Rohingya Muslims: Crisis and Consequences- NEETI GUPTA

Updated: Nov 9, 2020

CRISIS

The Rohingya Muslim conflict although began in early 2017, the conflict dates back to 1948 with mass reports of rape, murder, ethnic cleansing and exodus of these Muslim minorities. Rohingyas make up a substantial part of the Rakhine State in Myanmar, where they differ massively from the country’s Buddhist dominated ethnic, religious and linguistic community since they practice a variation of the Sunni Islam sect. The situation of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar has been categorized by the United States as a textbook example of ‘ethnic cleansing’.(https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/rohingya-crisis.)

The state of Myanmar passed a Citizenship Law in 1982 which was designed in a manner that denied nationality to the Rohingya community by creating three classes of citizens —full, associate, and naturalized —none of which envelope the Rohingya (

http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/ 3ae6b4f71b.html). Full citizenship is reserved for those with either ancestral history in the country or for 130 recognized national ethnic groups, which obviously exclude Rohingyas. For Associate citizenship, one must have been eligible and applied for citizenship before 1948. This does not take into account unawareness of the law amongst people at the time, Additionally the level of proof required by this law is very high and possibly unattainable by most. Naturalized citizenship embraced all those who had settled in Myanmar before 1948, that is, before independence. Nonetheless, there is a Central body for all three classes which has the discretion to deny citizenship despite fulfilment of all criteria (http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/ 3ae6b4f71b.html) This law effectively rendered the Rohingyas- Stateless.

According to various reports by the UN, Rohingyas are often subjected to human right violations such as forced labour; land confiscation, forced eviction, and destruction of houses. (https://www.hrw.org/report/2012/07/31/government-could-have-stopped/sectarian-violence-and-ensuing-abuses-burmas-arakan)extortion and arbitrary taxation; and restrictions on marriage, employment, health care, and education. This whole ordeal has led to Myanmar violating provisions of the UN Charter (Article 55, Article 56)the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 2, Article 15) Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

Rohingyas are now stuck in a vicious cycle due to their stateless status. Systemic discriminationhas rendered them stateless which becomes the basis for further discrimination against them. This discrimination makes them act out which then becomes a justification for denial of nationality. This statelessness does not just affect Rohingyas living inside Myanmar but also the ones outside, seeking refuge in neighbouring countries. Large numbers of Rohingyas are estimated to be situated outside Myanmar due to forced deportation, expulsion and as a result of communal violence supported by the State and mended by its army (http://www.equalrightstrust.org/ertdocumentbankUNRAVELLING%20ANOMALY% 20small%20file.pdf).Bangladesh hosts the maximum number, almost 1.1 million refugees. (https://www.foxnews.com/world/bangladesh-point-finger-at-myanmar-for-rohingya-genocide.)Other have sought refuge in Saudi, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. However, none of these countries fully respect the right of Rohingyas to seek asylum in their country. According to the principle of non-refoulment, Rohingyas have a right to not be sent back to a country where they face a fear of persecution owing to their ethnicity and religion.

CONSEQUENCES Naturally, the treatment of Rohingyas around the world has led to violent extremism & political radicalisation amongst them. A parallel can be drawn between treatment of Muslim Americans after 9/11 and the treatment of Rohingyas. New Yorkis a 2009 Bollywood spy thriller film which portrays how after the 9/11 attack( https://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report_Exec.htm)‘suspicious’ Muslim Americans were detained by US authorities simply because of their religion and tortured for information due to the growing stereotype image of terrorists (Xenophobia is a result of this stereotype). If found not guilty, they were released with a small monetary compensation. This has also been researched and analysed in the work of Professor Lori Peek, Behind the Backlash: Muslim Americans after 9/11.

The story of Samir Sheikh (lead character in the movie) is an example of the aforementioned. A hardworking and happy student, Samir was detained for questioning soon after the 9/11 attack, merely on the basis of his religion. Without cause, torture and inhumane treatment left him antagonistic towards the State and hungry for revenge. He chose to avenge himself by actually planting bombs in the country in the hope that it would create a fear in the minds of state authorities and make them think twice before mending the same treatment to someone else based only on their identity. Evidently, the measures that were taken to combat terrorism ended up producing terrorism.

While this movie is work of fiction, it does make the mind wonder if this is how pollical radicalism emerges. The parallel I intend to draw is that inhumane treatment has consequences. Similarly, the treatment of Rohingyas by the world community will have consequences. Violent extremism is the result of an overabundance of factors which come together to give infinite different combinations and results. Harsh treatment seems to be one of the major reasons that leads to political radicalisation. This clubbed with brutal and violent expulsion, ethnic cleansing and genocide of Rohingyas from Myanmar is bound to be reflected in these refugees.

According to Professor Andrew Sleth of Griffith University the refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Coz Bazaar are potential breeding grounds for extremism (https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/rohingyas-and-politico-military-strategies) As of now there are no over signs of a backlash and it seems like the refugees are most worried about daily survival but, it is important to note that anything could push tortured masses over the edge into radicalism which would then create a major security threat. Most importantly, this is a threat that the world will have bought upon itself.

At this point it become important to address the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) fighters who are essentially a backlash of years of devastating cruelty and the persecution of Rohingyas. The local militant group has carried out attacks on state police and army posts in response to which the government declared it to be a “terrorist organisation” and started a brutal campaign against Rohingyas that led to the deaths of around 6,700 people within the span of a month in 2017 (https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/05/myanmar-new-evidence-reveals-rohingya-armed-group-massacred-scores-in-rakhine-state/)While rejecting its terrorist label, ARSA says its aims is to "defend, salvage and protect" Rohingyas against state repression "in line with the principle of self-defence" (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-41160679)

Vulnerable masses are always the easiest targets. Keeping this in mind, the world should be worried about contact between Rohingyas and terrorist groups such as ISIS and Al Qaeda. Certain attacks in Bangladesh and Myanmar have already been linked to the Rohingyas and if these countries want to significantly reduce the chances of further linked attacks, they have to handle this crisis sensitively, attentively and practical assistance needs to be provided to the Rohingyas. If they see the hope of a better future, it is presumable that the attacks will reduce.

Lamentably, no major change can be seen in the treatment or the state of the Rohingya population. They are doomed to remain as refugees or as Stateless people in the foreseeable future with the resultant increased risks of exploitation and radicalisation (https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/rohingyas-new-terrorist-threat)

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