them to do so. Donating to organizations such as the UNHCR and Red Cross also aid those most in need of respite. No people should be allowed to be swept aside as the Rohingya are.

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