Monday, August 20, 2012

A displaced, abused people, with nowhere to go

Tucked away in various corners of the world there are still peoples who are little recognized in the world, with scarcely a right to live anywhere.  Many of them are distrusted because they have to survive by working in the margins of society.  Often they are abused.  
AlJazeera [thank you AlJazeera!] has been running a series of articles about a group that few of us ever heard of, the Rohingya.  It seems that they are unwelcome everywhere.  And of course they have a history of conflict with various other peoples, so they are regarded as troublemakers and on such grounds are abused.     Subir Bhaumik, in his latest report calls them "the world's most forgotten people."   Here are some of the things he says about them.  

Bangladesh's Awami League-led coalition government wants to send back all the Rohingya refugees to Myanmar. "They are Myanmar citizens and we have sheltered them long enough. Now they must go back and settle down in Myanmar,"
The Awami League ... see the Rohingya as religious bigots who support their rivals in Bangladesh's Islamic party, the Jamait-e-Islami.  
Unwanted now in an over-populated Bangladesh, the Rohingya are also not wanted in their own country, Myanmar. Even President Thein Sein has said on record that the Rohingyas are migrants from the Chittagong region of neighbouring Bangladesh and not indigenous to Myanmar, so they should be taken away to some other place. 
The president is supported by many of his countrymen in his perceptions that the Rohingya are "dangerous trouble-makers" and "Islamic Jihadis". In late July, dozens of Burmese in Yangon chanted slogans in front of a UN office in Yangon: "Go back Rohingya, get out of Myanmar, we support our president". They blamed the Rohingya for the recent riots in  Rakhine (formerly Arakan) state, though UNHCR officials say the Rohingya have suffered much more than the native Rakhines.More than 60 of the nearly 80 killed in the riots in Rakhine state this summer are Rohingya. The riots started after Rohingya men were accused of raping a Rakhine woman, and spread when angry Rakhines went on a killing spree. 
And nearly 100,000 of them have been displaced from their homes and herded into makeshift camps. 
The Buddhist Rakhines and the Muslim Rohingya have a long tradition of intense hostility that goes back to the steady flow of Muslim immigrants from Bengal's Chittagong region into Arakan province, migration that was encouraged by the British. Thousands of Rakhines and Rohingya died in riots in Arakan in 1942 during the Second World War. The Japanese also massacred large number of Rohingya because they supported the British. 
... the Rakhines and the Burmese military junta ... unleashed "Operation King Dragon" in the Rohingya-dominated areas of Arakan in 1978. The mass torture and extra-judicial killings, gang rapes and demolition of mosques forced nearly one-third of the Rohingya population to flee to Bangladesh.  From there, many of them moved into India enroute to Pakistan and elsewhere in the Middle east. 
...thousands of them have been migrating to Pakistan through India from the refugee camps in Bangladesh. During the course of her research, she found a lot of Rohingya women in the red light districts of Karachi and many Rohingya men in the port city's thriving fishing industry. 
After the prospects of migrating to Pakistan and the Middle East began to dry up, Rohingya turned towards Malaysia, travelling there through Thailand.

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