Violation of Myanmar’s Muslims’ Human Rights
The human rights violations of the Muslim minority in Myanmar was one of the issues that stirred up the emotions of the world Muslim community, particularly from June this year. The publication of news, images and statistics of these acts of violence committed against the Muslims of Myanmar, resulted in the drawing of the attention of a part of the Muslim community towards the problems and issues of this forgotten minority group. This article tries to highlight a number of these issues separately.
First: Unfortunately due to diversity and at times conflicting reports regarding how the violence in the Muslim populated region began, the writer’s efforts to finding the truth of the story within the published and very diverse documents and news, were futile. In one story, which has been brought up by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, claims began with the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman on 28 May, resulting in the arrest of 3 Muslims and charged with the crime by the police. In retaliation, 10 Muslims were killed on 3 June and sparks of violence ignited. Another version which has been proposed by the Muslims of Myanmar is that the rape incident is made up by Buddhist zealots to justify the violence and massacre that’s been committed against the Ruhingia Muslim minorities leaving at least 80 people dead. In this version, Buddhists are guilty of the rape of Muslim women and arrest of educated youths and their transference to undisclosed locations.
In any event, aside from how the violence started, what is certain is the age old discrimination against the Ruhingian Muslims for almost a century, has resulted in the terrible living conditions of approximately 1 million minorities that are stateless between the two Myanmar and Bangladesh neighbouring countries, alongside the turning of blind eye of the Myanmar security forces against the organizded violence committed by the local Buddhists, and the indifference and inaction of the Myanmar government in determination of the fate of this minority, and the indifference of the Bangladeshi government towards the subject.
Second: The figures for those killed and made homeless is also very varied. Until 28 July 2012, the UN put the death figures at 78, and for the homeless at 70 thousand; although the statement of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights puts the unofficial figures as much higher. These figures have been put at 160 in the words of the Iranian Foreign Minister. The figures announced by the OIC Secretary General the figure’s put at close to 1000, and more than 90 thousand homeless. And independent nongovernmental organizations have said thousands have been killed and hundreds of thousands made homeless.
Third: The subject of the violation of Muslim minorities rights in Myanmar is deeply rooted, apparently, following the independence of Myanmar (then Burma) in 1948, the Constitution that was written, makes it impossible for the Ruhingian Muslims to become Myanmar citizens. Apparently the excuse behind this is that the ancestors of these minorities have not lived in the country prior to the 19th Century (although according to existing evidence, Muslims believe their presence in Burma (now Myanmar) dates back to the 9th Century). This argument has resulted in their being considered “stateless”, and the atmosphere for their exploitation by extremist elements from this situation and also the indifference and inaction of Myanmar security forces and even Bangladesh, has come about. Presently one of the reasons in the rise in the number of deaths, the prevention of Bangladeshi border guards from allowing these Muslims into the country as refugees. It is on this basis that people who speak in support of the Ruhingian Muslims have repeatedly said that for years discrimination, oppression and violence have been committed against them by Buddhist extremists and the Myanmar military government. For example the director of one of Ruhingian organizations says: “In 1978, Myanmar forced 300 thousand Muslims into Bangladesh, and in 1982 the government suspended the citizenship of Muslims and declared these people illegal immigrants.” He further adds that in 1992 the government drove approximately 300 thousand Muslims back to Bangladesh. To this aim the Myanmar government is using calculated policies to eradicate Muslims and through family planning programmes, is trying to restrict the remaining population further and further. An important point to note is the recent remarks of the Myanmar president regarding the unrests. He said that there are only two solutions: one to expel all Ruhingian Muslims from Myanmar, or their resettlement in a third country by the United Nations, something which was immediately dismissed by the UN. The existence of this attitude among Myanmar high ranking officials can clear the depth and continuation of this tragedy for any observer.
Fourth: A look at the volume and diversity of reactions in this regard, clears several points. The most important reaction from international organizations was from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pellay’s which with condemnation of the massacres, received reorts from independent sources which were indicative of the discriminatory actions taken by the Myanmar security forces, and even their participation in the riots. According to Ms. Pellay the reposts show that the reaction Myanmar officials towards the clashes of the clashes initially was with the aim of suppression of Muslims.
Also the UN Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights Situation of Myanmar made a trip to the region in late July and a fact finding report is to be prepared and submitted to the Human Rights Council.
At official levels, the majority and most resolute condemnations have been done by Iranian officials. In the most important reactions, the Supreme Leader in parts of his speech during his visit with the country’s Koranic society on the first day of the holy month of Ramadan said: “Today thousands of human beings are killed in Myanmar due to prejudice and ignorance, while those that claim to human rights do not tter a word, and the same people who are compassionate about animals well being, here they stay silent against the killing of innocent people and justify it.” The interesting point that the Supreme leader 21 years ago in the first few days of Ramadan coinciding with the first round of pressures against the Muslims of Myanmar in his 1991 speech had said: “This condition of the poor oppressed Muslims of Myanmar where tens of thousands of people today live in terrible conditions in Bangladesh, our representatives went there and came back and gave us some reports which makes sleep go away. How much today the world is ignorant to human rights in its true meaning? Doesn’t anyone speak up in the world? A bunch of marching boots have driven thousands of Myanmar Muslims out of their homes in the most terrible ways; killing women children and men; plundering their properties; anyone who’s been able to, has fled. The world is ignorant. Neither the United Nations nor the Human Rights Committee do not speak up, neither the ICRC feels responsible, nor the deceptive human rights conferences and institutions and defenders of peace and so forth, speak up. Aren’t these people human beings? This animosity against Islam and Islamic concepts and values shows that how ignorant they are towards human beings. And what is said about human rights and these forms of measures is nothing but politically motivated, only to beat someone down somewhere, make someone big, weaken a state, and remove a people from the scene.”
Some of the reactions made on the latest Myanmar developments came from figures such as Davoud Oghlu the Turkish Foreign Minister with his Bangladeshi counterpart, the remarks and letters sent by Islamic Cooperation Organization Secretary General, Ehsan Oghlu to Myanmar officials and Nobel Peace Prize winnerAung Sun Suchi, and the stance of the Pakistani Foreign Ministery spokesperson, and a number of religious leaders from Islamic countries, are some of the limited reactions taken on this issue. Against this there the popular protests in Pakistan, Turkey, Iran and some other Islamic and European countries have been more highlighted.
Fifth: The double standards debate in human rights debates is one of the subjects that has always existed and in view of the current situation of international dynamics, it doesn’t seem that this problem is going away soon. The point that the West has remained silent on the situation in Myanmar and preferred to preserve its newly reastiblished relations with Myanmar to the human rights violations of the Ruhingian Muslims, is not a subject that can be denied. It seems the United States is apprehensive of any action that might drives this country towards its next door neighbour China, and feels that a move that began a year ago towards the improvement of relations with Myanmar and the moves that the rulers of the country have made towards western democracy must under no circumstances be stalled. However it seems that a number of measures must be taken on this:
a) If the movements of Islamic countries can take place in the framework of the Islamic Cooperation Organization, they will be more effective. Alongside the recent actions of the Secretary General a conference held by Islamic countries, and condemnation of the acts in Myanmar and calling upon the authorities to accept a fact finding group from the Islamic Cooperation Organization to investigate the incidents, would be suitable movements.
b) In the event of the continuation of this situation and following the publication of the Special Rapporteur on Myanmar, Islamic countries can request the UN Security Council to hold an emergency session. These types of sessions can be held with the request of 16 members of the Council, and in the event of the holding of the session, it can be deemed an effective tool to raise attention of the international community towards these killings, and the further action by international organizations. This matter in particularly can have significant importance when based on the report of the Special Rapporteur, through existing evidence and documentation, “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” can be associated to acts committed by the Myanmar security forces.
Created by: Mahmoodreza Golshanpazhooh at Sunday, 12.August 2012 - 13:34