Rohingya: Horrors Multiply as Tragedy Worsens

At a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh. (Photo:

By Iqbal Jassat

Arson, killings and rape have become operative challenges for Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya population as they face wave after wave of an orchestrated campaign of ethnic cleansing.

Reviled as illegal migrants and rendered stateless by the Buddhist majority government, Myanmar’s 1.1 million Rohingya feel utterly powerless and abandoned by the world.

Current images of women, children and the elderly fleeing from the Myanmar army, accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings and indiscriminate shootings are a grim reminder of the nightmare engulfing the Rohingya.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has been blamed for the deterioration of security in Rakhine which has seen its villages over run by thousands of troops. Home to the majority of Muslim Rohingya, Rakhine state has been beset by the military attacking unarmed civilians.

Latest reports indicate that the death toll is increasing dramatically. And as more violence is threatened, thousands of Rohingya – mainly defenseless women and children – have in utter desperation been trying to cross the Naf River separating Myanmar and Bangladesh and the land border.

The brutality meted out to Muslim Rohingya in mainly Buddhist Myanmar has emerged as the biggest challenge for national leader Suu Kyi. Her weakness in providing them safety and security is being interpreted by many analysts as an indictment against her claim to fame.

Though the persecution of the Muslim population precedes her coming to power, Suu Kyi’s silence has been reprehensible. Despite being challenged on various media platforms to acknowledge and condemn Buddhist atrocities, her explanations have always fallen short. It’s no wonder that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate has been accused by some Western critics of not speaking out for the long-persecuted Muslim community.

While the Rohingya are at wits end in their battle to survive, lacking international support for their sad plight is equally tragic. That the United Nations has yet to step in by at the least imposing sanctions on Myanmar has not helped either.

Failure by the UN, both in words and deeds, has in fact allowed Buddhist war lords to accelerate their relentless persecution of Muslim Rohingya. Knowing that the ethnic cleansing of this minority will not garner any repercussions has provided Myanmar carte blanch to do as they please.

Besides the dismal failure of the UN, it is shocking too that neighboring powerhouses have chosen to ignore the horrific conditions Rohingya have been subjected to. Neither India nor Pakistan have displayed any humanity. Indeed as member states of the UN, the expectation that either or both would by now have sponsored tough worded resolutions, has remained a mirage.

If remote parts of the world are able to hear Rohingya’s anguished cries and pleas for help, is it conceivable that Myanmar’s neighbours are deaf and blind?

Indeed the Muslim world at large bears responsibility to intervene urgently in order to overcome the helplessness and despair experienced by innocent victims of state terrorism. Unfortunately governments of Muslim countries seem to be unmoved by the terrible suffering of severely oppressed Rohingya. From Lahore to Riyadh and beyond, it is clear – as has been the experience of Kashmir and Palestine, these states are driven by self-interest, not justice.

Fortunately similar levels of disgraceful impotency do not apply to civil societies. Unlike the muted response by Arab despots and their African and Asian counterparts, human rights movements have been hyper-active. Whether in London or in Johannesburg, solidarity activists have mobilized under various banners including ‘Protect the Rohingya’ to undertake numerous campaigns.

An additional factor which has shielded the Suu Kyi government, is the lack of adequate media coverage. Rightwing ideologues of notorious Buddhist monks have as a consequence been spared from accounting for their illegal crimes.

Its a sad period for the Rohingya as they continue to face humiliation while staring at death. Much sadder though is knowing that help is not around the corner.

– Iqbal Jassat is an acclaimed writer, analyst and commentator and one of the founder members of MRN. His analysis is featured regularly in mainstream and alternate media outlets around the world. He contributed this article to

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