Rohingya Genocide

Anna Niggemyer ‘22, Staff Writer

Rakhine is a thin stretch of land on the coast of Myanmar, a country in Asia formerly known as Burma. This state is where most of the Rohingya minority have been confined since Myanmar’s independence. 88% of Myanmar’s citizens are Buddhist, and 12% are Muslim, a religious division that has created a tremendous amount of violent conflict. The Rohingya Muslim group is stateless, meaning they are not recognized as citizens of Myanmar. For years, the Rohingya have been killed, assaulted, and denied citizenship. Myanmar troops have even burned their villages down. Although the Rohingya have been persecuted since Myanmar gained independence from Britain in 1948, the conflict has dramatically escalated since August of 2017 because of an incident caused by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, a militant organization of Rohingya men. They first surfaced when they carried out a violent attack in October of 2016. Ataullah Abu Amar Jununi is the group’s leader. Ataullah was born in Pakistan and later moved to Saudi Arabia. There are reports saying that Ataullah practiced modern guerrilla warfare in Pakistan; however, this has never been confirmed. His family fled Myanmar before he was born to evade the violence and persecution.

On August 25, 2017, the ARSA attacked more than 30 Myanmar police posts with weapons, killing twelve members of the force. The ARSA has taken responsibility for the attack. In retaliation, Myanmar troops and Buddhist mobs set fire to Rohingya villages, killing civilians while trying to locate the ARSA members. In their search, the Burmese government sent their military into Rakhine where they ravaged villages, committing murder, rape, and arson. Thousands of innocent Rohingya were slaughtered or forced to relocate. The UN is now classifying this grave crisis a genocide.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have been forced to flee to Bangladesh, a neighboring country west of Myanmar, where refugee camps have been set up. However, even in the refugee camps, they are still not safe.

Since Rohingyas have been fleeing to these refugee camps, nineteen people have been killed, including camp leaders. One of these victims was a man named Arifullah, who was a camp leader. He was stabbed twenty five times. The police often do not know the motives these killers have. There are about one million people in the refugee camps and only about a thousand police officers, making the camps dangerous and disorganized for everyone.

Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian medical organization, has treated more than 13,000 Rohingya patients in the past year. Skin diseases and respiratory infections are two common conditions affecting the Rohingya people. These diseases are caused by the poor living conditions of the refugee camps and the villages from which the Rohingya come from. Many Rohingyas are also suffering mental health disorders due to the violence they have witnessed. Diphtheria is possibly the most serious disease. Diphtheria is a a very rare, contagious, bacterial disease that can damage your heart and nervous system and cause severe airway obstruction. If not treated properly, or at all, diphtheria can be life threatening. Doctors Without Borders has saved thousands of lives and has given comfort to those in need.

The Rohingya people are being persecuted for their beliefs and are denied basic human rights. These atrocities are unethical and inhumane. We hope that people, such as Doctors Without Borders, will continue to assist those in need and work to promote peace.