From newspaper headlines to social media, breaking news to hashtags, the Myanmar Genocide is topical and trending, the persecution and oppression of Rohingya Muslims is becoming an urgent crisis.
However, despite its current and ongoing relevance in the news, conflict is deep routed within this country’s history. Described by the UN as one of the “world’s most persecuted minorities.” Rohingya Muslims are facing a constant battle.
Myanmar is a sovereign state in Southeast Asia, also known as the “Republic of the union of Myanmar”, and formerly known as Burma, it neighbors Bangladesh, China, Laos and Thailand.
In Myanmar the official religion is Buddhism; and is considered a Buddhist state. However, it is also home to a small population of approximately two million Muslims (as of the 2014 census). A large majority of the Muslims within Myanmar residing in its Rakhine State in the West with a population of around three million.
Many of the Muslims living here identify themselves as Rohingya, or Rohingya muslims.
Overall, Myanmar is home to 51 million people, with 135 recognized ethnic minorities — but the Rohingya aren’t among the 135 recognized groups with many being forced to flee or live in horrible conditions.
The government view the Rohingya as not an ethnic identity or indigenous to Myanmar. But the Rohingya continue to maintain that a Muslim community has long existed in the Rakhine State, since Burma took control of it in 1784. However, despite this Myanmar’s government continue to believe the Rohingya are descendant of Bengali immigrants who arrived to work during Britain’s colonial rule in the 1820s.
In 1982 therefore nationality law asked the Rohingya to prove that their ancestors settled in Burma prior to 1823 which allegedly they were unable to do so and since then have faced social oppression and persecution as well as religious political and economic.
To escape this many Rohingya have fled to other countries such as Bangladesh where they have found sanctuary since the 1990s, with around nearly half a million having fled to Bangladesh since August 25 2017 due to the increasing violence; 80% of these are women and children according to UNICEF.
This all began in 1991 in Myanmar, when Myanmar, still in a military dictatorship, launched an operation against the Rohingya, forcing labor, religious suppression and even rape upon the people.
In 2016, Myanmar began its transition into a civilian-led leadership, a first in over half a century, however, the military still having holds in the country are continuing to target the Rohingya despite a change in leadership.
In Bangladesh and Myanmar Rohingya are considered illegal immigrants, are considered stateless people and are discriminated against. Couples have to gain permission to marry, to travel beyond their hometown, or to move to a new one. In the towns of Maungdaw and Buthidaung they are also only allowed two children and medical care is restricted throughout Myanmar. Women, girls and children are also vulnerable to exploitation, sexual violence and human trafficking,
Since August this violence has increased with villages being burned and survivors trying to escape being shot. According to the Human Rights Watch more than 200 villages have been burned.
Survivors have also detailed children being beheaded and the targeting of non- Rohingya Muslims.
Camps in Bangladesh are full of refugees, overcrowded, facing malnutrition, disease and human trafficking. The Red Cross stating that there are “no words” to describe the camp conditions and that they are “catastrophic.”
Surrounding these events is also talk and criticism of 1991 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's current state counselor, a role more powerful than president. Aung San Suu Kyi was winner of the prestigious prize “for her non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights.” which is being criticised due to its hypocrisy and for her not condemning the violence.
Suu Kyi won the popular Myanmar vote in the election two years ago, however, the constitution of Myanmar prohibits anyone with foreign family members to hold the top spot - her husband was British.
She has denied that any abuses have taken place and has stated that they do not fear “international scrutiny.”
Many countries over the world have been supporting the Rohingya Muslims, such as the US who have put $32 million towards assisting the refugees, as well as Turkey who has offered Bangladesh financial assistance to accommodate more refugees. The World Food Programme has also distributed hundreds of meals into Bangladesh.As countries around the world are continuing to work to help protect the Rohingya Muslims alongside organisations such as Unicef and Oxfam, you can also help support the Rohingya by donating here.