Wednesday, January 17, 2018

In Words and Deeds: The Genesis of Israeli Violence

 


Not a day passes without a prominent Israeli politician or intellectual making an outrageous statement against Palestinians. Many of these statements tend to garner little attention or evoke rightly deserved outrage.
Just recently, Israel’s Minister of Agriculture, Uri Ariel, called for more death and injuries on Palestinians in Gaza.
"What is this special weapon we have that we fire and see pillars of smoke and fire, but nobody gets hurt? It is time for there to be injuries and deaths as well," he said.
Ariel’s calling for the killing of more Palestinians came on the heels of other repugnant statements concerning a 16-year-old teenager girl, Ahed Tamimi. AHED was arrested in a violent Israeli army raid at her home in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.
A video recording showed her slapping an Israeli soldier a day after the Israeli army shot her cousin in the head, placing him in a coma.
Israeli Education Minister, Naftali Bennett, known for his extremist political views, demanded that AHED and other Palestinian girls should "spend the rest of their days in prison."
A prominent Israeli journalist, Ben Caspit, sought yet more punishment. He suggested that AHED and girls like her should be raped in jail.
"In the case of the girls, we should exact a price at some other opportunity, in the dark, without witnesses and cameras", he wrote in Hebrew.
This violent and revolting mindset, however, is not new. It is an extension of an old, entrenched belief system that is predicated on a long history of violence.
Undeniably, the views of Ariel, Bennett and Caspit are not angry statements uttered in a moment of rage. They are all reflections of real policies that have been carried out for over 70 years. Indeed, killing, raping and imprisoning for life are features that have accompanied the state of Israel since the very beginning.
This violent legacy continues to define Israel to this day, through the use of what Israeli historian Ilan Pappe describes as "incremental genocide."
Throughout this long legacy, little has changed except for names and titles. The Zionist militias that orchestrated the genocide of the Palestinians prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948 merged together to form the Israeli army; and the leaders of these groups became Israel’s leaders.
Israel’s violent birth in 1947- 48 was the culmination of the violent discourse that preceded it for many years. It was the time when Zionist teachings of prior years were put into practice and the outcome was simply horrifying.
"The tactic of isolating and attacking a certain village or town and executing its population in a horrible, indiscriminate massacre was a strategy employed, time and again, by Zionist bands to compel the population of surrounding villages and towns to flee," Ahmad Al-Haaj told me when I asked him to reflect on Israel’s past and present.
Al-Haaj is a Palestinian historian and an expert on the Nakba, the "Catastrophe" that had befallen Palestinians in 1948.
The 85-year-old intellectual’s proficiency in the subject began 70 years ago, when, as a 15-year-old, he witnessed the massacre of Beit Daras at the hands of Jewish Haganah militia.
The destruction of the southern Palestinian village and the killing of dozens of its inhabitants resulted in the depopulation of many adjacent villages, including al-Sawafir, Al-Haaj’s home village.
"The notorious Deir Yasin massacre was the first example of such wanton killing, a model that was duplicated in other parts of Palestine," Al-Haaj said.
The ethnic cleansing of Palestine at the time was orchestrated by several Zionist militias. The mainstream Jewish militia was the Haganah which belonged to the Jewish Agency.
The latter functioned as a semi-government, under the auspices of the British Mandate Government, while the Haganah served as its army.
However, other breakaway groups also operated according to their own agenda. Two leading bands amongst them were the Irgun (National Military Organization) and Lehi (also known as the Stern Gang). These groups carried out numerous terrorist attacks, including bus bombings and targeted assassinations.
Russian-born Menachem Begin was the leader of the Irgun which, along with the Stern Gang and other Jewish militants, massacred hundreds of civilians in Deir Yassin.
‘Tell the soldiers: you have made history in Israel with your attack and your conquest. Continue this until victory. As in Deir Yassin, so everywhere, we will attack and smite the enemy. God, God, Thou has chosen us for conquest," Begin wrote at the time. He described the massacre as a "splendid act of conquest."
The intrinsic link between words and actions remain unchanged.
Nearly 30 years later, a once wanted terrorist, Begin became Prime Minister of Israel. He accelerated land theft of the newly-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, launched a war on Lebanon, annexed Occupied Jerusalem to Israel and carried out the massacre of Sabra and Shatilla in 1982.
Some of the other terrorists-turned-politicians and top army brass include Begin, Moshe Dayan, Yitzhak Rabin, Ariel Sharon, Rafael Eitan and Yitzhak Shamir. Each one of these leaders has a record dotted with violence.
Shamir served as the Prime Minister of Israel from 1986-1992. In 1941, Shamir was imprisoned by the British for his role in the Stern Gang. Later, as Prime Minister, he ordered a violent crackdown against a mostly nonviolent Palestinian uprising in 1987, purposely breaking the limbs of kids accused of throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers.
So, when government ministers like Ariel and Bennett call for wanton violence against Palestinians, they are simply carrying on with a bloody legacy that has defined every single Israeli leader in the past. It is the violent mindset that continues to control the Israeli government and its relationship with Palestinians; in fact, with all of its neighbors.

Uri Avnery on - Bibi’s Son (Or Three Men in a Car)

No, I don’t want to write about the affair of Ya’ir Netanyahu. I refuse adamantly. No force in the world will compel me to do so.
Yet here I am, writing about Ya’ir, damn it. Can’t resist.
And perhaps it is really more than a matter of gossip. Perhaps it is something that we cannot ignore.
It is all about a conversation between three young man in a car, some two years ago.
One of the young men was Ya’ir, the eldest of the two sons of the Prime Minister.
Ya’ir is named after the leader of the “Stern Gang”, whose real name was Abraham Stern. The original Ya’ir split from the Irgun underground in 1940, when Britain stood alone against Nazi Germany. While the Irgun stopped its actions against the British government for the time being, Stern demanded the very opposite: exploit the moment in order to get the British out of Palestine. He was shot by the British police.
The modern Ya’ir and his two friends were on a drunken tour of Tel Aviv strip-tease joints, an appellation which often seems to be a polite way of describing a brothel.
Somebody took the trouble to record the conversation of the young men – the sons of the Prime Minister and two of the richest “tycoons” in the country.
This recording has now surfaced. Since the publication, hardly anyone in Israel is talking about anything else.
According to the recording, Ya’ir demanded from of his friend, Nir Maimon, 400 shekels (about 100 dollars), in order to visit a prostitute. When the friend refused, Ya’ir exclaimed: “My father gave your father a concession worth a billion dollars, and you refuse to give me 400 shekels?”
The concession in question concerns the rich gas fields out in the sea near Israel’s shores.
In an especially disgusting display of his utter contempt for the female sex, Ya’ir also offered to provide all his friends with the sexual services of his ex-girlfriend.
This recording raises a whole pile of questions, each more unpleasant than the next.
First of all: who made it? Apart from Ya’ir and his two pals, there were only two persons present; the driver of the car and a bodyguard.
This raises some more questions. First, why is the 26-year old man provided with bodyguards at all, and for a tour of strip-tease joints in particular?
Ya’ir has no official function. No son or daughter of any former prime minister has ever been provided with bodyguards. No known danger threatens this particular son. So why must I pay for one?
Second, what about the driver? Ya’ir was riding in a government car, driven by a government driver. Why? What right has he to a government car and to a government driver, in general – and in particular for such an escapade?
The episode has drawn the attention of the public to this son of privilege.
Who is Ya’ir Netanyahu? What does he do for a living? The simple answer: Nothing.
He has no profession. He has no job. He lives in the state-owned official residence in Jerusalem and eats at the state’s expense.
What about his record? The only service he ever performed was as a soldier at the office of the army spokesman – not much risk of meeting flying bullets there. You need a lot of pull to land such a cozy job in the army.
Every reader can ask himself or herself: where was he or she when they were 26 years old?
Speaking for myself, at that age I had behind me several years of service in the Irgun underground, a year of continual fighting in a renowned army commando unit, a battle wound, and the beginning of my career as the editor-in-chief of a belligerent news magazine. I have earned my living since the age of 15. That is not something special to be proud of – many young people of my generation have the same past (except the journalistic part, of course.)
Still, this part of the story can be explained by the character of this particular young man. Can a parent be held responsible for the character of his offspring?
Like many politicians, Netanyahu had no time for his children. It’s the mother who bears most of the responsibility.
Sarah Netanyahu, known as “Sarah’le”, is generally disliked. A former airplane stewardess, who “caught” Binyamin at an airport duty-free shop and became his third wife, is a haughty and quarrelsome person, who is in perpetual conflict with her government-paid household personnel. Some of these quarrels reach the courts.
So this is all a family affair, except that it raises some profound political questions.
What is the social setting of the Prime Minister, himself the son of a poor university professor and a government employee for almost all his life?
His offspring consorts with the sons of the country’s richest peoples, who are enriching themselves with the active help of the Prime Minister, – Netanyahu influences the government funding of big projects. At the moment, the police are conducting at least four separate investigations into Netanyahu’s personal economic affairs.
Practically all of Netanyahu’s personal associates and friends are under police investigation. His closest friend, lawyer and relative is under investigation concerning the acquisition of immensely expensive German-made submarines. The navy claims that it does not need all of them.
In his private life, Netanyahu is being investigated for receiving for a long time cases of the most expensive Cuban cigars from super-rich “friends”, for whom he provided some services. Sarah’le is investigated for receiving, on demand, a regular supply of very expensive pink champagne from another billionaire, whom she also asked to buy her jewelry.
This entire atmosphere of public and private corruption at the top of the state is very much removed from our past. It is something new, reflecting the Netanyahu era.
One could not even imagine anything like this in the times of David Ben-Gurion. His son, Amos, was implicated in some affairs which my magazine exposed, but nothing even remotely resembling this.
Menachem Begin lived for many years as an MK in the same two-room apartment where he had hidden as the most wanted terrorist in British Palestine. Golda Meir, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres all lived in modest circumstances.
Public humor calls Netanyahu “king” and even “emperor” and speaks of the “royal family”. Why?
One reason is certainly the time factor. Netanyahu is now in his fourth term of office. That is much too much.
Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, as Lord Acton remarked. One can replace “absolute” with “long-term”.
A person in power is surrounded by temptations, flatterers, corruptors, and as time goes by, his resistance wanes. That, alas, is human.
After the endless presidency of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a relatively honest and effective chief executive, the American people did something extremely wise: it limited a president to two terms. I also have come to the conclusion that eight years is exactly right.
(That applies to myself, too. I was a Member of Parliament for ten years. In retrospect I have drawn the conclusion that eight years should have been enough. During my last two years I was less enthusiastic, less combative)
I don’t hate Binyamin Netanyahu, as many Israelis do. He does not really interest me as a person. But I believe that he is a danger to the future of Israel. His obsession with clinging to power makes him sell out our national interests to interest groups, not just to billionaires but also to the corrupt religious establishment and many others.
Such a man is unable to make peace, even if he wanted to. Making peace demands strength of character, like taking the risk of being overthrown. Such audacity does not even enter Netanyahu’s mind.
Tell me who your son is, and I’ll tell you who you are.

Rohingyas and the Unfinished Business of Partition

Like so many of South Asia’s flashpoints, the Rohingya crisis has roots in the bloody Partition of 1947.

Where does the Partition fit in terms of the persecution of the Rohingya population, and to what end?
British Loyalties
Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.Integral to the southern Silk Road, the Arakan region played host to Arab traders since the 8th century A.D., when its first Muslim inhabitants arrived. Later, the Mrauk-U Buddhist kingdom (1429-1785) emerged in the region concurrent to the neighboring Bengal Sultanate. After the First Anglo-Burmese War (1824-26), when the Arakan region first came under British control, the colonial administrators began to encourage the migration of low-skilled Bengali-speaking laborers — mostly poor Muslims and some Hindus — into the tea and rubber plantations of Arakan as a cheap workforce, thus further expanding the local Muslim population.
By the Third Anglo-Burmese War of 1885, when Burma officially became part of the British India, migration from the Bengal presidency to Arakan reached its height — so much so that in the 1920s and 1930s, the large size of the Bengali-speaking Muslim population threatened the majority Buddhist Bamar population, leading to violent agitation. Burma did not remain a part of British India for long, and under the 1935 Government of Burma Act, it became a separate crown colony in 1937. This had serious political and military repercussions within a few years, when the British were compelled to wage their longest military campaign of World War II in that very region.
The Burma Campaign (1941-45), often hailed as the “forgotten war,” not merely brought international geopolitics at the doorstep of British India but also transformed the Bengali-speaking Muslims of Arakan into willful strategic players. With two colonial powers locking horns in Burma — Japan promising independence and Britain struggling to retain control of its crown colony — the Rohingyas cooperated with the British in the hope that they would be granted administrative autonomy. After the British retreat in early 1942, the northern Arakan region erupted in retributive communal violence against pro-British Rohingyas perpetrated by the pro-Japanese Buddhist population. During the three British-led Arakan Campaigns, the Rohingyas were recruited as part of the “V Force” — the wartime British intelligence-gathering guerilla group— against the Japanese.
By late 1944, the pro-Japanese Burmese military units had grown disillusioned with the Japanese and Tokyo’s promise of Burmese independence. Aung San, the military leader of the Burma National Army and father of Aung San Suu Kyi, decided to switch loyalty to the British, leading to the 1945 Kandy Conference at the Allied headquarters of the South East Asia Command in present-day Sri Lanka. The Kandy Conference established ethnically homogenous class battalions in Burma to keep peace in the military ranks but initiated no effort to develop a unified civilian government. British colonial administrators found that problematic but were overruled by the Supreme Allied Commander of the South East Asia Command, Lord Louis Mountbatten.
In February 1947, Mountbatten would become the Viceroy of India, and together with Cyril Radcliffe oversee the hasty and violent Partition of the British Empire in South Asia into India and Pakistan. That Partition would lead to about a million deaths and displacement of around 20 million people.
Partition Hopes
In postwar British Burma, the colonial rulers conferred on the Rohingyas significant administrative posts in Arakan as reward for their wartime participation in the British military efforts against the Japanese. The Rohingya leaders used their newly found positions of leverage to seek administrative autonomy, but in vain. As the Partition of British India loomed large, the Rohingyas hoped to join the future Muslim-majority province of East Pakistan. In May 1946, they sent a group of leaders to meet with Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the soon-to-be founding president of Pakistan, requesting that the two Muslim-majority townships of Buthidaung and Maungdaw be incorporated into the new Muslim country. Carving East Pakistan out of Bengal was posing its own complex demographic challenges. Understandably, Jinnah refused to interfere in what he considered the internal affairs of Burma.
Ethnic minorities were not unique to the Arakan region: there were the Karens, Chins, Kachins, and Shans among others, who were also distinct from the majority Buddhist Bamar population. The Rohingyas were the only Muslim group. It is perhaps to keep peace in the ethnically heterogeneous country that the September 1947 Burmese constitution, which entered into effect with the country’s independence, incorporated the right of provinces to secede from the Union of Burma within the first ten years.
After Burmese independence in 1948, the mistreatment of Rohingyas by the Burmese military led to admonition by neighboring Pakistan. Many Rohingyas were fleeing to what was then East Pakistan, where they found a population not only receptive to their plight but also responsive through economic and military support for the persecuted. While much has been claimed about the Islamization of the Rohingyas, their mujahideens or freedom fighters waging a jihad or holy war against the Burmese state go back to the 1950s. Despite the similarity in terminology, the Rohingya rebels were distinct from the transnational Islamist terror networks of the 1970s. Since the Rohingya rebels often sought and found support on the other side of the border, the Burmese government of U Nu directed Pe Khin, the Urdu-speaking Burmese ambassador to Pakistan, to seek an understanding that Pakistan would no longer aid the Rohingya rebels. By that time, the tide had turned in Pakistan: it, too, faced a separatist challenge in its eastern province, where language-based nationalism had taken root calling for a free “Bangladesh” for Bengali-speaking Muslims, independent of Urdu-speaking West Pakistan.
Bengali nationalism in East Pakistan reached its height in the aftermath of police brutalities against protesters at the University of Dhaka on February 21, 1952. In 1954, Cassim, the leader the Rohingya rebels, was arrested in Chittagong by East Pakistani authorities. Until the 1971 war leading to the creation of Bangladesh, the cause of the Rohingyas oppressed by the Buddhist majority of Burma was not dissimilar to the struggles of the Bengali Muslims repressed by Urdu-speaking Pakistan. Operation Nagamin of 1978 and the 1982 Citizenship Act by the Ne Win government completed the political and legal otherization of the Rohingyas as we understand today. The former was a Burmese military-led ethnic cleansing leading to over 200,000 fleeing to newly independent Bangladesh using similar routes as those of the refugees in the current conflict. The latter made it impossible for Rohingyas to establish their citizenship in Myanmar till this day.
Borderlands and Nation-States
The 1947 birth of the two nation-states of India and Pakistan was bloody and disruptive, and the heartaches of Partition are yet to heal after 70 years. The borderlands — Balochistan, Northwest Frontier Province, Kashmir, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Assam, Nagaland, Arakan, and elsewhere — have kept bleeding since. The permeable borders, overlapping ethnic loyalties, and resource scarcity have transformed these transnational conflicts into direct threats to the survival of the new nation-states that have sprung up since the latter half of the 20th century.
Today, the basic pattern of ethnic conflict involving the Rohingyas in Myanmar — Bengali-speaking Muslims (and some Hindus) of South Asian heritage vs. Buddhists of Sino-Tibetan heritage — is observable in violent localized conflicts experienced across multiple nation-states in South Asia. This includes the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, and Mizoram, the Chittagong region of Bangladesh, and the Arakan or Rakhine state of Myanmar. Ethnic conflicts and related mass migration have led to multiple standoffs, including the 1979 Marichjhapi incident in West Bengal, the 1980 Kaokhali massacre in Chittagong, and the 1983 Nellie massacre in Assam, among others.
The insurgencies against nation-states that have plagued these borderlands have benefited from popular sympathy, benign neglect, and even active government support on the other side of the border. The informal economies of the borderlands, characterized by smuggling and criminal networks, have offered a steady supply of weapons, people, and money, thus leading to a thriving ecosystem of insurgencies, Islamist and otherwise. The Mizos and Nagas fighting for secession from the Indian state continue to have operational bases in northern Myanmar. The “Shanti Bahini” (literally meaning Peace Army) of the Chakma tribe fighting the Bangladeshi state since the 1970s in the Chittagong Hill Tracts had bases in the Indian state of Tripura. The Rohingya Solidarity Organization formed after the 1978 Operation Nagamin had bases near Cox’s Bazar in the Chittagong district of Bangladesh, as does the present-day militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
While there are concerns about radicalization of the Rohingyas in refugee camps in Bangladesh, little substantive evidence exists to implicate the ARSA with ties to al-Qaeda or the Islamic State. ARSA’s recent pledge to fight the Myanmar government, and the Myanmar military’s admission to killing Rohingyas, whose bodies were discovered in a mass grave, mean that this will be a protracted violent conflict.
No 1971 Redux
The December 1971 intervention by the Indian military in East Pakistan on behalf of the Bengali-speaking Muslims facing genocide by the Urdu-speaking Pakistani military did not generate support in the international community as a humanitarian intervention. The 13-day event led to the military defeat of Pakistan at the hands of India, and the consequent creation of the sovereign country of Bangladesh. The international community was as indifferent then to the genocide of East Pakistanis as it is now to the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingyas. So, if military action under what we now call the “responsibility to protect” (R2P) were to take place it would have to be singularly undertaken by Bangladesh — it has an international border with the Arakan/Rakhine state and is host to the largest number of Rohingya refugees — or together with India, which is militarily superior, host to about 40,000 Rohingya refugees itself, and has a sizeable Bengali-speaking population of its own in the states of West Bengal and Tripura. But, is such an R2P intervention at all likely?
Three main factors prevent a 1971 redux. First, unlike 1971, when there was an outpouring of support from Hindu Bengalis in the Indian state of West Bengal for East Pakistan, no such solidarity exists for the Rohingyas. Furthermore, in resource-scarce developing countries, refugees fleeing violence compete with locals for already strained socio-economic assets. As a result, despite initial empathy, the welcome by the locals wears out fast. For example, only months prior to the 1971 war, violent clashes broke out between refugees and locals in West Bengal causing instability, and within days of the end of the war even before the situation had completely stabilized, refugees from camps in West Bengal were sent back in large numbers to newly created Bangladesh.
Second, the transnational nature of multiple insurgent networks that operate against the three countries — India, Bangladesh, and Myanmar — makes it hard for Dhaka and New Delhi to adopt a strong stance against Naypyidaw. Both India and Bangladesh need the cooperation of Myanmar to ensure that the Chakmas, Assamese, Mizos, and Nagas do not cause further destabilization within their own territories. The transnational character of separatist militancy in the region often leads the nation-states in the region to speak with one voice. Soon after the 1971 war, New Delhi helped the Mujibur Rehman government of Bangladesh to tackle the separatist challenge in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, which Indian diplomat, K.P.S. Menon, defended in the following words: “Bangladesh asked for help in combating armed and hostile Mizos. We responded.” This “should not be construed as instability of Bangladesh or of its Government. Almost every country has similar problems e.g. India with Nagas, but that does not mean that India is unstable nor that its Government is not in firm control of the country.”
Third, the elephant in the room is the Sino-Indian rivalry in the region, which Myanmar stands to benefit from. Although China had been a long-term partner of Myanmar’s military junta, Beijing’s clout had witnessed a gradual downturn since Myanmar’s democratization. Moreover, between 2015 and 2017, there have been numerous violent clashes between the Indian military and Naga insurgents along India-Myanmar border, including a surgical strike inside Myanmar in 2015. Given the recent rise in Naga insurgency, New Delhi’s military partnership with Naypyidaw has increased several fold, leading to peacekeeping drills, India’s criticism of the Rohingyas as Islamist terrorists, and a pledge of $25 million by New Delhi to ensure the return of the Rohingyas in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.
A humanitarian intervention for the Rohingyas under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter is not likely either. China is still a friend of Myanmar, and to curry favors with the Tatmadaw would veto any United Nations Security Council Resolution that threatened Myanmar’s sovereignty. India has made its position quite clear in opposing the cause of the Rohingyas and calling them a national security threat, which leaves us with Bangladesh. Dhaka lacks both the popular support and the military wherewithal to pull off a 1971-like intervention. Last but not the least, Soviet support of India was pivotal in the Indian military’s daring action in 1971. No great power interests are going to be served in saving the Rohingyas. So, help is improbable. It will be a Rwanda, not a Kosovo.
Jayita Sarkar is assistant professor of international relations at Boston University’s Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies. 

Guterres questions Rohingya repatriation

17 Jan 2018 World

UN’s Guterres questions Rohingya repatriation

Jonathan Miller Asia Correspondent
The UN Secretary-General has joined a chorus of international concern over an agreement to start repatriating hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh to Myanmar, starting next week. Antonio Guterres has said it is important that the returns are voluntary and that the deal should not simply result in refugees being moved from camps in Bangladesh to camps in Myanmar. Many Rohingya, who’ve been driven from their homes in a campaign that the UN has called “textbook ethnic cleansing”, say they would rather die in the refugee camps than go back to Myanmar.

Press Release from BROUK

Rohingyas’ concerns over the repatriation of refugees from Bangladesh
 
We, the undersigned Rohingya organisations worldwide express our serious concern over an agreement, signed on 23rd November 2017, between Myanmar and Bangladesh on the return of some 670,000 Rohingya refugees who have recently taken refuge in Bangladesh after fleeing Myanmar genocide.
 
But the question is how the terrified and traumatized refugees would be repatriated to Arakan/Rakhine State where they experienced, witnessed and fled the genocidal brutality of Myanmar troops, Rakhine extremists and other vigilantes. There is no change of attitude of the Myanmar government and its Military towards Rohingya; still they identify Rohingya as recent “Bengali interlopers” from Bangladesh; and Rohingyas continue entering into Bangladesh due to continuing violence and brutality against them in Arakan.
 
Refugees are homesick, but they are unwilling to return as congenial atmosphere has not been created yet for safe and voluntary repatriation with dignity and honour. The refugees should be settled in their homes. It would be worst simply moving the refugees from camps in Bangladesh to dislodgement sites in Myanmar. It is dangerous that the regime has already claimed state-ownership of Rohingyas’ land within the affected region of Northern Arakan/Rakhine state. Before they return to Myanmar the refugees need guarantee ensuring their life and property security and “peaceful-coexistence” as equals with all other people in Arakan and Myanmar.
 
In consideration of the above, the following measures are imperative for safe and voluntary repatriation of the Rohingya refugees:
 
1.    The UNHCR, which is a mandated UN protection agency, should be involved in all process of repatriation.
 
2.    The Refugees should be allowed to put down their identity as “Rohingya”, the UN-recognized name to self-identify.
3.    Refugee representatives should be discussed in all process of repatriation.
4.    Repatriation must be fully voluntary. The refuges should be rehabilitated in their original homes and properties, with full compensation under the supervision of the UN with peace-keeping force, NOT to displacement sites in Myanmar.
 
5.    Demilitarized UN safe zones shall be created in Northern Rakhine State, as an interim measure, in order to guarantee security of life, property and dignity of the persecuted people, as well as to ensure confidence, faith and understanding in the minds of the heavily terrified and traumatized refugees.
 
6.    The Myanmar government must restore their full Myanmar citizenship ensuring all rights and freedoms -- security of life, property, honour, dignity, freedom of religion, movement, education, marriage, employment etc. -- without any infringement, restriction, and discrimination in all affairs of their national activities.
 
7.    The Myanmar government shall recognize the “Rohingya ethnicity” allowing them to peacefully co-exist in Arakan/Rakhine State as equals with their “collective rights” on par with other ethnic nationalities of the country.
 
8.    The Myanmar Citizenship Law of 1982 must be scrapped or amended aligning it with international standards and treaties to which Myanmar is State Party, including articles 7 and 8 of the Convention on the Rights of Child.
 
9.    Land is asset and means of making living. All previous land and landed properties of the refugees must be given back to them immediately.
 
10.Necessary arrangement shall be made to try and punish all perpetrators by an international independent tribunal. The Myanmar government shall stop and prohibit all forms of racism, incitement, propaganda, hate speech, Islamophobia, decrees and directives against the Rohingyas and other Muslims.
 
11.The Myanmar government must allow unimpeded humanitarian aids to all needy and unfettered access to the media and rights groups to Northern Arakan/Rakhine state.
 
12.The welfare of the offspring of rapes and raped women must be ensured.
 

Signatories:

·      Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO)
·      Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK)
·      British Rohingya Community in UK
·      Burmese Rohingya Community in Denmark
·      Burmese Rohingya Association Japan (BRAJ)
·      Rohingya Advocacy Network in Japan
·      Burmese Rohingya Community Australia (BRCA)
·      Burmese Rohingya Association in Queensland-Australia (BRAQA)
·      Canadian Burmese Rohingya Organisation
·      European Rohingya Council (ERC)
·      Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation in Malaysia(MERHROM)
·      Rohingya American Society
·      Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee
·      Rohingya Community in Germany
·      Rohingya Community in Switzerland
·      Rohingya Community in Finland
·      Rohingya Community in Italy
·      Rohingya Community in Sweden
·      Rohingya Organisation Norway
·      Rohingya Society Malaysia (RSM)
·      Rohingya Society Netherlands
 
 
 
For more information, please contact:
 
Tun Khin (Mobile):                +44 7888714866
Nay San Lwin(Mobile):         +49 69 26022349
Zaw Min Htut (Mobile):         +8180 30835327

Rohingya Repatriation Agreement Fails to Address Accountability and Safety Concerns

New York, NY - 01/17/2018

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today expressed concern over an agreement between Bangladesh and Myanmar to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled brutal violence in Myanmar.

Dr. Homer Venters, PHR’s director of programs, who traveled to Bangladesh last month with a team of doctors to document evidence of physical and sexual violence against the Rohingya, issued the following statement:

“The agreement is eerily quiet on what actually happened to the Rohingya and does not address accountability for the wide-scale atrocities and terror inflicted upon them. Our team of physicians recently conducted forensic evaluations of Rohingya survivors in Bangladesh and we found that many women and children had sustained gunshots, stab wounds, burns, and other intentional injuries – including, reportedly, mass rape – that are inconsistent with any legitimate ‘anti-terror’ operations. It’s hard to imagine that in 2018, two national governments have reached an agreement to push almost 700,000 refugees – victims of an historic campaign of violence – back to their home country without a proper accounting of events and safeguards for the future.

“Without investigation, transparency, and accountability for crimes against the Rohingya, any discussion of repatriation is a nonstarter. Our experiences on the ground tell us that it is unlikely that Rohingya refugees will leave camps in Bangladesh if they face uncertainty about whether they or their families will be subjected to violence, abuse, and rape back in Myanmar. In addition, the systematic persecution and denial of education, health care, and other basic human rights that have long been a daily reality for the Rohingya must be addressed. Anyone who fears persecution on return to Myanmar must be afforded the right to seek asylum in Bangladesh, consistent with international law.

“The agreement stigmatizes the Rohingya people as would-be terrorists and includes unrealistic demands that these people, who fled for their lives with no possessions, show proof of residency to the very government that denied them of their citizenship, making it difficult for them to believe that they will be protected upon returning home. We call on the government of Myanmar to allow a full, impartial investigation by international bodies so that the truth can be established for all to see and guilty parties can be held accountable. This is the precursor to establishing any voluntary, safe, and dignified return.”

On its recent visit to Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, a team of PHR doctors conducted forensic documentation following internationally accepted protocols to corroborate stories of violence and abuse, supported by physical examinations and x-rays. The team will be returning in February for a similar investigation.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn

CPD’s ominous assessment of Rohingya repatriation

THE text incorporated in the MoU on the repatriation of the Rohingya refugees (it has also been called an ‘arrangement’ and ‘instrument’) that the government of Bangladesh had signed with the government of Myanmar during the visit of the Bangladesh foreign minister to Myanmar in the end of November is now emerging slowly but disappointingly for Bangladesh. Some of it came from the seminar held in the past week by the Centre for Policy Dialogue on the costs and the time frame for the repatriation of the Rohingyas. The CPD estimated that the repatriation would be completed in seven years and cost $5.9 billion andm that too, if the repatriation process was to be smooth. The CPD seminar also highlighted other significant costs of the Rohingya crisis for Bangladesh, social and environmental.
The CDP seminar did not focus on the security dangers that could be expected if the process of repatriation was to take that long. And since the MoU was signed, an additional 50,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh. To add to the pessimistic scenario, NGOs working with the Rohingya refugees have stated that 50,000 to 70,000 Rohingya women are already pregnant in the refugee camps. These women are illiterate and unaware of family planning measures. Their husbands are also illiterate and do not believe in family planning.
Former Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh and an expert on the region on security and foreign policy related matters Pinak Ranjan Chatterjee saw the picture of the Rohingya repatriation more clearly and even more ominously than the CDP. He saw little prospect of most of the Rohingyas ever returning. He, therefore, suggested in an article tiled ‘The Most Unwanted People’ that he wrote for the Telegraph on December 27 that the Bangladesh government should plan for settling them in the country and to talk with friendly governments that would be willing to take some of them.
The Bangladesh government itself did not see much hope in the MoU. It, therefore, requested the UN early this month to step in and assist the repatriation process. That request, of course, would not have much impact because two of the permanent members of the United Nations, China and Russia, have said that the Rohingyas were no concern of the United Nations and whether Myanmar would take them would depend on Myanmar alone that has shown little intention to do so apart from signing the MoU that it knows would do little in repatriating the Rohingyas in any large number.
The MoU has been brokered by the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi after visiting Bangladesh and Myanmar and importantly after China had supported the Myanmar government at the United Nations. The Chinese foreign minister suggested a three-stage repatriation process leading to the final resolution of the Rohingya problem. In the first stage, China wanted an immediate ceasefire by the Myanmar military. In the second stage, China expected Bangladesh and Myanmar to find a workable solution for the repatriation of the refugees. Finally, China wanted in the last and final stage that the Myanmar government should undertake poverty alleviation measures for the Rohingyas to discourage them from leaving the country.
The fact that 50,000 Rohingyas had fled the Rakhine state since the MoU was signed suggested that even if the Myanmar military had ceased its military operations against the Rohingyas, the reality on the ground is still dangerous underlining the fact that China’s three-stage plan is still stuck in the first stage. Meanwhile, the Rohingya refugees in the camps in Bangladesh have indicated quite clearly that they are not willing to return to their homes because they fear for their lives. Therefore, the three stages resolution of the Rohingya tragedy that China thought it had brokered shows no signs of going anywhere.
Notwithstanding the above, the Bangladesh ministry of foreign affairs has taken a number of initiatives to project that it is on the right track on the Rohingya problem. On its behalf, the BIISS has held seminars to explain the case from Bangladesh’s perspective. In these seminars, the BNP has also been blamed for the Rohingya crisis that has underlined that the ministry itself is uncertain that the MoU would help Bangladesh resolve a grave national problem. As things stand at present, Bangladesh would be forced to spend a sum of money that would be more than enough to build a second Padma Bridge or another mega infrastructure of its magnitude for the country.
It is a pity that the ministry of foreign affairs did not see that it had wasted in dealing with the most serious problem that Bangladesh faced since its liberation in the area of foreign relations after the prime minister showed it the way. She had done something for the Rohingyas like Mrs Gandhi had done for the Bangladeshi refugees in 1971. She had successfully stirred the world’s attention to the fact that the Myanmar military was committing genocide/ethnic cleansing on the Rohingyas as Indira Gandhi had with the actions of the Pakistani military. The United Nations and the western nations agreed with her assessment and had shown the willingness to put Myanmar on the dock.
The Chinese-brokered MOU, instead of following upon the work of the prime minister, did not do justice to her outstanding diplomatic work. In fact, thanks to the MoU, Myanmar is no longer on the dock and Bangladesh would remain stuck with the one million refugees for the next seven years at huge financial, social and environmental costs and that too, according to the CPD, if the MoU detailed repatriation process would proceed smoothly! In fact, no one knows for sure what has really been incorporated in the MoU to be able to tell what would be a smooth process and little that has become public about the text of the MoU suggests that it has been written the way the Myanmar side wanted it where even the word Rohingya has not been used because Myanmar does not accept the Rohingyas as an ethnic group of the country.
Bangladesh by opening its doors to the victims of genocide has shown its compassion for humanity while the Myanmar military has been the perpetrators of the crimes against humanity. Yet, all of Bangladesh’s neighbours and friends outside the western and Islamic countries took the side of the perpetrators of the genocide/ethnic cleansing. India took the lead, followed by China and Russia. Even Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka voted at the United Nations against Bangladesh and for Myanmar. And at the 31st ASEAN Summit, the biggest man-made tragedy of recent memory, namely the Rohingya tragedy, was not even discussed although Bangladesh has a resident mission in almost all the ASEAN countries and the Rohingya crisis occurred in the backyard of ASEAN.
Even the CPD’s ominous assessment on the repatriation of the Rohingyas appears uncertain. Instead, former Indian high commissioner Pinak Chakravarty’s assessment that ‘Myanmar is unlikely to take back most of the refugees and Bangladesh will have to resettle them in new refugee camps and hope other countries will ease the burden by accepting some refugees’ seems to be the more likely outcome of the ongoing Rohingya crisis. Thus Myanmar that had made no secret that it would not have any Rohingyas in its country eventually is going ahead and implementing its long-laid-out plan and Bangladesh’s closest friends are on Myanmar’s side.
Therefore, the foreign ministry should reassess the friends of Bangladesh as well as its own disappointing role in carrying forward the diplomatic initiatives of the prime minister. It is unbelievable that while Myanmar was on the hooks, not one special envoy was sent to the capitals of the friendly countries that went against Bangladesh. And the ministry and the BIISS while assessing why the friends of Bangladesh did not stand by its side together with the silence of ASEAN in such a major crisis should also look seriously at the strategic shift in the balance of power that the Rohingya crisis is bringing to the region. Myanmar is easing out considerably Bangladesh’s strategic importance that it has to offer to countries such as China, Japan and also India.
M Serajul Islam is a former career ambassador.