Rohingya Global Day of Action: Thursday 8th November, 2012
Borne out of frustration from the lack of action of international leaders, a Global Day of Action was organised by human rights organisation Restless Beings, Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK and Rohingya organisations across the world to act in solidarity and to ensure that Rohingya rights are at the forefront of foreign affairs.
The Global Day of Action calls for protection of the persecuted Rohingya, aid to reach casualties of the violence, access granted to international observers and ultimately citizenship for the stateless Rohingya. Having pushed for politicians and namely the Foreign Commonwealth Office to act in accordance with these aims, Foreign Office Minister for Burma, Hugo Swire shockingly defended the Burmese Governments handling of the situation whilst it is evident that there is state level complicity in the systematic attacks against the Rohingya, having long shifted from just inter-communal violence.
A vociferous crowd gathered for the protest outside the Foreign & Commonwealth Office- London, with supporters from both the Rohingya and Burmese community as well as Bengali and human rights activists. Importantly, showing the strength of the #RohingyaDay movement around the world, both international and regional media were present including the BBC, Press TV, Japan TV and Spain TV keen to know more about the recent outbreak of violence and why the call for access, aid, protection and citizenship is so necessary right now.
Nurul Islam of ARNO began the protest with a heartfelt speech, detailing the reasons for the day and the importance of “solidarity for the Rohingya”, as did Tun Khin of BROUK as he shouted chants demanding action to be taken immediately. Restless Beings Co- Director Rahima Begum further echoed the call for the importance of humanity and the grave consequences inaction can lead too, urging all to act to “Voice the Rohingya”.
Mark Farmaner, of Burma Campaign UK, spoke of the positive dialogue with MPs who impassioned to know more and Baroness Cox also echoed this sentiment. Jon Ashworth, having campaigned tirelessly for the Rohingya to be at the forefront of affairs in Parliament, implored “now is the time for the Government to act”. During the protest, joined by Rushanara Ali who insists that there must be “sustained pressure on the Burmese government”, the two MPs delivered a letter to RT Hon William Hague at the Foreign & Commonwealth Office urging such needs.
Brad Blitz, Professor and specialist in statelessness and citizenship, again focused on “access and aid for all Burmese people, regardless of the ethnicity” but also stressed the importance of accountability and ensuring that we know how the £27million that Britain intends to contribute in aid over the next 3 years will be used.
Burmese political prisoner, now in exile, working as a human rights activist in London; Ko Aung, believes the supposed reform taking place in Burma is merely to appease and “not intended to provide freedoms for all Burmese”, adding that he is “ashamed of what President Thein Sein and the government is currently responsible for and the inaction of the supposed human rights activists currently in Burma”.
The crowd was undoubtedly emotional yet headstrong in their call for action chanting: “William Hague, Where Are YOU?”, “British Government, Where Are YOU?”, “United Nations Wake Up, Right NOW!”.
Mabrur Ahmed, Co-Director of Restless Beings, then ended the protest calling for the activism of ALL, questioning the impotence of the democracy and free world that is hailed all across the world, yet remains silent on this issue and further condemning the supposed democracy in Burma right now: “Where is the democracy when villages are being razed because they’re not the right religion, ethnicity or race?” As President Obama, after recently easing trade embargos for Burma, has now announced plans to visit President Thein Sein later this month on the 16th, so soon after being re-elected, Ahmed went on to point out the true agenda of exploiting the treasure chest of resources that Burma has, not democracy or freedom for all! He went on to question: “Where are YOU when it comes to YOUR freedom and YOUR democracy? One day YOU will be too black, too white, too Muslim, too Christian, too Hindu, too Jewish, too fat, too skinny, one day YOU will not be deemed good enough to exist, who will speak for you on that day?”
The sentiment has been echoed all over the world with silent protests taking place in universities across the UK, as well as in major locations in Kuala Lumpur, Canberra, Bangkok and Paris.
Rohingya Day continues around the world, continuously and as fervently passionate as ever, ensuring that justice for the Rohingya is achieved and an end brought to the ethnic cleansing of an entire community.
Another Rwandan or Bosnian Genocide cannot happen.
Your Silence Equals Complicity.
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