Sunday, May 31, 2015

"If Muslim rulers had forced religious conversion, India would not have a single Hindu remaining", says Prof. Sheldon Pollock of Columbia University

Over the last four centuries while interacting with some Indian friends, classmates or acquaintances, I have sometimes come across people who allege that Hindus were forced to convert to Islam during the Muslim-rule of India. How true are such allegations?

Professor Sheldon Pollock is a scholar of Sanskrit, American intellectual and literary history, and comparative intellectual history. He is currently the Arvind Raghunathan Professor of South Asian Studies at the Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University. He was general editor of the Clay Sanskrit Library and is founding editor of the Murty Classical Library of India. Pollock has received the Andrew W. Mellon Distinguished Achievement Award and the Government of India's Padma Sri.

Prof. Pollock was asked the same question when he was visiting India in February 2015. [You can also find the link here.]  He replied, “If Muslim rulers had forced religious conversion, this country would not have a single Hindu remaining."


Here below is the full interview which got published (in Bengali language) in the Anandabazar newspaper of Kolkata, India:

নিজেকে ‘ইহুদি ব্রাহ্মণ’ বলেন মার্কিন যুক্তরাষ্ট্রের কলাম্বিয়া বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে দক্ষিণ এশিয়া চর্চার অধ্যাপক শেলডন পোলক। হার্ভার্ড বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের মূর্তি ক্লাসিকাল লাইব্রেরি ইন্ডিয়া প্রকল্পের সাধারণ সম্পাদক সম্প্রতি জয়পুর লিটারারি ফেস্টিভ্যালে এসেছিলেন।

বছর পাঁচেক আগে ‘মূর্তি ক্লাসিকাল লাইব্রেরি ইন্ডিয়া’ প্রকল্পে ধ্রুপদী ভারতীয় গ্রন্থ প্রকাশের উদ্যোগ শুরুর সময়ে আপনি বলেছিলেন, ভারত ঐতিহ্য ধবংসের কিনারায় দাঁড়িয়ে। আজ বইগুলি বেরোতে শুরু করেছে। বিপজ্জনক কিনারা থেকে একটু সরে আসা গেল?
একটু। কিন্তু পুরোদস্তুর আশার আলো এখনও নেই। এই যে আমরা আবুল ফজলের আকবরনামা বার করলাম, সেই অনুষ্ঠানে একটা ঘটনা ঘটল। অনেক কষ্টে দু’এক জনকে খুঁজে পাওয়া গেল, যাঁরা ফার্সি ভাষা পড়তে পারেন। ভেবে দ্যাখো, ভারত, যে দেশটা ফার্সি আধুনিকতার অন্যতম জায়গা, যেখানে ফার্সি ভাষায় প্রথম খবরের কাগজ বেরিয়েছিল, সেখানে এখন ফার্সি পড়ার লোক নেই!
 
এক ঘটনা সর্বত্র। তুমি হিন্দি বলয়ের হৃত্‌পিণ্ডে খাস দিল্লি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয় বা জওহরলাল নেহরু বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ের মতো জায়গায় গিয়ে বল, আমি কেশবদাস বুঝতে চাই। লোক পাবে না। ষোড়শ শতকের অন্যতম হিন্দি কবি কেশবদাস, তাঁর কেশব গ্রন্থাবলি আজ ভারতে দুর্লভ। কর্নেল বা রাসিনের নাটক পড়তে চাই বললে কিন্তু অন্য ছবি। প্রচুর শিক্ষক, প্রচুর ছাত্র। এর পরও বলতে হবে ভারত তার ধ্রুপদী সংস্কৃতি বাঁচিয়ে রাখার কথা ভাবে?

মাস কয়েক আগে হরিয়ানার নতুন অশোকা বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়ে বক্তৃতা দিতে গিয়েছিলাম। প্রায় শ’তিনেক উজ্জ্বল, মেধাবী পড়ুয়া। জিজ্ঞাসা করেছিলাম, ক’জন ধ্রুপদী ভারতীয় সাহিত্য পড়েছেন? মহাভারত, কালিদাস, বাণভট্ট বা কুমারিল ভট্টের শ্লোকবর্তিকা? এক জনও নয়! ধ্রুপদী সাহিত্যকে বাদ দিয়েই ভাবী মেধাজীবীরা তৈরি হবেন?
এই ফাঁকটা ভরাট করার জন্যই মূর্তি লাইব্রেরি সিরিজ। খ্রিস্টের জন্মের তিন হাজার বছর আগে প্লাস্টিক সার্জারি ছিল কি না, ইন্টারঅ্যাক্টিভ বিমান ছিল কি না সে সব অবান্তর। এ দেশের ভাবী প্রজন্মকে ধ্রুপদী সংস্কৃতিতে আগ্রহী করে তুলতে হবে। নইলে ঐতিহ্য নির্বিচারে ধ্বংস হতে থাকবে।

প্রশ্ন: আপনার কী মনে হয় প্রাচীন ইন্টারঅ্যাক্টিভ বিমান নিয়ে?
আমার কিছু মনে হয় না। আমি একটাই কথা বলব, মূর্তি ক্লাসিকাল লাইব্রেরি প্রকৃত প্রমাণসহ ভারতীয় ক্লাসিককে বিশ্বের সামনে তুলে ধরতে চায়। রূপকথার গল্প বা ফ্যান্টাসির সেখানে স্থান নেই।

আবুল ফজলের আকবরনামা আপনারা বের করেছেন। কেন? ‘আইন-ই-আকবরি’র মতো বইকে বাদ দিয়ে কেন ‘আকবরনামা’?
এক মার্কিন সেনাপতি একটা কথা বলেছিলেন। মনের মতো সেনাবাহিনীর কথা না ভেবে বরং হাতের কাছে যে বাহিনী পেয়েছ, তা নিয়েই যুদ্ধে যাও। আমরা একটা ছাপাখানা, হাতের কাছে আকবরনামা পেয়েছি, ফলে তাই নিয়েই রণক্ষেত্রে এসেছি। পালি ভাষা থেকে থেরীগাথা, ফার্সি থেকে আকবরনামা, গুরমুখী থেকে বুলে শাহ, হিন্দি থেকে সুরদাস আর তেলুগুভাষা থেকে মনুকাহিনী, এই নিয়ে আমাদের প্রথম পাঁচটি প্রকাশনা। উপরন্তু তেলুগু ভাষা থেকে কম্বন রামায়ণ, প্রাচীন কন্নড় ভাষা থেকে হরিশচন্দ্র কাব্য, ফার্সি ভাষা থেকে আমির খসরু অনুবাদের কাজও চলছে। আপাতত, ১২ টা ভাষা থেকে অনুবাদ। ইচ্ছা আছে, আগামী ২১১৫ সালের মধ্যে অন্তত ৫০০টা টাইট্ল লোকের কাছে পৌঁছে দেব।

একদা আপনি ক্লে স্যাংস্ক্রিট লাইব্রেরি সিরিজেও সাধারণ সম্পাদক ছিলেন। সে সব বইয়ের দাম ছিল আমাদের মতো পাঠকের নাগালের বাইরে। তার সঙ্গে এই সিরিজটার তফাত কোথায়?
দামের গল্পটা জানি। আমি জন ক্লে-কে বলেছিলাম, ভারতীয় সংস্করণ বের করতে। কিন্তু তখন ফান্ড শেষ হয়ে আসছে, তার পর উনি হঠাত্‌ মারাও গেলেন। বাণভট্টের ‘কাদম্বরী’ বা মহাভারতের পুরো অনুবাদ বের হল না। তার ওপর ক্লে মুখ্যত সংস্কৃত সাহিত্যে গুরুত্ব দিত। এখানে অন্য ভারতীয় ভাষাগুলিকেও আমরা নিয়ে এসেছি। ক্লে সিরিজে মুখবন্ধগুলি ছিল সংক্ষিপ্ত, এখানে আরও ডিটেলে।

আপনার ‘দ্য ল্যাঙ্গোয়েজ অব দ্য গডস ইন দ্য ওয়ার্ল্ড অব মেন’ বইতে লিখেছিলেন, সংস্কৃতকে সব ভারতীয় ভাষার মা ভাবতে হলে আর একটি জাতীয়তাবাদের খপ্পরে পড়ার সম্ভাবনা প্রবল। তা হলে আধুনিক ভারতীয় ভাষাগুলির সঙ্গে সংস্কৃতের সম্পর্কটা ঠিক কী?
উত্তরটা জটিল। এক এক প্রান্তে এক এক রকম সম্পর্ক। কিন্তু ভাষার ব্যাপারে মা-মেয়ের বায়োলজিক্যাল উপমাটা আমার পছন্দ নয়। দক্ষিণ ভারতের কথা ধরো। মালয়ালমে প্রায় ৯০ শতাংশ সংস্কৃত শব্দ, তেলুগুতে প্রায় ৭০ শতাংশ, কন্নড়ে ৪০ থেকে ৫০ শতাংশ। তামিলে সংস্কৃত শব্দ সবচেয়ে কম। কিন্তু শব্দ বা ভোকাবুলারি বাদ দিয়ে ভাষার টেকনিক্যাল দিকগুলি ভাব। ক্রিয়াপদের ব্যবহার, অন্বয়, বাক্যগঠন। প্রত্যেকটা সংস্কৃতের চেয়ে আলাদা।
উত্তর ভারতেও এক ঘটনা। হিন্দি ভাষার গড়নে অপভ্রংশ, ফার্সি, উর্দু ইত্যাদির প্রভাব বেশি। বাংলায় আবার সংস্কৃতের প্রবল প্রতাপ, সাধু ভাষা ও চলিত ভাষা। ফলে মা-মেয়ের বদলে বন্ধুত্বের উপমাই আমার বেশি পছন্দের। বাংলা, মালয়ালমে সংস্কৃতের সঙ্গে বন্ধুত্ব প্রবল, তামিলে আবার আলগা বন্ধুত্ব।

আপনার বইতে বারংবার একটা শব্দবন্ধ উল্লেখ করেছিলেন: স্যান্স্ক্রিট কসমোপলিটানিজ্ম। এর অর্থ?
খুব সহজ। সংস্কৃত নিছক পুজোআচ্চার ভাষা নয়। কাবুল, কান্দাহার, পেশোয়ার থেকে জাভা, সুমাত্রা এলাকায় ভাষাটা চলছে। কাম্বোডিয়ার খ্মের রাজারা তাঁদের প্রশস্তি উত্‌কীর্ণ করছেন সংস্কৃতে। ব্যাকরণ, অভিধান, ছন্দে গুরুত্ব দিচ্ছে সব রাজশক্তিই। হিউয়েন সাং লিখেছেন, পাণিনি তাঁর ব্যাকরণ শেষ করে রাজাকে পড়তে দিয়েছেন। রাজা বললেন, সবাইকে শিখতে হবে ভাষার এই সূত্র। ঠিকঠাক বললে হাজার স্বর্ণমুদ্রা পুরস্কার। রাজশক্তির নীতির সঙ্গে ভাষা, সংস্কৃতি, সব এক সুতোয় গাঁথা।

এই জন্য এখানে রাজনীতিকরা কথায় কথায় সংস্কৃতির ধুয়ো তোলেন?
সংস্কৃতি শব্দটা সংস্কৃত ভাষায় এসেছে অনেক পরে। বিশ্বায়নের যুগে ইংরেজি আজ প্রধান ভাষা। তার সঙ্গে প্রাক্-আধুনিক কালের কসমোপলিটান সংস্কৃতের একটা তফাত আছে। পেশোয়ার থেকে সুমাত্রা অবধি সবাই সেই ভাষায় কাব্য লেখে, প্রশস্তি রচনা করে। ভাষাটা নির্দিষ্ট কোনও এথনিসিটির বাহক নয়। ‘দেশি’ শব্দটাই ধরো। তুমি ভারতবাসী, আমি ভিনদেশি, এই অর্থে শব্দটা সংস্কৃতে ব্যবহৃত হয়নি। সংস্কৃতে দেশি মানে নির্দিষ্ট কিছু কালচারাল প্র্যাকটিস। সম্প্রদায়গত অনুভূতি নয়। ইংরেজি যতই ভারতীয় ভাষা হোক, এখানকার পরিবেশে ড্যাফোডিল বা টেম্স পাবে না। কিন্তু ভারত থেকে জাভা, কম্বোডিয়া, সর্বত্র সংস্কৃত সাহিত্যে মেরুপর্বত, গঙ্গার উদাহরণ পাবে। ভাষাটার কোনও নির্দিষ্ট কেন্দ্র নেই, সর্বত্র সে অ্যাট হোম।

কিন্তু ব্রাহ্মণ্যতন্ত্র? কাস্ট সিস্টেম? মেয়েদের সংস্কৃত মন্ত্র উচ্চারণের অধিকার না দেওয়া?
আমি কলাম্বিয়ায় অম্বেডকর সংস্কৃত ফেলোশিপ চালাতাম। পিছিয়ে পড়া জনজাতির মেধাবী ছেলেমেয়েদের সংস্কৃত শেখানোর প্রোগ্রাম। সংস্কৃতের সঙ্গে অম্বেডকরের চমত্‌কার সম্পর্ক ছিল। ‘হু ইজ আ শূদ্র’ নিবন্ধটা শুরুই করেছিলেন ভবভূতির কোটেশন দিয়ে। প্রথম থেকে সংস্কৃত পড়ার ভাল সুযোগ পেলে অম্বেডকর আরও বড় স্কলার হতেন।
কসমোপলিটন সংস্কৃতিতে এ ভাবেই বহু স্বর থাকে। সংস্কৃতেও ছিল। জাতিভেদের বিরুদ্ধেই ছিল। মধ্যযুগের একটা সংস্কৃত শ্লোক ধরো। কবি ঠিক দলিত নন, তবে উচ্চবর্ণও নন। লিখছেন, অয়ং নিজঃ পরো বেতি গণনা লঘুচেতসাম্/উদারচরিতানাং তু বসুধৈব কুটুম্বকম্। মানে, ক্ষুদ্রচেতা লোকেই আপন-পর ভাগ করে থাকে। উদারহৃদয়ের কাছে তামাম দুনিয়াই আত্মীয়। ঘোরনা বলে এক কুম্ভকারের শ্লোকের প্রশংসায় বলা হচ্ছে, যাঁরা বাগ্দেবীর আশীর্বাদ পান, জাতি তাঁদের অন্তরায় হয় না। আমি এই ঘটনাগুলিই মনে করতে বলছি। ব্রাহ্মণ কে? যিনি জ্ঞানের চর্চা করেন। আমি তো নিজেকে ইহুদি ব্রাহ্মণ বলি!

অনেকে বলেন, ইসলামি আক্রমণের পর সংস্কৃতের পতন হল, শাসকের দাপটে সবাই উর্দু, ফার্সি শিখতে ছুটল।
বাজে কথা। তোমাদের বাংলার নবদ্বীপ বা মিথিলা সংস্কৃত ন্যায়চর্চার কেন্দ্র হয়েছিল সুলতানি আমলে। দারাশিকো বেদান্ত পড়ছেন বারাণসীর পণ্ডিতদের কাছে। মুসলমান শাসকরা এ দেশে প্রায় বারোশো বছর রাজত্ব করেছিলেন। ওঁরা জোর করে ধর্মান্তর করালে এ দেশে এক জনও হিন্দু থাকত না। ওঁদের উত্‌সাহ না থাকলে সংস্কৃতও টিকে থাকত না। ধর্মের সঙ্গে ভাষার উত্থানপতন গুলিয়ে তাই লাভ নেই।

সংস্কৃত এবং ধ্রুপদী সাহিত্য চর্চায় আজকের ভারত কী ভাবে ঘুরে দাঁড়াতে পারে?
চাই মুক্ত, বহু স্বরকে সম্মান করার মতো পরিবেশ। সংস্কৃতকে কোনও নির্দিষ্ট বর্ণের মানুষ সংরক্ষণ করেনি, সমাজের সব অংশের সেখানে ভূমিকা রয়েছে। কোনও ডিভাইসিভ, এক্সক্লুশনারি, মেজরিটারিয়ান রাজনীতি তাই সংস্কৃতের অন্তরায়। দরকার সকলকে নিয়ে মুক্ত আনন্দের সৃষ্টিশীল পরিবেশ। পরাজিতের বিষণ্ণতাবোধ থেকে সংস্কৃত পড়া যায় না, দরকার বহু স্বরের বহু স্তরের আনন্দের উপলব্ধি। আনন্দবাজার পত্রিকার পাঠকরা হয়তো ভাববেন, আমেরিকা থেকে এসে ওপর-পড়া হয়ে জ্ঞান বিতরণ করছি। আমি কিন্তু বিভীষণের মতো কথাগুলি বলতে চাই। রামের শিবিরে গিয়ে বিভীষণ বলেছিলেন, আমি যাতে তোমার ভাল হয়, বন্ধুর মতো সেই সত্য শোনাতে এসেছি।
প্রথমেই রাষ্ট্রীয় সংস্কৃত সংস্থান নামে কেন্দ্রীয় প্রতিষ্ঠানটির খোলনলচে বদলাতে হবে। ব্রাহ্মণ, অব্রাহ্মণ, মুসলিম, দলিত সব মিলিয়ে ভারতে কত জন সংস্কৃত পড়ে? কোনও পরিসংখ্যান নেই। তবু আমার ধারণা, সাড়ে সাত কোটি। সংখ্যাটা তিন কোটি হতে পারে, দশ কোটিও! এই সাড়ে সাত কোটি ছাত্র কী শেখে, কতটুকুই বা শেখে? কিচ্ছু না। তাদের দোষ নেই, শেখানোর লোক কোথায়? ফলে প্রথমেই দরকার আন্তর্জাতিক মানের একটি ইন্ডিয়ান ইনস্টিটিউট অব ক্লাসিকাল স্টাডিজ। এ দেশে এত আইআইটি, আইআইএম! সবাই ডাক্তারি, ইঞ্জিনিয়ারিং আর ম্যানেজমেন্ট পড়তে ছুটছে। কিন্তু ধ্রুপদী সাহিত্যচর্চার একটা কেন্দ্র নেই? সেখানে মেধার চর্চা হবে, সেরা লোকেরা পড়াবেন ও গবেষণা করবেন। তখনই দ্বিতীয় প্রজন্মের স্কলারেরা তৈরি হবেন। এটাই সবচেয়ে জরুরি।

SHOCKING VIDEO! YOU WILL LOSE FAITH IN HUMANITY (Call for the Genocide of the Rohingya people)


Here is a link to a shocking video posted by Michael Porter that shows a Burmese racist provoking fellow Buddhists to kill Rohingyas of Myanmar. As I have noted many times, genocide against the Rohingyas of Myanmar has become a national project enjoying widespread support at all levels of the racist Buddhist society. Still, sadly, the world chooses to shut its eyes to their plight. How long can our generation ignore their plight as if nothing is going wrong?

Assad's latest war crimes

There are not too many governments in our time that massacres its own people just to stay in power. Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria is one such criminal government – outside those of Myanmar and China – that has not learned to alter its hideous means that have served it quite well to hang on to power by hook or crook. To add to its already long list of crimes against the Sunni majority, Bashar al-Assad’s murderous sectarian (Nusayri) regime has dropped barrel bombs on Saturday in the northern city of al-Bab in the province of Aleppo, killing some 72 civilians. These bombs were dropped in the busy market from government helicopters.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which gathers information through a network of activists in Syria, called it one of the worst massacres perpetrated by the government so far this year. Activists report barrel bombs being dropped from government helicopters every day in different parts of the country. They consist of steel drums packed with explosives and shrapnel - and sometimes with chlorine also added, according to many reports. As reported and verified by multiple observers, these barrel bombs are dropped randomly to terrorize ordinary citizens and often cause massive damage and indiscriminate casualties in areas where these are dropped. The UN says in some instances, civilian gatherings have been deliberately targeted by the Assad regime, constituting massacres.

Meanwhile, the so-called Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) is reported to have blown up Tadmur prison near the ancient city of Palmyra - which fell to the militants earlier this month. The prison was for decades a symbol of state oppression in Syria. It had held thousands of political prisoners, who faced years of torture and disease in its cells. Many were executed by the Assad regime.

According to human rights group, SOHR, in the last 15 months (Jan. ’14 – March ’15) alone some 3,124 civilians were killed as a result of barrel bombs. Three schools were hit, 17 hospitals were damaged and 23 mosques were damaged or fully destroyed by such bombings.

In February 2015, Human Rights Watch group accused the Assad regime of dropping barrel bombs on hundreds of sites in 2014, violating a UN Security resolution. The regime also continues to use toxic chemicals – e.g., chlorine and ammonia – against rebel-held territories in the north killing civilians.

As I have noted earlier, had the UNSC and the powerful western states were serious about toppling the Assad regime, they could have provided the necessary material support to the rebels shortening his rein in power. Instead, they found every possible excuse not to do so, which only let the rebel movement to be hijacked by more radical elements, e.g., the ISIS. And then, as it became quite evident, the western interest lay in defeating or weakening the ISIS, which in turn has meant strengthening the grip of the murderous Assad regime.  As of March of this year, some 1093 and 1431 air strikes were directed against the ISIS positions inside Syria, and Iraq. “The disappointment caused by the West's inaction created a fertile recruiting ground for extremists, who told those who had lost their loved ones that they were their only hope,” says a civil society activist when interviewed by the BBC.

Further complicating the issue, the regional powers are not sitting idle either. Iranian government and the Hijbullah of Lebanon, regrettably, have joined on the side of the Assad regime, while most Arab countries in the region are opposed to it. Thus, a popular civil unrest and revolution has now been transformed into a sectarian fight where the criminal Assad regime sees it as a life or death test for its minority but all-powerful Nusayri sect.

In the midst of this chaos, it is the ordinary civilians who are paying the toll. Caught in the middle, they are getting killed like cattle brought to the slaughter house! By March of this year, more than 220,000 Syrians have lost their lives in four years of armed conflict, which began with anti-government protests before escalating into a full-scale civil war. More than 11 million others – almost half the total population of Syria - have been forced out from their homes. Overall, an estimated 12.2 million are in need of humanitarian assistance inside Syria, including 5.6 million children, the UN says. A report published by the UN in March 2015 estimated the total economic loss since the start of the conflict was $202bn and that four in every five Syrians were now living in poverty - 30% of them in abject poverty. Syria's education, health and social welfare systems are also in a state of collapse.

More than a year ago, I got a distressing call from an old Syrian friend of mine who told me how more than a dozen members of his immediate family were killed by the Assad regime. He was naturally very sad and went back home to find out the conditions of his relatives. He was originally from Aleppo – the very place which has been barrel bombed lately by the criminal Assad regime. I don’t know whether he or any of his family members are alive today. I have not heard from him ever since. I could only pray and hope that he and his family members are okay.

The criminal regime of Bashar al-Assad needs to be brought down to save the Syrian people from the wretched crisis they face today. The UNSC can facilitate that outcome by stopping Assad’s airplanes and helicopters from flying. But will it do such or let the massacre of ordinary Syrians to continue?

 

Friday, May 29, 2015

What's next in Sisi's Egypt - another incident of mockery of the judicial system?

In Sisi's Egypt, the judicial system has become a laughing stock. No wonder, one after another Mubarak era criminals, let alone Sisi-era neo-tyrants and state criminals, are released from serving prison terms for their gruesome crimes against ordinary civilians.

We have already seen how all the criminal charges against the previous dictator Mubarak were dropped while the popularly elected President Morsi - first in Egyptian history - has been charged with death penalty.

If you thought that you have already seen enough of such caricature of justice, wait a moment. Here is another shameful episode which has just unfolded.

Major Abdel Rahman al-Shemi was a former State Security major. He was convicted to 15 years in 2012 for torturing a suspect to death in the months leading to the ousting of Hosni Mubarak. The accusations of brutality fueled anger among regime opponents.

Now like other Mubarak era government officials who has a history of torture and murder, he, too  has been acquitted of all such crimes against unarmed civilians in Sisi's Egypt. Egypt's highest court has since overturned the earlier verdict against him and sent Shemi's case to a retrial in which he was cleared. The former security officer was released on Thursday, a judicial official said.

Don't be surprised to find repeats of such acquittals against Mubarak era government criminals by Mubarak-era judges! They need each other to strengthen the neo-Pharaoh of Egypt, and protect old ones.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Burma’s boatpeople ‘faced choice of annihilation or risking their lives at sea’

The Guardian newspaper of UK has recently posted a good article analyzing the choices or rather the lack of it for the Rohingyas of Myanmar, who are facing genocide in their ancestral home. You can read the entire piece by clicking here.

Jews in 1939, Rohingya in 2015 - Will the world repeat the crimes of not sheltering victims of genocide?

"The international community's apathy toward the plight of the Muslim-Burmese refugees stranded at sea mimics the indifference that saw many Jews sent to their death. Will countries of conscience remain silent?" - asks Ben Samuels who is an editor at Haaretz.com.

You can read his article below:

 
The persecution of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Burma has been among the world's greatest human rights disasters over the past century. However, this tragedy has only recently emerged as a hot-button international issue after the Rohingya have opted for drastic means to escape the sordid conditions faced at home. 

Largely based out of Burma’s Rakhine state and neighboring Bangladesh, the Rohingya have been persecuted for decades on the grounds that they are illegal immigrants, or the descendants of illegal immigrants. Since a 1982 citizenship law effectively rendered the Rohingya stateless, the Burmese government has barred freedom of movement while formally withholding access to education and subjecting adults and children alike into forced labor projects.

In 2012, the already apartheid-like conditions took a drastic turn for the worse. Deadly clashes between the Rohingya and the majority ethnic Rakhine Buddhists erupted, under the watch (and sometimes explicit participation) of Buddhist security forces. Roughly 140,000 Rohingya were displaced, forced and confined into sordid IDP camps

Since 2012, the grim situation has spiraled into an undeniable humanitarian catastrophe. Institutionalized prejudice remains, while indiscriminate violence and virile rhetoric has increased. The world has failed to address the systematic persecution, and conditions are ripe for an even greater humanitarian disaster. 

International indifference has fostered a reality where thousands of desperate Rohingya – 25,000 in 2015 alone – have turned to human traffickers to smuggle them over the Andaman Sea. However, the Rohingya are opting for a different sort of nightmare under the human traffickers.

Rohingya are packed by the thousands in rickety ships described as “floating coffins,” largely devoid of food and water. If the Rohingya even survive the journey, they are often held captive in camps in neighboring countries until their families pay the traffickers a ransom. Mass graves of trafficked refugees have been discovered in Thailand and Malaysia  – two countries considered by Rohingya to be a preferable alternative.

Thousands of Rohingya are currently stranded at sea, unwilling participants in a game of “human ping-pong” due to neighboring countries’ hesitancy to accept refugees. Following international pressure, Indonesia and Malaysia – the very country that has allowed human traffickers to run amok – announced they would provide temporary shelter to the refugees, conditional upon their repatriation in a third-party country within the year.
There is an alarming historical precedent for refugees fleeing genocide by sea, only to encounter international apathy.

In May 1939, the SS St. Louis, carrying nearly 1,000 Jewish refugees fleeing the ever-worsening conditions in Nazi Germany, set sail for Cuba. Upon arrival, Cuba refused the vessel permission to dock. The ship then headed to the U.S., where passengers were so close that they could see the Miami lights.  However, the Coast Guard refused to allow the ship to dock, despite the direct pleas of passengers and leading U.S. Jewish figures.
 
The ship returned to Europe, where passengers were repatriated by several states. More than a quarter of the ship’s passengers eventually died in the Holocaust.

The similarities between the Rohingya flotilla and the SS St. Louis are quite disconcerting; even more worrisome are the parallels between the international indifference to the impending genocides.

When the SS St. Louis attempted to dock in Miami, the State Department sent a telegram to the ship’s passengers telling them to "await their turns on the waiting list and qualify for and obtain immigration visas before they may be admissible into the United States."
One only needs to look at Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s appalling lack of empathy to shed the false pretense that the world has learned its lesson. Abbott emphatically refused to bring in the stranded Rohingya, saying that “Australia will do absolutely nothing that gives any encouragement to anyone to think that they can get on a boat….to start a new life. If you want to start a new life, you come through the front door, not through the back door.”

On Friday, Thailand – yet another catastrophe-enabler – will host a regional summit aimed at resolving the crisis. Burma agreed to attend, on the condition that the word “Rohingya” is not used, instead referring to the refugees as “irregular migrants.” 

The international community convened similar conferences preceding and during the Holocaust. In 1938, Franklin Roosevelt convened the Evian Conference to resolve the Jewish refugee problem. Of the 32 participating countries, only the Dominican Republic expressed willingness to accept a capped number of refugees. Five years later, the U.S. and the U.K. met in Bermuda to discuss the ever-worsening Jewish refugee problem. Again, both countries maintained their immigration quota policies.

An undeniable historical precedent exists for what happens when international indifference meets a humanitarian crisis so far gone. As the Bangkok conference approaches, the question must be asked: Until what point will the world allow the parallels to accumulate?

Seven Nobel Peace Laureates Call the Persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar a Genocide

Seven Nobel Peace Laureates Call the Persecution of Rohingyas in Myanmar a Genocide, as Oslo Conference Ends. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Mairead Maguire, Jody Williams, Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ibadi, Leymah Gbowee, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel were the seven Nobel Peace Laureates who joined the Conference Communique in asserting that "what Rohingyas are facing is a textbook case of genocide."  In addition, George Soros pre-recorded a message for the conference in which he drew parallels between the suffering of the Rohingya people in Burmese camps with the Jewish ghettos in Nazi-occupied Hungary of his childhood.

The Dalai Lama is the latest voice to join the above 7 asking for ending genocidal activities of the Myanmar government and its Buddhist people against the Rohingya people. As Thailand prepares to hosts a 17-nation conference on the plight of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar, global criticism is mounting over the passivity of Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Su Kyi. In an interview with The Australian newspaper, the Dalai Lama appealed to Ms. Suu Kyi, a fellow Nobel laureate, to speak out on behalf of Rohingyas. He's the latest Nobel Peace Prize winner to lend support to the cause of Rohingya Muslims, who are effectively stateless in Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority country. 

========================
Oslo, Norway, May 28, 2015 - A two-day conference focusing on ending the persecution of Burma's Rohingyas concluded today, with a call from seven Nobel Peace Laureates to describe their plight as nothing less than a genocide.

In his pre-recorded address to the conference, Desmond Tutu, leader of  South Africa's anti-apartheid movement in the 1980s, called for an end to the slow genocide of the Rohingya.

Tutu’s appeal was amplified by six other fellow Nobel Peace laureates: Mairead Maguire from Northern Ireland, Jody Williams from the USA, Tawakkol Karman from Yeman, Shirin Ibadi from Iran, Leymah Gbowee from Liberia, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel from Argentina. They stated that, “what Rohingyas are facing is a textbook case of genocide in which an entire indigenous community is being systematically wiped out by the Burmese government.”

Philanthropist George Soros drew a parallel between his childhood memories of life in a Jewish ghetto under the Nazi occupation in Hungary and the plight of the Rohingya after visiting a Rohingya neighborhood in Sittwe which he called a “ghetto”. “In 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I, too was a Rohingya…The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming,” he said, in a pre-recorded address to the Oslo conference.

The meeting was held at the prestigious Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen Conference Center in Oslo, Norway. It was attended by Buddhist monks, Christian clergy, and Muslim leaders from Myanmar. Also present were genocide experts, international diplomats, interfaith and human rights leaders. Attendees explored ways to end Myanmar’s systematic persecution of the Rohingya, as well as foster and communal harmony in Burma.

Addressing the conference, Morten Høglund, the State Secretary of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, announced his government’s decision to give 10 million Norwegian Kroner ($1.2 million US) in humanitarian assistance to Burma. The participants were dismayed however, as the State Secretary choose not to even mention the word “Rohingya” in his entire speech in an apparent compliance to Myanmar’s government stand.

The conference communiqué urged the Norwegian government to immediately prioritize ending Myanmar’s genocide over its economic interests in Burma, including sizeable investment by Telenor and StatOil.

During the conference, former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik conferred on three leading Myanmar monks who have saved Muslim lives in Burma and opposed Islamophobia the first-ever “World Harmony awards” on behalf of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, a 120-year-old interfaith organization. Rev. Seindita, Rev. Withudda, and Rev. Zawtikka, were the three awardees who also chanted Buddhist prayers at the inauguration.

Presenting the awards, the Parliament’s chair, Imam Malik Mujahid said, “These extraordinary monks challenge the widespread perception that all Buddhist monks clamor for violence against the Rohingyas.”

The participants from 16 different countries, including leading Rohingya activists and leaders, as well as genocide scholars, adopted the following statement.

Full Text of the Communiqué Adopted by the Oslo Conference


Today the Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Persecution of the Rohingya ended. The conference was held at the Norwegian Nobel Institute and Voksenaasen, Oslo, Norway on May 26 & 27, 2015.

After two days of deliberations the conference issue the following urgent appeal to the international community, based on the following conclusions:
  1. The pattern of systematic human rights abuses against the ethnic Rohingya people entails crimes against humanity including the crime of genocide;
  2. The Myanmar government’s denial of the existence of the Rohingya as a people violates the right of the Rohingya to self-identify;
  3. The international community is privileging economic interests in Myanmar and failing to prioritize the need to end its systematic persecution and destruction of the Rohingya as an ethnic group.
The call by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to end Myanmar’s genocide of the Rohingya made during the Oslo conference is supported by six additional Nobel Peace Laureates: Mairead Maguire, Jody Williams, Tawakkol Karman, Shirin Ibadi, Leymah Gbowee, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel.

The United Nations and the international community have an urgent responsibility to stop Myanmar’s systematic persecution of the Rohingya.

As the home country of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, the conference urges the Government of Norway to immediately prioritize ending Myanmar’s genocide over its economic interests in that country, including sizeable investment by Telenor and StatOil.

The conference calls upon the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), the European Union (EU), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the United Nations (UN) and other relevant international actors to take all possible measures to pressure the Government of Myanmar to do the following:
  • to immediately end its policies and practices of genocide;
  • to restore full and equal citizenship rights of the Rohingya;
  • to institute the right of return for all displaced Rohingya; 
  • to effectively provide the Rohingya with all necessary protection; and
  • to actively promote and support reconciliation between communities in Rakhine State, Myanmar.

Contact Persons

USA: Imam Malik Mujahid
Chair Burma Task Force USA
malik@SoundVision.com
1-312-804-1962

UK: Dr. Maung Zarni:
447710473322
fanon2005@gmail.com
Co-Author: Co-author (with Cowley) “The Slow Burning Genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya”

[Background information on the conference: The conference was co-organized and co-sponsored by the following organizations. However, the communiqué was adopted by the attendees of the conference without any approach to the respective organizations.

Justice    for All,    Burma    Task Force USA; Parliament    of the World’s Religions; Refugees International (USA); International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) Queen Mary University of London; Harvard Global Equality Initiative (HGEI); Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI).
Dr. Maung Zarni and Imam Malik Mujahid serve as the co-chair of the conference]



 

Two national service training camps in Kedah state of Malaysia opened for Rohingya boat people

Two national service training camps in Kedah have been identified as temporary shelter for the Rohingya migrants who have landed in Malaysia, said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein.

These were the Rimba Taqwa Camp in Sik and the Youth Recreation Camp in Baling, he told reporters after watching a demonstration of the Malaysian Armed Forces' firepower at the Syed Sirajuddin Camp here. Also present was Chief of Defence Forces Gen Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin.

Hishammuddin said, however, that these camps, each of which could accommodate 400 people, were only a short-term measure until a permanent solution could be found for the Rohingya migrants.

"For the long-term solution, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia have to find a way to share the accommodation of the migrants. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees must also help out.

"The UNHCR champions human rights but if no other country wants to accept the Rohingya migrants, Malaysia cannot be left to undertake the responsibility alone. It is futile to champion human rights but not lift a finger to help," he said.

CNN News on the Rohingyas of Myanmar

Recently CNN has published on the plight of the Rohingyas of Myanmar who have come to replace the Vietnamese Boat People of the 1970s and 1980s. It is estimated that in the last 3 months alone some 25,000 Rohingya people may have taken the sea voyage to leave their homeland in Myanmar where they face unfathomable cruelty. Many suspected that their migration was all about ethnic cleansing drives by Buddhist terrorists, but not known before was the fact that many of them were forced by racist Rakhine Buddhists to take the trip. Here below is a full report on their plight:

Advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has alleged that some of the thousands of displaced boat people -- many of whom are still stranded at sea -- were forcibly removed from their homes and put on migrant ships.

The agency has collated witness reports from Rohingya Muslims -- a minority which endures persecution in Myanmar -- who say they were forced to leave the country by groups of men armed with knives and guns.
 
Yasmine, a 13-year-old girl, told HRW that a dozen men came to her home in Rakhine State, home to many Rohingya, and told her she needed to leave Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, to join her brother in Malaysia.
 
"They dragged me to the boat, they had sticks and threatened to beat me," she said. "I screamed, I cried loudly. My parents were weeping, but they couldn't do anything. I went onto the boat with three men. When I got to the big boat... I cannot explain my feeling, I was so scared."
 
Another, 16-year old Arefa, said that six Rakhine Buddhists from Bangladesh, armed with knives and guns, forced her to get on a boat. "They told me I was leaving Myanmar," she said. After a six-hour journey to a larger vessel she spent two months at sea with 95 other migrants, amid dwindling food supplies and abysmal sanitary conditions, before arriving in Malaysia.
A boat carrying about 300 Rohingya men, women and children was found drifting in Thai waters off the southern island of Koh Lipe in the Andaman sea on Thursday, May 14. "I don't know what I'll do in Malaysia, I have no money. I miss Myanmar, but I know I cannot go back," she said.
=======================













Nationalists and Buddhist activists in Myanmar were given permission to march in the country's largest city, Yangon, in protest against foreign pressure to provide aid to Rohingya Muslims. Burmese nationalists claim that the Rohingya minority are Bangladeshi, despite many Rohingya having roots in the country going back generations.
Nationalist religious activist Ko Min Min, told the Myanmar Times: "I will never accept these boat people in Myanmar. I will always oppose this because they are from Bangladesh."
Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, told CNN that the government is complicit, through their sanctioning of the march.
"The Burma government hasn't done anything to rein in incitement to violence and hate speech," he said. "Allowing this kind of march to go forward... (shows the) arbitrary nature how these permissions are granted."
=============================
Thailand is due to host an international meeting on the issue of seaborne migrants in Bangkok on Friday, where the crisis will top the agenda.
Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Tanasak Patimapragorn said Tuesday that the meeting would focus on the immediate problem of helping those migrants still stranded at sea, but also address the wider issues causing seaborne migration in the region, and solutions to crack down on the human traffickers who facilitate the system.
The Bangkok Post reported that Tanasak expected some workable solutions to be agreed upon at the meeting, but stressed that the international community should play a role in ending the crisis.
Robertson says that the meeting also needs to address the root cause of the Rohingya's plight.
"There needs to be a concerted push on Burma to end discriminatory policies against Rohingya," he said. "People like this are essentially caged up, prisoners in their own land. Given the limitations on their basic ability to survive and support themselves, it's unsurprising that they are lured by people smugglers. (There needs to be an) effective push to end the deprivation that leads them to make these kinds of decisions."
At a meeting last week, Indonesia and Malaysia agreed to temporarily accept thousands of migrants, as long as the international community helps to resettle them within one year.
"It's going to be very important for front-line states (such as Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia) to provide full and unimpeded access to the UNHCR and assess whether they are eligible for refugee status," Robertson said.
"The one-year deadline is only going to happen if there are impartial assessments (of refugee status claims) by international agencies like the UNHCR."
He added that the IOM should play an important role in assessing if the migrants are victims of human trafficking.
=================
Malaysian authorities confirmed earlier this week that 139 graves and 28 abandoned camps discovered close to the Thai border were related to human trafficking.
Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said that Malaysian police and border guards, as part of an operation, found a burial site which contained corpses which had decomposed to the level that only skin and bones remained.
Fences and sentry posts indicated that the camps held captive migrants, he said.
"Some of the camps found showed that they have been occupied since 2013, and the latest two camps were abandoned two to three weeks ago," Khalid told Bernama, the Malaysian state news agency.
Those who have experienced the camps tell of a brutal existence as the brokers seek to extort the migrants' relatives.
"Brokers told our relatives to send the money and beat us when we were on the phone. They're very bad people," Sharuf Khan, a Rohingya migrant who spent seven months in a jungle camp, told CNN affiliate ITN. "There's little to eat here. Some people starve. Many are sick.
"One man didn't have the money to pay the ransom, so the brokers beat him. They handed him over to the camp guards, and said, 'you can finish him.' The guards took a rope and hanged him."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

List of High Ranking Government officials in Bangladesh once again disproves the claims of Hindutvadi forces

 Since August of 1947 when British India was split up, Hindutvadi forces have not given up on their dream for an united Hindu Rashtra that spans from Afghanistan in the west to Bangladesh in the east in which only Hindu religion will dominate as the code of law of the country and the faithful believers of other religions will be subdued to embrace the mythic Hindu way of life. As part of a very organized campaign, they claim that Hindu minorities are discriminated and face persecution inside Bangladesh.

In recent months I have written some articles in which I showed that the Hindu minorities in Bangladesh are much better placed than majority Muslims in the government sector of Bangladesh. This is a very well known fact. Nonetheless, in the midst of political ascendancy of the fascist Hindutvadi forces in the next-door India, some Hindu fanatics have often tried to smear the image of Bangladesh saying that Hindus are not getting their share and/or are discriminated. There is no truth to such false claims by Hindutvadi forces.

Here below is a list Additional Secretaries, published by the Ministry of Public Affairs, Govt. of Bangladesh, which shows that of the 22 high ranking individuals 14 of them, almost 64% are from the Hindu community. [Only 8 of the 22 are Muslims, who comprise roughly 90% of general population inside Bangladesh.] Mind that the Hindus make up less than 10 per cent of the Bangladeshi population. So, their much higher than usual representation with high ranking jobs (almost 7 times their proportionate share), let alone lower ranking jobs, once again defy the false claims of the Hindu fanatics. While traditionally Hindus have fared better in the job sector, it goes without saying that under Hasina government they are seeing a golden era inside Bangladesh!


১ জনাব মো আনোয়ারুল ইসলাম সিকদার , এনডিসি (২১১৯) বিশেষ ভারপ্রাপ্ত কর্মকর্তা (অতিরিক্ত সচিব) জনপ্রশাসন মন্ত্রনালয়
তপন কুমার কর্মকার (৩৪৩৯) অতিরিক্ত সচিব , অর্থ বিভাগ , অর্থ মন্ত্রনালয়
ড. রাখাল চন্দ্র বর্মন (৩৯৩২) অতিরিক্ত সচিব , স্বরাষ্ট্র মন্ত্রনালয়
৪ জনাব এ এস এম মাহবুবুল আলম (৩৫৫৩) অতিরিক্ত সচিব , তথ্য মন্ত্রনালয়
৫ জনাব মোখলেসুর রহমান (৩৫৯২) অতিরিক্ত সচিব ,নির্বাচন কমিশন সচিবালয়
৬ জনাব আব্দুর হকিম (৩৭১৬) অতিরিক্ত সচিব ) জনপ্রশাসন মন্ত্রনালয় সংযুক্ত
৭ জনাব ফয়েজ আহমেদ ভঁুইয়া ((৭১৮২) ওয়াকফ প্রশাসক, (অতিরিক্ত সচিব) ওয়াকফ প্রশাসকের কার্যালয় , ঢাকা
৮ জনাব মানবেন্দ্র ভৌমিক (৩৫৮৬) অতিরিক্ত সচিব , খাদ্য মন্ত্রনালয়
জনাব পুনাব্রত চেৌধুরী (৩৬১৬) অতিরিক্ত সচিব , ভুমি মন্ত্রনালয় সংযুক্ত
১০ জনাব নিখিল চন্দ্র দাস (২১৩৭) বিশেষ ভারপ্রাপ্ত কর্মকর্তা , অতিরিক্ত সচিব জনপ্রশাসন মন্ত্রনালয় সংযুক্ত
১১ জনাব জ্যোতির্ময় দত্ত (৪৫০৪) অতিরিক্ত সচিব , স্বরাষ্ট্র মন্ত্রনালয় , সংযুক্ত
১২ জনাব বেগম ইতি রানী পোদ্দার (৪৬৫৫) অতিরিক্ত সচিব বিজ্ঞান ও প্রযুক্তি মন্ত্রনালয় সংযুক্ত
১৩ জনাব অমিত কুমার বাউল ((৪৬৯৩) অতিরিক্ত সচিব, দুর্যোগ ও ত্রাণ মন্ত্রনালয় সংযুক্ত
১৪ জনাব এ এফ আমিন চেৌধুরী (৪৭৩৫) অতিরিক্ত সচিব , অর্থ বিভাগ , অর্থ মন্ত্রনালয় সংযুক্ত
১৫ জনাব অশোক কুমার বিশ্বাস ((৪৭৪৪) অতিরিক্ত সচিব , শিক্ষা মন্ত্রনালয় সংযুক্ত
১৬ জনাব সত্র ব্রত সাহা (৪৭৪৭) অতিরিক্ত সচিব, দুর্যোগ ব্যবস্থাপনা ও ত্রাণ মন্ত্রনালয় সংযুক্ত
১৭ জনাব সুশান্ত কুমার সাহা (৪৭৯০) অতিরিক্ত সচিব , তথ্য ও যোগায়োগ বিভাগে সংযুক্ত
১৮ জনাব কফিল উদ্দিন (৪৯০৩) বিশেষ ভারপ্রাপ্ত কর্মকর্তা , অতিরিক্ত সচিব জনপ্রশাসন মন্ত্রনালয়
১৯ বেগম তন্দ্রা শিকদার (৪৯৭২) বিশেষ ভারপ্রাপ্ত কর্মকর্তা , অতিরিক্ত সচিব জনপ্রশাসন মন্ত্রনালয়
২০ বেগম কে এফ এম পারভিন আকতার (৫০২৭) অতিরিক্ত সচিব , মুক্তিযুদ্ধ বিষয়ক মন্ত্রনালয়
২১ জনাব সুধাকর দত্ত (৭২৯৪) বিশেষ ভারপ্রাপ্ত কর্মকর্তা , অতিরিক্ত সচিব জনপ্রশাসন মন্ত্রনালয়
২২ জনাব জ্ঞান রঞ্জন শীল (৭২৮৯) পরিচালক (অতি: সচিব) বাংলাদেশ অভ্যন্তরীণ নেৌ-পরিবহন কর্পরেশন ,ঢাকা
You can view the list also by clicking here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

HRW report: Accounts from Rohingya Boat People - Denial of Rights in Burma, Bangladesh Lead to Trafficking and Dangerous Sea Voyages

The Human Rights Watch has published interviews of the Rohingya boat people in its website. Here is a report on the interview:

May 27, 2015

(Bangkok) – Rohingya and other survivors of dangerous boat voyages from Burma and Bangladesh describe horrific treatment by unscrupulous smugglers and traffickers in Burma, and abuse and neglect aboard ships, Human Rights Watch said today. A regional meeting scheduled on May 29, 2015, in Bangkok must find solutions to the so-called boat people exodus.
Rohingya explained to Human Rights Watch how they endured two months at sea, packed below decks in cramped conditions with limited food and water and very poor sanitation. Boats carrying approximately 100 mostly Rohingya men and women each abandoned passengers at an undisclosed location along Thailand’s coast, leaving them to fend for themselves until they were found by the Thai authorities. According to international agencies, 3,000 to 4,000 people may still be aboard ships at sea.
“Survivors describe how they flee persecution in Burma only to fall into the hands of traffickers and extortionists, in many cases witnessing deaths and suffering abuse and hunger,” said Brad Adams, Asia director. “Interviews with officials and others make clear that these brutal networks, with the complicity of government officials in Burma, Bangladesh, Thailand, and Malaysia, profit from the desperation and misery of some of the world’s most persecuted and neglected people.”
Regional states and other governments with the ability should make commitments to redouble search-and-rescue efforts and ensure that thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi asylum seekers and migrants have full access to procedures for seeking international protection and humanitarian assistance.
“Burma and Bangladesh need to stop persecuting Rohingya, while Thailand and Malaysia urgently need to shut down camps where boat people are held to end abuses and ensure that no more mass graves are created on their soil,” Adams said.
In recent weeks scores of boats carrying thousands of Rohingya asylum seekers and migrants from Burma and Bangladesh have arrived in Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia. The three governments responded by pushing the boats back out to sea, leading to domestic and international condemnation and forcing them to reconsider these policies. In response to pressure, the foreign ministers of the three countries met in Kuala Lumpur on May 21. Malaysia and Indonesia agreed to permit boats to land, but only with the proviso that the international community provide humanitarian assistance and help resettle or repatriate all the passengers within one year.
Conditions for Rohingya in Burma are extremely dire, with limited access to education, employment, and the freedom to travel or observe their own religion cited as reasons for flight. Some flee voluntarily to escape these abusive conditions, but Rohingya also told Human Rights Watch that in some cases, smugglers lured and duped people to make the sea journey without disclosing what was involved, and sometimes handed them over to traffickers.
One 13-year-old Rohingya girl told Human Rights Watch how men grabbed her in front of her family: “They dragged me to the boat, they had sticks, and threatened to beat me. I screamed, I cried loudly. My parents were weeping, but they couldn’t do anything.”
Another 16-year-old Rohingya girl said:
"There was a group of six men, they were Rakhine Buddhists from Bangladesh, they had knives and guns. They forced me to get on a boat, they told me I was leaving Myanmar [Burma]. They pushed me to the small boat, I fell into the water up to my shoulders. Fifteen other Rohingya were on that boat. All the people were forced onto the boat."
A third Rohingya girl told of being grabbed by traffickers along with her husband and child: “I was on the way to my father-in-law’s house with my husband when a broker and many men took us. They forced us onto the big boat. On the boat I couldn’t understand their [the traffickers’] language, I cannot speak Burmese or Rakhine, I don’t know who they are.”
In all instances, the conditions on the boats were terrible. One Rohingya girl told Human Rights Watch:
"We spent two months on that boat, more people kept coming to the big boat, small boats all the time. We [the women] were under the boat, it was so small. I couldn’t see outside the boat, just feel it go up and down. People were throwing up, I felt dizzy and uncomfortable the whole time."
Another Rohingya girl said: “When I got to the big boat … I cannot explain my feeling I was so scared. We were about 16 people in one small room. The doors were always locked. The smugglers put the food and water through a small hole, we never saw them.”
The abuses continued on land. On May 25, Malaysian government authorities announced they had discovered as many as 139 similar graves in a series of 28 camps on the Malaysian side of the border. This followed the discovery of mass graves in Thailand in May. Thailand and Malaysia need to act immediately to close any remaining camps of victims and offer aid and protection to any survivors found.
Rohingya and Bangladeshis described how they have been held in camps in Thailand and Malaysia until they could pay a ransom. They were beaten and abused if they could not pay. One Rohingya woman who was held in such a camp on the Thai side of the border told Human Rights Watch that she was severely abused to force her relatives to pay up: “The brokers beat me with sticks and bamboo and put out cigarettes on my legs and ankles because I could not raise the money.”
The current crisis was in part sparked after the discovery of mass graves of people suspected to be Rohingya and Bangladeshi. Pretending that the government did not know that Rohingya and others were regularly trafficked and smuggled to camps in Thailand on their way to Malaysia, the Thai authorities began a crackdown on transit camps on May 1.
The poor treatment of the Rohingya has been accompanied by callous remarks by regional leaders. Burma’s political leaders deny the existence of Rohingya, denouncing them as “illegal Bengalis.” Burmese officials initially denied any of the people in the boats came from Burma. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh said the migrant workers from her country were “mentally sick” and vowed to punish anyone leaving the country illegally. Prime Minister Tony Abbot of Australia called the boat people “reckless” and when asked if Australia would consider resettling any Rohingya found to be refugees, replied, “Nope, nope, nope.”
Ahead of the regional meeting on “Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean” convened by the Thai government on May 29 in Bangkok, the leaders of Burma, Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia should show greater recognition of and respect for the rights of the Rohingyas and Bangladeshis on these boats. The United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, and other international agencies should be permitted access to survivors of boat voyages to assess their claims for protection in accordance with international standards and to help identify people who are fleeing persecution, those who were trafficked, and those who are migrating for economic reasons. Burma and Bangladesh should hold to account anyone found to be abusing Rohingya and others by coercing them or deliberately deceiving them to embark onto boats, where they are held in atrocious conditions.
“Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia need to agree to never again engage in pushbacks of people stuck at sea, find any remaining boats, bring the people on board to safe ports, and ensure that their rights are respected,” Adams said. “Just as important, there will be no long-term solution unless Burma ends its rights-abusing and discriminatory policies toward the Rohingya and joins other countries in taking action against smugglers and traffickers who abuse and prey on them.”
For details about the long-term ill-treatment of Rohingya in Burma, and the accounts of survivors Human Rights interviewed, please see below.
Accounts of Rohingya Who Survived the Journey
I spent my whole life in my village, I’ve never been outside. I’ve never been to school, I can only read the Koran. There is a curfew from 4 p.m., after that we cannot go outside the house. The Myanmar police would come to the village and always steal what they want. The Rakhine men came to my house, about 12 men. They yelled at me: “Your brother is in Malaysia you have to go!” They dragged me to the boat, they had sticks and threatened to beat me. I screamed, I cried loudly. My parents were weeping, but they couldn’t do anything. I went onto the boat with three men. When I got to the big boat … I cannot explain my feeling I was so scared. The boat is about 15 meters long. Below it had four floors, about one-meter high, with separate rooms, women on one side, men on the other, and only men on the top deck. We were about 16 people in one small room. The doors were always locked. The smugglers put the food and water through a small hole, we never saw them. We were only allowed to go to the toilet once a day. There were a lot of people on top of the boat, but I never knew who the smugglers were.
– Yasmine, female, age 13, from Maungdaw township, Arakan State
My family was in trouble with the government, my brother was a teacher and they threatened him, closed the mosque, and he had to leave to go to Malaysia. Burmese soldiers arrested and beat my father, and after releasing him my family was warned we would die if we stayed. The government took our house and gave it to Rakhine Buddhists from Bangladesh (who had fled violence there in 2013). A group of six men, they were Rakhine Buddhists from Bangladesh, they had knives and guns. They forced me to get on a boat, they told me I was leaving Myanmar. They pushed me to the small boat, I fell into the water up to my shoulders. Fifteen other Rohingya were on that boat. All the people were forced onto the boat, we had to walk through the water, it was about six hours on that small boat to the big boat. There where 95 people on that big boat. I was there for two months. I was not sure, only thought I was going to Malaysia. I was sick, throwing up, I stayed on that boat just like dead people. I don’t know what I’ll do in Malaysia, I have no money. I miss Myanmar, but I know I cannot go back.
– Arefa, female, age 16, from Maungdaw township, Arakan State
I was on the way to my father-in-law’s house with my husband when a broker and many men took us. They forced us onto the big boat. On the boat I couldn’t understand their [the traffickers’] language, I cannot speak Burmese or Rakhine, I don’t know who they are. I was two months on the boat. I was underneath, my husband was on top. One day my husband came down to me, he was bleeding from his head and shoulder and arm. The smugglers beat him, he didn’t know why. I didn’t see him again until we were all dropped at the island. When the Thai navy came we were sent to different places. The last time I saw him he was still in pain.
– Sameera, female, age 16, from Maungdaw township, Arakan State
My brother in Malaysia contacted a broker who found me to go to Malaysia, he said it was safer to work there. I heard the news about many people dying on the way but I cannot stay any longer in my country. I cannot get married to anyone in my village because we are poor and cannot afford to pay the officer [Burmese officials] for permission; it is about 600,000 Kyat [US$600]. I have never been to school, it is too expensive to register. The broker took me and six others by boat to the coast at night time [through the riverways]. We got on a bigger boat, there were 95 people on that boat. We spent two months on that boat, more people kept coming to the big boat, small boats all the time. We [the females] were under the boat, it was so small. I couldn’t see outside the boat, just feel it go up and down. People where throwing up, I felt dizzy and uncomfortable the whole time. I wore the same clothes the whole time, I couldn’t wash. It took ten days on the boat to get to Thailand. We were transferred to the island by small boat at nighttime, it took about one hour, we were covered the whole time. When I got to the island I thought I would die, there was no food or water. We were two days on the island. The Thai navy came and gave us food and water, took our pictures, and took us to Thailand. I just want my brother and parents to know I’m here. I cannot go home, Myanmar [Burma] is not my country.
– Hafsa, female, age 14, from Maungdaw township, Arakan State
The smuggler came to our village and offered to take us for free to Malaysia to join our husbands, or the men we had been promised to marry. After the violence of 2012, most of the men left for Malaysia. The smuggler said for free, but when we got on the boat the smugglers asked for money, but we didn’t have any. They kept us under the boat, we couldn’t see anything. People were on the boat for different times, some two months, some eight days. But once you got on, you stay on, and you can’t move.
– Raziyaa, female, age 18, from Buthidaung township, Arakan State
I don’t know where my husband is. There was no work in my village, so I decided to go to Malaysia to look for my father. The broker is a Rohingya, I didn’t know him but thought I should go, he asked for two month’s salary for the journey [in Malaysia]. There were 250 people on the boat, mostly men. It took two months to sail to Thailand. We thought we would die as the food and water got less and less, we had just rice and salt and one glass of water a day. We stopped at Satun [in late 2014]. I spent two nights at the jungle camp in Satun, there were 200 people in the camp. I was told there are 74 of these camps. After two nights, 21 women we were put in the back of a pickup truck to drive to Malaysia. It was so hot and crammed, and the driver was going too fast. The police stopped us and arrested us all.
– Minara, female, age 18, from Buthidaung township, Arakan State
I was living in the IDP [internally displaced persons] camp, it was hard. I was tricked onto a boat with a promise of work. I didn’t want to go to Malaysia. There were about 370 people in the camp, most Rohingya but about 50 from Bangladesh. From a small boat I was transferred to a bigger boat, with smugglers who were Burmese from Kawthaung [southern Burma]. From the bigger boat we were sent to a camp near Padang Besar [on the Thailand-Malaysia border]. I tried to escape from the jungle camp, but I ran into a Thai villager who handed me back to the camp. The people [Thai civilians] around the camp, they know if they send Rohingya back to the camp they get 5,000 Baht [$150]. The brokers beat me with sticks and bamboo, and put out cigarettes on my legs and ankles because I could not raise the money to be sent to Malaysia. I was there for one month. The second time I escaped I was found by Thai people on a rubber plantation and they gave me to the [Thai] police. I spent five months in prison, and now I cannot return to Sittwe, but I want to go there and get my children.
– Khalida, female, age 25, from an IDP camp in Sittwe, Arakan State
Long-Term Ill-Treatment of Rohingya in Burma
The dramatic surge in boat people leaving western Burma and Bangladesh has its roots in decades of repression and denial of rights to the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority. In 1978, the Burmese army staged a military operation that drove over 250,000 Rohingya into neighboring Bangladesh, who forcibly returned many of them soon afterward.
The Rohingya have been denied full citizenship rights because the discriminatory 1982 Citizenship Law made it almost impossible for Rohingya to prove their claims to citizenship. In 1991, Burmese security forces again violently expelled hundreds of thousands of Rohingya into Bangladesh. In 1995, Bangladesh forcibly returned many Rohingya to Burma, where they have lived predominantly in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships along the border, under restrictive conditions that severely curtail their freedom of movement, ability to seek work, and access to basic social services, and curbs on the right to religion. The Burma government has refused to accept the term “Rohingya” and refers to them as “illegal Bengalis.”
In Bangladesh, there are approximately 30,000 recognized Rohingya refugees in UNHCR-run camps who arrived in Bangladesh before 1993. Since that time, Rohingya have not had any opportunity to lodge claims in Bangladesh for refugee status regardless of their need for international protection. Consequently, another estimated 30,000 who are not recognized refugees live in makeshift sites around these camps near Teknaf in Cox’s Bazaar, and another 250,000 to 300,000 undocumented Rohingya live around the area. Those outside the UNHCR-run camp often face abuse and discrimination from local Bangladesh officials and communities.
Starting in 2005, small boats carrying Rohingya and Bangledeshi migrant workers started leaving the coast of southern Bangladesh, carrying mostly men to Malaysia to join the migrant worker population there. These small vessels often came ashore in Thailand, and utilized a network of smuggling routes from Thailand into Malaysia. The number of boats arriving gradually grew, prompting the Thai authorities to take action. In 2009, several ships were towed long distances out to sea by Thai security officials, sparking a major international outcry marked by critical media coverage. Thailand then changed to a so-called help on policy, where officials were ordered to re-provision boats that arrived in Thai territorial waters with humanitarian supplies, refuse them the right to land in Thailand, and direct them south to Malaysia.
However, this policy later mutated into a policy of corruption and directing arriving boats into the hands of gangs, who then placed the people aboard in jungle camps where they were held and extorted for money before being permitted to travel to Malaysia. The exodus has grown to tens of thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshis, some who are fleeing violence and discrimination, and others who are seeking work. A recent report by the office of the UN high commissioner for refugees estimated that 25,000 people travelled on boats from Burma and Bangladesh in the first three months of 2015, with an estimated 300 dying of starvation, dehydration, or beatings by smuggling crews, or as a result of fights on board ships.
Sectarian violence between ethnic Arakanese Buddhists and Rohingya and other Muslims erupted first in June 2012. A second round of violence in October 2012 resulted in government-backed crimes against humanity amounting to a campaign of ethnic cleansing aimed to drive the Rohingya from urban areas of Arakan State. Overall, there were at least 167 deaths and widespread property destruction. There remain over 140,000 internally displaced Rohingya and Arakanese in camps throughout Arakan State. Many Rohingya have been receiving only rudimentary and inadequate assistance due to government restrictions and intimidation by Arakanese ultra-nationalists against international aid workers.
The March-April 2014 census conducted by the Burmese government with assistance from the UN Population Fund did not enumerate people who self-identified as Rohingya. Preliminary results released in August estimated that 1.09 million people were not counted. In response to the prolonged displacement, the government formulated a draft Rakhine Action Plan, which was disclosed by the media in September. The plan contained discriminatory provisions that could, if enacted, ensure long-term segregation of displaced Rohingya and enshrine statelessness as a national policy. Months after a promised release, the Rakhine Action Plan has yet formally to be made publicly available, which adds to concerns in affected communities.
In 2015, the Burmese government stripped the Rohingya of the right to hold temporary identification cards, so-called white cards that gave them the right to vote in the 2008 constitutional referendum and the 2010 nationwide elections, but did not guarantee the full rights of a citizen. Over 400,000 Rohingya have relinquished the cards ahead of the May 31 deadline, with the Burmese government promising some form of ID to be issued in the future if Rohingya self-identify as “Bengali,” not as Rohingya. Also deeply troubling is the passage of four so-called race and religion laws, which many see as targeting the Muslim minority in Burma generally, and the Rohingya in particular, including the recently passed Population Control Healthcare law, which could be used to limit Rohingya birth rates. It is these developments, and the escalated violence against Rohingya since 2012, that has largely fuelled the current exodus.

Speeches from the Oslo Conference to stop persecution of the Rohingyas of Myanmar

Here below are some of the speeches, courtesy of Dr. Maung Zarni's website:
May 26, 2015
Oslo, Norway

Special Address on the Rohingya issue for Oslo Conferene by OIC Special Envoy to Myanmar, Dr. Syed Hamid Albar

  

   
Ladies and Gentlemen,

First and foremost, I would like to express my gratitude to the organizer of the conference for giving me an opportunity to represent OIC and talk about the Rohingya issue. After undertaking the responsibility as the OIC Special Envoy for Myanmar then I realized how complex and daunting the task is. InshaAllah, with Allah SWT guidance and continuous support from all parties, I am confident there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The Rohingya issue especially the crisis at the sea in South East Asia is so urgent that more must be said, more thought must be given and most importantly, short, mid and long term actions are taken and formulated. 

Those I have interacted or engaged with agree that the situation in Myanmar is serious and needs urgent attention. Let me at the outset say that the ongoing problem is not only about religion or ethnicity but human rights and identity crisis that the government had refused to address or admit.

I like all of us to remember, today we can sleep sheltered and safe tonight without the threat of a mob breaking down our doors or burning our homes. However, the Rohingya who also share this world with us are denied these fundamental rights, and suffer on a scale that no human must be allowed to suffer, especially children, women and elderly people. They are no different from us except for the circumstances of their birth. In these difficult moments it is our shared responsibility to reach our open hands to them.

This intolerance is not irreparable as prior to this the different communities had lived in peace and harmony. It is with patience, tolerance, kindness, that we can break this cycle. In the intelligence as well as diplomatic world we must be able to read the minds of the people we are negotiating with and devise our strategies accordingly. 

The argument that the Rohingyas are not indigenes but illegal immigrants from Bangladesh is unacceptable because who in his or her rightful mind would like to illegally migrate from a third world country to another third world place where they will face persecution as well. 

As we know the Rohingyas are indigenes ethnic community of Myanmar who has been there for generations and were excluded from the list in 1982, thus becoming stateless all of a sudden.

The list of ethnic groups of 1982 is not by an ‘Act of Parliament’ but rather an ‘Executive Order’ by the President of the Union at that time. If the Union Government is sincere in resolving the issue now, they can do it by another ‘Executive Order’. But it will require a strong political will which we feel is lacking at this time. They are adopting the ‘Wait and See’ policy for the time being. Or at least until the next general elections. 

This whole drama of excluding the Rohingya and other Muslim communities form the list is to push the Muslims out of the political scene of Myanmar and make Myanmar purely a Buddhist state, but how an entire population can be exterminated altogether, which according to some estimates is almost one third of the total population of Myanmar. There is hardly any ‘Purist’ state on the entire planet consisting of only one race or religion. 

Besides that, the solution they are considering to segregate the Rohingyas, put them in Camps and get them to agree to register themselves as Bengalis is in in fact not a solution. The problem, though may not be seen as such by Myanmar Government is that it may be the best way for the government to indirectly encourage them to migrate somewhere else. 

Against the background of political and social changes in Myanmar since 2011 and sectarian conflicts in Rakhine in 2012 and other parts of Myanmar in 2013, religious movements which the state tightly controlled in previous decades have become prominent and more vocal against the minorities. Among them, the most prominent one is the Buddhist nationalist movement led by “Ma-Ba-Tha”. Both Ma-Ba-Tha and 969, which is a constituent association of the former, have widely popularized the claim that Buddhism is under threat from Islam and Islamization.

These trends have caused and contributed to human rights crises, gender-based discrimination, statelessness, segregation, refugee flows and other threats to security, posing challenges to Myanmar’s transition to democracy and upcoming elections. Moreover, these trends threaten regional stability and could exacerbate violence and polarisation along religious and ethnic fault-lines. Such pattern could seriously undermine the establishment, sustainability and credibility of the ASEAN Community, including economic integration and regional economic development. This unwanted home environment has forced many Rohingyas flee Myanmar to find a basic living environment elsewhere.

Since then, more than one million Rohingya who remain in Myanmar have seen their situation deteriorate to the point that over the last two years, as many as 100,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine state on unseaworthy boats with hopes of reaching Malaysia or Thailand but often put them in the hands of vicious human traffickers including death. These people are not migrants seeking job or economic opportunity but leaving their motherland due to suppression, fearing abuses and killings. 

Largely unwanted at home and by Bangladesh and faced with increasingly precarious conditions in Rakhine, the Rohingya boat people have changed their destination from Bangladesh to other neighboring countries in the 2000s and have often fallen prey to regional human trafficking networks. However, unfortunately, the Bangladeshi joined the Rohingyas and created immigration threat to those countries. Likewise, the “new boat people” are not really welcomed in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.

Moreover, whenever those neighboring countries urged the Myanmar Government to take responsible of these boat people, Myanmar officials expediently respond by claiming that those so-called Rohingya who land on the shores of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are not from Myanmar or that their Myanmar citizenship must be scrutinized first before Myanmar take responsibility for them. This has effectively created a dilemma for Myanmar’s neighbors and ASEAN. Increasingly precarious conditions of Rohingya in Rakhine and complete rejection of them as fellow Myanmar citizens by the majority of the people in Myanmar will likely mean an ongoing influx in the number of Rohingya boatpeople seeking asylum in neighboring countries over the coming years. 

The Government of Myanmar should be held responsible and to undertake concrete and positive steps to put an end to all acts of violence, human rights violations and discriminatory policies against the Rohingya, such actions will only tarnish Myanmar’s image and acceptability in the region and internationally. 

The plight of the Rohingya warrants serious attention and action as they continue to suffer under the current circumstances which could pose a security problem for the region.

I also think with cautious optimism, patience and perseverance there is a fair chance of resolving the issue.

To conclude, given the complexities of the ongoing problem in Myanmar, it is only natural that we weigh all options carefully and in a pragmatic manner to achieve the desired outcomes. We need to strategize the best approach to correct negative perceptions through regular contacts and engagements. In this respect, a closer collaboration with state and non-state actors is definitely necessary. We need both “soft” and “constructive” approach to connect all parties for an amicable solution.

I strongly believe that it is a delicate balance that we are searching for: we must continue to respect the principle of sovereignty and at the same time fulfill our responsibility to protect and give the help and support to those thousands who have made pleas to the international community and who are losing hope as they wait on our decisions. 

Thank you. 
  
- See more at: http://www.maungzarni.net/2015/05/special-address-on-rohingya-issue-for.html#sthash.wGFsnWOn.dpuf
=========================================================================

The Speech of Maired Maguire at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

Tuesday, May 26, 2015   


May 26, 2015
Oslo, Norway

I would like to send a message of solidarity and support for the Rohingya people of Myanmar. Rohingyas are indigenous people of Burma, living in their ancestral homes. All they ask is to restore their citizenship that was taken away by the military government. It is morally wrong to treat them as non-citizens on their own lands.

The plight of the Rohingyas in Myanmar has worsened since 2012. Right now they feel they have 2 equally risky options- to stay and die in Myanmar or leave by boat. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. Approximately 53,000 Rohingyas including women and children left Myanmar and Bangladesh by boats bound for Thailand and Malaysia in 2014.

The international community needs to support the delivery of basic humanitarian aid to the Rohingyas. Right now, that humanitarian aid is not reaching them. The Rohingya are the only ethnic group in Burma whose struggle is peaceful, without any arms, and it’s time the international community recognized and supported their nonviolence struggle for their basic human rights.

We want the European Union, ASEAN, and the International Community to recognize the suffering of the Rohingya people, and the fact that they're experiencing crimes against humanity at the hands of their own government. We want the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people to end. This is an important basis for any real peace talks and engagement with the Myanmar government.

I am joining with other leaders in making this call, including my dear friend and colleague Archbishop Desmond Tutu. We as the International Community have a responsibility to stand for the rights of the Rohingya people and to speak out to save their lives. We hope that action will be taken so that they can find their place in their country, in their society and that Burma will move forward to find real peace for all its people. 

Thank you very much. Maired Maguire. Thank you
- See more at: http://www.maungzarni.net/2015/05/the-speech-of-maired-maguire-at-oslo.html#sthash.p3MhCRlv.dpuf
====================================================================

The Speech of Archbishop Desmond Tutu at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

Tuesday, May 26, 2015   
May 26, 2015
Oslo, Norway

Hello peace lovers, colleagues, and friends. I'm sorry to have to address you electronically. One of the pitfalls of old age is that travel becomes somewhat tricky. Thank you for the opportunity to say a few words of encouragement and solidarity as you settle down to apply your minds to solving one of the most enduring human rights crises on earth. 

The credit that is due to the government of Myanmar for reforms undertaken over the past couple of years does not blind us to the ongoing disavowal and repression of its ethnic minorities, the Rohingya population in particular. A country that is not at peace with itself, that fails to acknowledge and protect the dignity and worth of all its people, is not a free country. Freedom is indivisible. All must be invited. All, a part. 

The Rohingya people were not consulted when the British drew the Burmese border on the map. With those strokes of a pen, they became a borderland people; people whose ancestral land traverses political boundaries. Burma's post colonial government elected in 1948 officially recognized the Rohingya as an indigenous community, as did its first military government that ruled from 1962 to 1974. 

Manipulation by the military of ethnic minorities in the west of the country dates back to the late 1950s. At first, the military sought to co-opt the Muslim Rohingya to quell the Buddhist Rakhine after Rakhine separatists had been crushed. The military turned only Rohingya. In 1978, the Far Eastern Economic review described the Rohingya as the victims of Burmese apartheid. 

A few years later, a citizenship law left the Rohingya off the list of indigenous people, describing them as Muslim immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. In the context of rising anti-Muslim sentiment in Myanmar, many Buddhists, particularly in Rakhine State regard the Rohingya as illegal immigrants. More than 100,000 Rohingya are trapped in internment camps. They may not leave “for their own protection.” They hold only temporary identity cards. In February, they lost all voting rights. 

The government of Myanmar has sought to absolve itself of responsibility for the conflict between the Rakhine and the Rohingya, projecting it as sectarian or communal violence. I would be more inclined to heed the warnings of eminent scholars and researchers including Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate in economics, who say this is a deliberately false narrative to camouflage the slow genocide being committed against the Rohingya people. There's evidence they say that anti-Rohingya sentiment has been carefully cultivated by the government itself. 

Human beings may look and behave differently to one another, but ultimately none of us can claim any kind of supremacy. We are all the same. There are no natural differences between Buddhists and Muslims. It is possible to transplant a Christian heart into a Hindu chest and for a citizen of Israel to donate a kidney to a Palestinian. We're born to love-- without prejudice, without distrust. Members of one family, the human family-- made for each other and for goodness. All of us! 

We are taught to discriminate, to dislike, and to hate. As lovers of peace and believers in the right of all members of the family to dignity and security, we have particular responsibilities to the Rohingya. 

2015 is a big year for Myanmar with both a referendum on its constitution and a general election on its calendar. Even as we seek to encourage the country to build on the reforms it has started, we have a responsibility to ensure that the plight of the Rohingya is not lost. We have a responsibility to hold to account those of our governments and corporations that seek to profit from new relationships with Myanmar to ensure their relationships are established on sound ethical basis. 

We have a responsibility to persuade our international and regional aid and grant making institutions, including the European Union, to adopt a common position making funding the development of Myanmar conditional on the restoration of citizenship, nationality, and basic human rights to the Rohingya. 

Over to you. Thank you and God bless you all.
- See more at: http://www.maungzarni.net/2015/05/the-speech-of-archbishop-desmond-tutu.html#sthash.53itGCPB.dpuf
======================================================================

The Speech of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

Tuesday, May 26, 2015   
May 26, 2015
Oslo Norway

I feel much saddened by the events taking place in Myanmar today. I was very instrumental in getting Myanmar to become a member of the ASEAN, the regional grouping of Southeast Asian countries. Myanmar, geographically, is definitely a part of Southeast Asia, and its exclusion would be contrary to the idea of South East Asian unity. But now, we find that Myanmar is not treating its own people the way we treat Myanmar.

We did not want Myanmar to be excluded but Myanmar today is taking action to expel the Rohingyas, the Muslim part of this population who have been there for the past 800 years or so. They have always been regarded as citizens of Burma before, and since Myanmar is a continuation of Burma it should accept these people as its citizens. 

Now Malaysia also has a lot of people from other countries who have settled here in the last 200 years or so. We decided that they have a right to be citizens of Malaysia, to be given political rights, and to be allowed to train and carry out business in Malaysia. We regard them as our citizens.

Unlike Malaysia, we find that Myanmar does not even want to recognize the Rohingyas who have been there all this while as its citizens. This is grossly unjust on the part of the government of Myanmar. I had expected that those who benefited from our struggle to get Myanmar to release (for example Aung San Suu Kyi) that they would realize that oppression by the government is something that is intolerable; and yet few people from Myanmar have risen to the occasion to defend the rights of the Rohingyas who after all are citizens of Myanmar.

I hope that the international community would focus its attention on the problem of the Rohingyas who are Muslims, but they are citizens of this Buddhist dominated country. They should live and be allowed to live in Myanmar without oppression. There should be tolerance of peoples of other religions.

Again I would like to mention that in Malaysia, although the majority of the people are Muslims, we have treated people with other faiths with consideration and we have given them rights to become citizens of Malaysia and to benefit from the laws of this country. I hope that the international community would focus on the problem of the Rohingyas who today are being forced to flee in ships to other countries and many of them drown in the sea because they were not able to get good ships to carry them to other countries.

This is a human tragedy and I do hope that the international community would help these unfortunate people of Myanmar who have been discriminated against in a way that is not becoming of a country that aspires to become a democratic country. I thank you.
- See more at: http://www.maungzarni.net/2015/05/the-speech-of-dr-mahathir-mohamad-at.html#sthash.0MoejO2j.dpuf
======================================================================

The Speech of Dr. Jose Ramos-Horta at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

Tuesday, May 26, 2015   
May 26, 2015
Oslo, Norway

Hello. This is Jose Ramos-Horta speaking from New York. I regret not being able to be in Oslo at this time of this very timely, extremely important gathering as Myanmar moves towards elections and hopefully consolidation of democracy, freedoms, rule of law.

I'm very familiar with Myanmar, although I could not claim to be an expert. For those of you who might not know much about my past activities or background, I first went to Burma then when hardly anyone paid much attention to Myanmar in July of 1994. I went there crossing the border from Chiang Mai and I went to Manipur. There with some colleagues I conducted an international human rights and diplomacy training program for students, activists, many of whom I know today are back in their home country in Yangon, very much engaged in this process in Myanmar.

If today we can talk about one of the most neglected people in the world, one of the most forgotten, I would say it would be the Rohingya of Myanmar. We are all human beings in this planet. Myanmar is a mosaic of ethnic groups. It is a mosaic of cultures, of values, of different experiences. A crossroad from Asia, with many influences. 

The Rohingya seem to have the least of rights, the least of privileges as citizens of Myanmar, as human beings. There have been extraordinary abuses, humiliation, killings, expulsion of Rohingyas from their ancestral land. Whether they have been there for thousands of years or a few hundred years or if they were there only some generations ago, they still have rights as people of Myanmar because they were born there in Myanmar. They have been living there for generations regardless of how long; thousands of centuries they have been there. 

I do not wish to lecture any group in Myanmar. I do not wish to lecture authorities in Myanmar. I know the process of transition from dictatorship to democracy is a complex, tortuous, unpredictable long one. We must all contribute to create a climate of dialogue, mutual acceptance, and maybe move towards a road map leading to a Myanmar that is politically open, pluralistic, and that is embracing of all its ethnic and religious communities.

However, I know that this is easier said than done because there are suspicions, there are prejudices. That's what leaders are all about. Leaders at the community level, leaders at the national level who must embrace each other; who must act with compassion, with wisdom; who embrace everyone including the Rohingyas so that Myanmar can be a shining example in Southeast Asia and in Asia in general.

Again, I wish to pay tribute to all those in Myanmar who for generations have struggled for freedom, for democracy, until today when you are on the eve of free general elections. I'm hopeful that all will be able to participate; the Rohingyas, the Muslim communities and everyone, in an atmosphere of freedom, of no question, of no threats. When the election results come it will be a new promising beginning for Myanmar, a further step in the consolidation of democracy in your beautiful country.

I wish you all success in this conference and as always I pray to God Almighty and the Merciful to continue to bless the great people of Myanmar with wisdom, happiness, and prosperity.
- See more at: http://www.maungzarni.net/2015/05/the-speech-of-dr-jose-ramos-horta-at.html#sthash.wrb8jYFK.dpuf
===================================================

The Speech of George Soros at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

Tuesday, May 26, 2015   
May 26, 2015
Oslo, Norway

Greetings, everybody. I regret I can't be there in person. I have been a supporter of Burma's democracy movement since 1993. For most of that time, the prospect of change seemed remote, and I felt increasingly discouraged. Then, in 2010, quite suddenly, or so it seemed, the ruling military junta decided to abandon absolute authoritarian rule. The world was stunned. My engagement in Burma during those dark days taught me an important lesson. Sometimes it's necessary to support a lost cause for a long time just to keep the flame alive. That way, when the situation changes, groundwork for progress has already been laid. As I speak to you today, I find myself again growing discouraged. Making the transition from military rule to a more open society is not easy, and in many ways the government of Burma has made real progress in its reform efforts. I fear that many of these reforms are not sustainable, because they have not yet been institutionalized. 

It's also true that political and economic power remains mostly concentrated in the hands of a privileged few who monopolize the revenue from Burma's abandoned natural resources. The most immediate threat to Burma's transition is the rising anti-Muslim sentiment and officially condoned abuse of the Rohingya people. That has occurred under watch of the current rulers in Naypyidaw. From private conversations with progressive Burmese officials, I know that some in power genuinely want to see a Burma where all are treated equally, but these officials also fear the potential of extremist violence from the small but powerful group of religious radicals. These extremists have created a tinder box that could blow up the entire reform process. The government must confront these extremists and their financial supporters. 

In January when I visited Burma for the 4th time in as many years, I made a short visit to Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in order to see for myself the situation on the ground. I met with state and local readers and both Rakhine and Rohingya populations, and also talked to internally displaced persons and those mostly Rohingya living in a section of Sittwe called Aung Mingalar, a part of the city that can only be called a ghetto. In Aung Mingalar, I heard the echoes of my childhood. You see, in 1944, as a Jew in Budapest, I too was a Rohingya. Much like the Jewish ghettos set up by Nazis around Eastern Europe during World War II, Aung Mingalar has become the involuntary home to thousands of families who once had access to healthcare, education, and employment. Now, they are forced to remain segregated in a state of abject deprivation. The parallels to the Nazi genocide are alarming. Fortunately, we have not reached a stage of mass killing. 

I feel very strongly that we must speak out before it is too late, individually and collectively. The Burmese government's insistence that they are keeping the Rohingya in the ghetto for their own protection simply is not credible. Government authorities have tried to reassure me. They say things are under control and not as bad as reported by outsiders who they claim don't understand the local culture or the long and complicated history of Rakhine State. I understand that half a century of living in isolation under repression can make a population vulnerable to intermediation and exploitation in all sorts of ways, but I also know that most of the people of Burma are fair-minded and would like their country to be a place where all can live in freedom. 2015 is a crucial year for Burma; a tipping point, in the words of Yanghee Lee, U.S. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar. With the prospect of democratic changes to the 2008 constitution and the holding of free and fair elections, meaningful reform could take hold. 

As a longtime friend and supporter of Burma, I hope for a positive outcome for all the people of the country, but where I once felt a great sense of optimism, I am now filled with trepidation for the future. I hope those in power will immediately take the steps necessary to counter extremism and allow open society to take root. In the lead up to the elections, it's crucial that official acts should be taken to counter the pervasive hate and anti- Rohingya propaganda on social media and the racist public campaigns of the 969 movement. The promise of Burma as a flourishing and vibrant open society is still within reach. It's up to Burma's leaders and people whether this promise is fulfilled.
- See more at: http://www.maungzarni.net/2015/05/the-speech-of-george-soros-at-oslo.html#sthash.fb5IgwY9.dpuf
====================================================================================================

Daw Khin Hla: “No Country for Rohingyas: A Refugee’s Appeal to End Myanmar’s Slow Genocide”

Tuesday, May 26, 2015   
Daw Khin Hla speaking at Harvard University in November 2014

Ladies, Gentlemen, Reverends and Sayadaw,

Thank you very much for giving me an opportunity to make an urgent appeal on behalf of fellow Rohingya peoples back home in Burma, and in diaspora. 

I’m Daw Khin Hla, a Rohingya woman born in Arakan State of Burma in 1953. Until I left from Burma, I worked as government middle school teacher. I was born in Burma, a native of Arakan soil – just like my ancestors who lived from cradle to grave – as the indigenous people of our land – now sandwiched between present-day Burma and present-day Bangladesh.

Today I would like to appeal to you to help restore our nationality, full citizenship and basic rights as humans in the country of our fore-fathers and –mothers in Burma. 

First, how were we in the past? How are we today? And how did we get here – as a people with a distinct identity who are being punished if we say we are ‘Rohingyas’. Do people not have the right to identify as so-and-so ethnic community? 

Following our country’s independence from Britain in 1948, we the Rohingyas did not need to apply for citizenship. We WERE considered officially as full citizens of the newly independent Burma. We were officially recognized as a distinct ethnic group living along cross-national borders and indigenous to our own ancestral land, just like any other indigenous ethnic groups you find along Burma’s long and porous borders with India, China, Thailand, and Laos.

When the first post-independence government of Prime Minister U Nu took office in 1948, my grandfather, a self-identified Rohingya, applied for the Union of Burma citizenship as he thought he needed to as power now rested with the new government. The relevant line-ministry replied in writing that he didn’t need to apply as he belonged to an indigenous ethnic group of the multi-ethnic Union of Burma. 

In the early 1950’s, when the Burmese government introduced the national registration cards, Rohingyas were issued these legal identification cards as ‘nationals’ of the country. We had absolutely no problem to obtain legal IDs. The then government of Burma – including the military leaders, both in the region and in the central administration in Rangoon – treated us with respect and appreciation as one of the ethnic peoples of the new Burma. We enjoyed basic citizenship rights and official recognition as a distinct ethnic community well into early 1970’s. We were broadcasting in our own mother tongue – Rohingya – on Burma Broadcasting Service, the only national radio station (before television arrived in Burma), 3 times a week, starting in 1961. Because we Rohingyas were 75% majority in the 3 towns near Bangladesh, we were administered as a separate district – called Mayu. For some years, because of radicals among the Rohingyas who took up arms to leave Burma and join the then East Pakistan as a predominantly Muslim country, the Ministry of Defense controlled the administration. But the overwhelming majority of Rohingyas did not support that separatist movement – known as Mujahideens. Instead our people cooperated fully with the military authorities and established our allegiance and love of the only place we consider our ancestral home – Arakan and the Union of Burma. Our cooperation with central Burmese government has been a sore point between the Rakhine nationalists and we Rohingyas. The Rakhine Buddhist nationalists who wanted to reclaim their ethnic group’s independence from the Burmese who colonized them in the 18th century and we express our desire to live in the country of our birth. 

When I was a young, student we Rohingya children had full access to schooling; we enjoyed full freedom of movement; we could move from one neighborhood to another, from one village to another, from one town to another and from one state to another within Burma. There was not even the idea – let along a national policy - of severely restricting our marriages, childbirth or family size. 

But all this had changed when General Ne Win, well-known for his violent streak as a person and xenophobia – towards Christians, Muslims, Europeans, Indians, Chinese and so on. He considered anyone who looked different, believed in a different god, or talked different as completely ‘untrustworthy’. Indeed anyone deemed ‘un-trust-worthy’ is perceived as a threat to nationality. 

So, in a little over a decade since he became military dictator, the military government of General Ne Win launched many violent operations against us the Rohingyas. The first large-scale campaign to drive us out of our own ancestral land began in February 1978. Under the disguise of immigration check – widely known as Na Ga Min or King Dragon operation - what was essentially a counter-insurgency campaign aimed at anyone who was not Buddhist and Burmese from strategic border regions. - was launched. Because we the Rohingyas have had a single demarcated geographic pocket – as opposed to being spread out and scattered across we were singled out for persecution since. 

One of the measures General Ne Win’s government, with a push for anti-Rohingya Rakhine nationalists, was the passage of 1982 Citizenship Act. The Citizenship Act stripped us of our nationality status and erased our ethnic identity. 

After the racially motivated law came into effect in the fall of 1982, hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas who had held national registration IDs were issued Temporary registration cards or “White Cards” so-called. A few months ago, the Burmese government de-recognized the White Cards and confiscated them, rendering the Rohingya people absolutely without any semblance or proof of their legal standing as Burmese citizens and lawful residents in our own country. Today, nearly 1 million of my fellow Rohingyas people, have absolutely no legal existence as a people. Thousands of my own fellow Rohingyas live in ghetto-like conditions where armed guards stand, ready to shoot and abuse. And yet the government of Thein Sein tell the people the Rohingyas are kept in these neighborhoods and camps ‘for their own protection’. Over the last nearly 40 years the level of restrictions, repression, abuse and deprivation has progressively increased. When foreign NGOs and researchers describe Rohingya neighborhoods as ‘vast open prisons’ – or refer to them as ‘21st century concentration camps’, they are not exaggerating. 

Burmese central government has imposed measures to regulate, control and restrict every single aspect of life for the Rohingyas as a human community: freedom of movement, choice of marriage, access to schooling and health clinics, place of worship, opportunities to grow food or hold employments, and even the right to identify ourselves as Rohingya ethnic people. Everything we do has to be approved in writing by the authorities. The approval is obtained only by bribing local authorities. Indeed the Burmese regime and its officials have learned to turn our oppression into a profitable business. We have been subject to chronic waves of violence, both by the anti-Rohingya Rakhine nationalists and by the state security troops such as police, border guard force and regular army and navy. Our people live in constant and profound fear of not knowing where the next meal would come from, when the next wave of mass violence awaits or whether who will die or who will live on our own ancestral soil.

When you see on TV news or hear or read news stories about hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas from today’s Myanmar or Burma please know that they are not attempting to migrate to get better jobs for themselves, better schooling for their children or a brighter future for whole families. Not unlike the Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi-occupied Europe about 70 years ago, our Rohingya people are fleeing Burma or Myanmar. They are fleeing out of fear of death and destruction at the hands of the local Rakhine nationalists and central government’s troops. They are fleeing conditions of life on the land of their birth that they know are meant or design to destroy their lives, their communities, their children. They are fleeing extreme, systematic and decades-long repression and policies designed to erase our identity, our physical and legal existence – in our own ancestral land. 

Some of you will recall that like the African dictator Ide Amin of Uganda, General Ne Win’s military drove hundreds of thousands of Chinese and Indians out of Burma in his 26-years in power. This is the same Ne Win regime that has instituted a long-term policy to destroy our Rohingya community on our own ancestral land. The present government of ex-General Thein Sein is simply continuing the Burmese military’s policy of Rohingya destruction. In fact, President Thein Sein and his government deny persistently that we the Rohingyas are a part of Burma, in the face of irrefutable and official evidence of our ethnic identity. He reportedly and officially proposed to the UN to expel and resettle more than 1 million of our Rohingya people in 3 countries, or build a UN-financed apartheid in our own land. I was very much saddened to hear that this ex-General Thein Sein was nominated – and even short-listed – for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2013. I thank the Norwegian Nobel Committee for wisely choosing not confer him the supreme honor and recognition which he definitely didn’t and doesn’t deserve. 

In the last 3 years, UN has estimated that 150,000 Rohingyas – including mothers with new born babies - have fled the country under President Thein Sein’s watch. Since 1978, Burmese military governments have terrorized our community so much so that today almost half the total population of Rohingyas have been forced to settle across the world, including here in Norway. It is the other half – over 1 million – who are being subject to central policy of destruction. 

No one wants to leave home, especially the homes and the land where they were both; but when the Rohingyas do taking their infants and elderly relatives, they are fleeing for their lives. 

On behalf of my fellow Rohingyas who are stranded in dangerous high seas with no food or water, dying slowing in vast ghettos with no adequate food or medicine, I appeal to you today to stand with us in our darkest hours of needs. Norway is considered around the world a special country, small but influential promoter of peace and reconciliation around the world. I would like to direct my appeal to the Norwegian people and the government that as you engage with my country of birth, diplomatically, commercially and politically, please put the sufferings of our people on your policy priorities. I know that Norway considers Myanmar or Burma as one of the ‘focus’ countries important to Norway and Norway is involved in supporting “peace process” in Burma. I appeal to the Norwegian public and leaders that we too deserve a life in peace, a life where we are allowed to call ourselves by the name we choose, a life where our new born are not denied nutrition or legality. Lastly, I appeal to the world’s fellow humans to lend us a hand of compassion so that our people no longer suffer from cradle to grave. 

I thank you from the bottom of my heart. 

May God Bless you all.