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Myanmar Muslims Suffering Amid Media Blackout – OpEd

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As the Muslims around the world cheerfully get prepared for the holy month of Ramadan, the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar are painfully subject to the barbaric and appalling atrocities of the extremist Buddhists, finding their life in a constant state of trepidation and suffering.

Branded by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities of the world, Rohingyas are a group of Muslims living in the Rakhine State, located in west of Myanmar. With a population of 3 million, Rakhine state is bordered by the Bay of Bengal to the west and the majority of its residents are Theravada Buddhists and Hindus.

The suppression of the Rohingya Muslims in the Arakan region dates back to the World War II. On March 28, 1942, about 5,000 Rohingya Muslims were brutally massacred by the Rakhine nationalists in the Minbya and Mrohaung Townships. After that, the Muslims of the region were frequently subject to harassment by the Burmese government which has so far refused to grant them official citizenship. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, this lack of full citizenship rights means that the Rohingyas should tolerate other abuses, including restrictions on their freedom of movement, discriminatory limitations on access to education, and arbitrary confiscation of property.

It’s said that as a result of dire living conditions and discriminatory treatment by the government, some 300,000 Rohingyas have so far immigrated to Bangladesh and 24,000 of them also escaped to Malaysia in search of a better life. Many of them have also fled to Thailand, but neither Bangladesh nor Thailand has received them warmly. Bangladesh is negotiating with the Burmese government to return the Rohingyas and Thailand has sporadically rejected the hopeless immigrants. There have been instances where boats of Rohingyas reaching Thailand have been towed out to sea and allowed to sink, sparking international anger among Muslims and non-Muslims.

Human Rights Watch says the government authorities continue to require Rohingya Muslims to perform forced labor. According to the HRW, those who refuse or complain are physically threatened, sometimes with death, and children as young as seven years old have been seen on forced labor teams.

Writing for The Egyptian Gazette, University of Waterloo professor Dr. Mohamed Elmasry has enumerated the different hardships the Rohingya Muslims have historically undergone. He writes that they are subjected to various forms of extortion and arbitrary taxation, land confiscation, forced eviction and house destruction and financial restrictions on marriage. Rohingyas continue to be used as forced laborers on roads and at military camps.

The Myanmar government’s mistreatment of the Rohingyas, however, has long been contested and protested by international organizations. For several years, human rights activists have decried the arbitrary measures leveled against the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar by the government and the extremist Buddhists. In May 2009, Elaine Pearson, the Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director issued a statement in protest at the deteriorating conditions of the Rohingya Muslims, calling on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to press the Burmese government to end its brutal practices, “the treatment of the Rohingya in Burma is deplorable – the Burmese government doesn’t just deny Rohingya their basic rights, it denies they are even Burmese citizens.”

Now, the conflict has escalated in the Rakhine State again and the Muslims are once more experiencing difficult days as the black shadow of violence and unrest has just cast over their already trembling lives. It was on the reports that 10 Rohingya Muslims were killed by a mob of 300 Rakhines while on their way back from the country’s former capital Rangoon. According to a group of UK-based NGOs, 650 Rohingyas were massacred from June 10 to 28. The United Nations estimates that between 50,000 and 90,000 Rohingyas were displaced since the eruption of violence in the Asian nation. However, due to the absence of independent reporters and monitors in the country, it’s impossible to verify the exact number of those who have been displaced. It’s also reported that some 9,000 homes belonging to the Muslims in the western state of Rakhine were destroyed. On July 20, the Amnesty International called the recent attacks against minority Rohingyas and other Muslims in Myanmar a “step back” in the country’s recent progress on human rights, citing increased violence and unlawful arrests following a state of emergency declared six weeks ago.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has voiced its concern over the recent violence in the state of Rakhine and the varying reports which have leaked out as to the number of the Muslims killed. As reported by the TimeTurk News Agency, over 1,000 Rohingya Muslims have been murdered thus far in the conflicts that broke out in the region.

The mainstream media in the West have been largely silent about the massacre of Muslims in Myanmar and the ordeal that has befallen them. They have found other interesting topics to give coverage to, and as always, bigotry against Muslims hardly moves them.

Along with the media, the Western governments have also blatantly turned a blind eye to the heartrending anguish and suffering of the Rohingya Muslims. Even renowned Burmese political activist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi who has been released from house arrest and was just invited to Norway to deliver her Nobel acceptance speech 21 years after being awarded the prize preferred not to speak a single word about the unspeakable affliction of her fellow citizens.

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Kourosh Ziabari

Kourosh Ziabari is an award-winning Iranian journalist, writer and media correspondent. He represents Fair Observer and Your Middle East in Iran. He also conducts interviews and writes commentaries for the Iran Review news and analysis website as a staff writer and reporter. His articles and interviews have been published on Tehran Times, Press TV, International Policy Digest, Foreign Policy Journal, Global Research, Turkish Weekly Journal, Strategic Culture Foundation, Al-Arabiya, Counterpunch, Voltaire Network, Baltimore Chronicle and Opinion Maker. He currently blogs for The Huffington Post and writes op-eds for the UK-based Middle East Eye. In 2009, while an undergraduate student of English Language and Literature, he was selected to represent the Middle East students in the International Student Energy Summit 2009 in Calgary, Canada. Kourosh Ziabari is working with Gateway House: Indian Council on Global Relations as an Iran analyst. He has conducted interviews with some 380 prominent world leaders, politicians, diplomats, UN officials, academicians, public intellectuals, authors, media personalities, journalists and historians. Kourosh Ziabari is the winner of the silver medal at the National Festival of Superior Iranian Youth. He has won three awards in Iran's National Press Festival and also been a member of the European Association for the Teaching of Academic Writing. He was a member of Stony Brook Independent magazine's editorial board and a member of the Kenya-based World Student Community for Sustainable Development. In June 2015, he received a fellowship from Deutsche Welle / European Youth Press to attend and cover the Global Media Forum 2015 in the German city of Bonn. In August 2015, he was named by the Hawaii-based East-West Center as a Senior Journalists Seminar Fellow 2015 to travel to the United States, Malaysia and Pakistan for a reporting and dialog tour aimed at bridging the gaps in the relations between the United States and the Muslim world. He is also a recipient of the Gabriel Garcia Marquez Fellowship in Cultural Journalism awarded to him in November 2015 by the FNPI foundation in Colombia.

One thought on “Myanmar Muslims Suffering Amid Media Blackout – OpEd

  • July 22, 2012 at 12:17 am
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    i am wonder why muslim media is silent. we can’t expect our rulers to say a single word on this agony. it also washes away the peace loving face of budhists

    Reply

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