Protest in London Exposes Plight of the Rohingyas
London – Over sixty protestors united in response to the horrific abuse of human rights against the Rohingyas outside the Embassy of Mayanmar on Wednesday, 13 June.
Both in English and Burmese, protestors chanted ‘Free Free Rohingya’ and ‘Peaceful coexistence in Arakan!’ amidst speeches made by members and supporters. The Rohingya community and their supporters from across the UK united at the protest against the persecution of Rohingya in Mayanmar also known as Burma.
The Burmese Rohingya Organisation (BROUK) launched the protest which was supported by Restless Beings to expose the treatment of Rohingya people in Mayanmar during recent ethnic clashes in the country. This ethnic clash sparked violence between the Rohingya and Rakhine over the past week in the Western State of Arakan, Mayanmar.
Maung Tun Khin, a speaker at the event, who is President of BROUK, said he has been receiving harrowing reports of attacks on the Rohingya people who are living in Arakan claiming that up to 1,000 Rohingya have already been killed. He recently received one such call from a friend whose home was set on fire and Tun Khin recalled what was described to him.
People come to my place with a big crowd, and authorities are also with them together, and they put petrol and put the place on fire. I was able to leave luckily but the places are still burning. Please raise your voice to the international community to save our lives.
Despite these harrowing reports, hundreds of Rohingyas fleeing in boats from the violence to Bangladesh are being turned back. Many Rohingya refugees also live in Bangladesh where they are denied citizenship.
Rashed, a protestor at the event, asked for peace for the Rohingya in Bangladesh and for the country to provide refuge for Rohingyas fleeing violence in Mayanmar.
Rashed, who preferred not to share his last name, is a Rohingya who was living in Bangladesh with his family until 2009. After he came to the UK, a crackdown by Bangladesh’s government on the Rohingyas changed his life.
“I was in Bangladesh and came here in 2009… In 2010, January, there [was] a crackdown at that time. My father and mother went [missing.]… I don’t know if they are arrested in Bangladesh or deported in Mayanmar. It’s still two years, I’m waiting for my father and mother’s news. As well as my brother who is in Malaysia…I don’t know if he is alive or not,” said Rashed, 23. “It’s a very stressful and in limbo situation for us.”
Protestors like Rashed were at the event alongside groups such as the Bradford Rohingya Community (BRCUK) and the Burmese Muslim Association. Rahima Begum, co-director of Restless Beings, spoke to the crowd and urged more people to become aware of the situation in Mayanmar. The Rohingya have been part of Restless Being’s projects for two years and Restless Beings is working closely with BROUK and Tun Khin to raise awareness of their plight.
Begum asked politicians in the West to put pressure on the government of Mayanmar so they grant equal rights to the Rohingya people.
Protestors also urged action from the international community for the Rohingya people and asked for greater awareness of the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya from Mayanmar.
“We want to see an international independent inquiry in these cases where innocent people have been killed by Rakhine extremists. The violence is still going on in some places. The government needs to provide aid,” said Tun Khin.
While fighting continues between the two ethnic groups in some parts of Mayanmar, the fight has found a new battle ground on Twitter. In recent days, a Twitter campaign led by pro-Rakhine supporters has been attacking supporters of the Rohingya people. Rohingya supporters believe that the dehumanisation of Rohingya people should not be a way to legitimise the ethnic cleansing of the group.
Although the clashes in Mayanmar have been set off by recent events in the past few weeks, the Rohingya people have actually had a troubled and deep-rooted history in Mayanmar for many years.
The Rohingya have yet to be recognised as citizens of Mayanmar and the UN states they are one of the most persecuted communities in the world. According to Reuters, “The Buddhist-majority Myanmar's government regards the estimated 800,000 Muslim Rohingyas in the country as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship. Bangladesh has refused to grant Rohingyas refugee status since 1992.”
For the Rohingya people, their very existence is a source of conflict and contempt in Mayanmar and surrounding countries but it will not continue if more people unite against their persecution.
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