Genocide Lurking over Rohingyas

Rohingya Mother with her baby in Rohingya camp. Photo: Mahadi Hasan Sumon, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh
Rohingya Mother with her baby in Rohingya camp. Photo: Mahadi Hasan Sumon, Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

Rohingyas are the most persecuted ethnic minority in the world. They live in the Rakhine state of western Myanmar. These ethnically Muslim minority Rohingyas are around a million in number. They have been living in Myanmar for generations. During the period of General Aung San who died in 1947, Myanmar even had a Labor Minister who happened to be a Muslim named M A Rashid. But still, the government of Myanmar now insists that the Rohingya Muslims are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

They have been enduring systematic discrimination and living in a deplorable condition. Rohingyas’ miseries have been multiplied with Myanmar’s progress to democracy. When the world began to expect better treatment for the persecuted Rohingyas from the government side with Nobel Peace Laureate Suu Kyi in power, things began to get worse for the Rohingyas.

With systematic massacre and rapes, the security forces of Myanmar and Buddhist fundamentalists have been devastating the lives of Rohingyas for the last few years. But things went ‘genocidal’ on 25 August. An Armed group of Rohingyas attacked the Myanmar security forces and killed 12. In response to this attack, Myanmar security forces launched an unprecedented campaign against the Rohingyas. They have so far killed hundreds of common Rohingyas and raped many to retaliate against the assault on the security forces.

Fears of Genocide in the Rakhine State of Myanmar

Tens of thousands of Rohingyas have fled the country to safety in Bangladesh to save their lives. But Myanmar’s murderous actions against the Rohingyas haven’t stopped yet. Thousands of Rohingyas are fleeing to Bangladesh for security every day. The UN says that around 2 lac Rohingya people have flooded into Bangladesh for safety since August 25.

Many in the UN and Muslim leaders across the world have expressed their worries that Myanmar is carrying out genocide against the Rohingyas. Turkish President Erdogan alleged that “There is a genocide there. Those who close their eyes to this genocide perpetrated under cover of democracy are its collaborators.”

Rohingyas Flooding into Bangladesh Photo: Screenshot of a Bangladeshi TV report
Rohingyas Flooding into Bangladesh Photo: Screenshot of a Bangladeshi TV report

“The international community is saying it is a genocide. We also say it is a genocide,” Bangladesh FM AH Mahmood Ali told reporters after briefing diplomats in Dhaka on Sunday.

Bangladesh’s National Commission for Human Rights chairman Kazi Reazul Hoque said on Sunday “The way the genocide has been carried out in Myanmar, the way the people were killed in arson attacks, we are thinking about pressing for a trial against Myanmar, and against the Myanmar army at an international tribunal.”

The UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee too expressed his worry over the human rights situation in Myanmar. She said, “Many thousands of people are increasingly at risk of grave violations of their human rights”.  Indian media quoted her of describing the situation in Myanmar, “perhaps the worst … in Myanmar in a long time”.

Matthew Smith in an article on CNN titled “Is a genocide unfolding in Myanmar?” feared of genocide and described his Myanmar visit four years ago when “In a small village in Mrauk-U Township on October 23, 2012, 70 Rohingya were killed, including 28 children — 13 under the age of 5. Children were hacked to death. Some were thrown into fires.” (Quoted from CNN)

Now, what is Genocide?

Genocide is derived from the ancient Greek word “genos,” meaning race or tribe, and the Latin “cide,” meaning killing. The Oxford Dictionary defines Genocide as the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular nation or ethnic group.”

Genocide is defined in Article 2 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948) as “any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part1 ; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

Famous lawyer Raphael Lemkin defined genocide as “a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves.”

What happens if genocide is perpetrated?

Article I of the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide says, “The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and punish.”

So, is there a Genocide?

David Simon, director of the genocide studies program at Yale University, said, “I would hesitate to say at the moment that there is a genocide [in Myanmar], although that’s mainly for lack of evidence — it’s still a plausible conclusion.”

“I think we can say with a fair amount of certainty that there is ethnic cleansing going on and certainly crimes against humanity.”

“I would hesitate to say at the moment that there is a genocide [in Myanmar], although that’s mainly for lack of evidence — it’s still a plausible conclusion.”

The UN special advisor for the prevention of genocide Adama Dieng said, “When they are being killed and forcibly transferred in a widespread or systematic manner, this could constitute ethnic cleansing and could amount to crimes against humanity.”

“In fact, it can be the precursor to all the egregious crimes — and I mean genocide,” he added. “We are not yet there, we cannot say we are facing a genocide, but it is time to take action.”

“A 2015 study conducted by the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School found ample evidence that the violence against the Rohingya has indeed constituted violations of the United Nations Genocide Convention,” Mr. Simon wrote in January this year. He wrote about a study on Rohingya by Yale Law School that concludes that “the massive scale of the persecution, attacks, killing, and intentional displacement of Rohingya demonstrates intent to destroy the group, in whole or in part.”

 


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About Masum Billah 22 Articles

Masum Billah is a Staff Writer for The GeoStrategists. A Graduate from the Department of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, Masum Billah is a human rights activist. He writes columns on human rights, foreign policy, and terrorism.

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