Monday, September 3, 2012

An Appeal to Mr. Nelson Mandela of South Africa

Mr. Nelson Mandela
South Africa

Dear Mr. Mandela,

When I was a graduate student at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, USA nearly three decades ago, I had the distinct privilege of listening to Bishop Tutu closely and to get more energized than ever before to rally and advocate for divestment out of apartheid South Africa, which by then had transcended into 'our' cause to end once and for all time the evil of the apartheid system. On July 4, 1993 when you visited Philadelphia to receive the Philadelphia Liberty Medal and delivered your speech at the Independence Hall, my wife and I were in the audience. It was a moment which we two shall always cherish. I remember how in the rush of the event I had parked my car in an unsafe parking lot only to find later that someone had tampered with the keyhole. But it was no grief for we two had seen and heard you, and no personal loss of ours was going to put a dent in that privilege. 

Now some twenty years have passed by, and by the grace of God, South Africa is no longer cursed with that apartheid system. It has been able to uproot it from its soil, thanks to your uncompromising leadership and tremendous sacrifice made by you and many others. In a sense, we did it together. It was all our victory, our celebration, our joy!

While we celebrate that victory, I am horrified by the genocidal campaign to exterminate the Rohingyas of the Arakan (Rakhine) state of Myanmar (Burma). It has become a national project in Myanmar, actively practiced by the government of Myanmar and widely supported by its Buddhist majority including ultra-racist monks who want to make the multi-ethnic and multi-religious hybrid state of states into a purely mono-racial Buddhist country minus Christians, Muslims, animists and Hindus.

Because of their race, color and religion the Rohingya people are denied each of the 30 rights guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Buddhist-majority Myanmar. In spite of the fact that they have maintained a continuous connectivity to the soil of Arakan since time immemorial (before even the Tibeto-Burmans settled in what is today called Burma or Myanmar), they are declared stateless since the 1982 Burma Citizenship Law was passed under military dictator Ne Win. And as such, they are not welcome anywhere. Nearly half the population - numbering approximately 1.5 million -- now lives as unwanted refugees in places like Bangladesh, Thailand, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Malaysia. The remainder - estimated at close to 2 million - has no right of movement, employment, education, marriage, reproduction, health, security or anything we take for granted - inside Myanmar. They have faced a series of pogroms (by my count - at least two dozens) orchestrated by the regime (since the early 1960s), which uses all the text book cases for ethnic cleansing – namely, massacre, arson, slave labor, forced eviction including rape as a weapon of war - to push out the Rohingya one way or another. 

In the latest pogrom which started on June 3 of this year  with the lynching death of ten Burmese Muslims by a Rakhine mob of couple of hundreds while the government security forces did nothing to stop, as of now more than a hundred thousand Rohingyas have been internally displaced, thousands killed jointly by the government forces and Rakhine ultra-nationalist vigilantes, tens of thousands of homes burned, all Rohingya owned businesses looted and/or gutted, hundreds of mosques, madrasas and schools burned or demolished, and hundreds of women have been raped. Even infants have been brutally slaughtered by the criminal elements within the Rakhine population, all with direct and tacit approval of the local and central government. 

As the latest humanitarian crisis has once again demonstrated the Rohingya people need help from world conscience, especially from a person of your stature to advocate for an end to their misery. Sir, I have studied history of persecuted people for decades, and never have I come across a people that are more persecuted than this unfortunate Rohingya. They need help so that they don't become an extinct people like the Tasmanians of New Zealand. As such, I beg you to speak out in favor of the Rohingya people so that their tragedy stops, and that they are allowed to live as equals in our time. The Myanmar government must be forced to repeal or amend the 1982 Citizenship Law thus allowing the Rohingya people integrated as equal citizens with all rights. Knowing the mastery of the Myanmar regime to play the cat-and-mouse game, the world community should be stopped from investing in Myanmar unless the rights of the persecuted minorities like the Rohingya are restored fully. 

Sir, like Rachel Corrie, who was martyred in 2003 by an Israeli bulldozer, I feel like I am witnessing an insidious genocide of the Rohingya people while the powerful nations of the earth that run the UNSC have done nothing to stop this greatest crime of our time before it is too late. Please, let me not question my fundamental belief in goodness of human nature. 

I am aware of the fact that you are in frail health, and my prayer is for your good health and spirit, still I believe that your moral support for the Rohingya cause can mean a lot to our struggle towards restoration of their fundamental rights. I am a firm believer that with your support we can change the world and make it a better place for all of us and our posterity. 

Thank you for reading this letter.

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