2 Muharram 1439 AH • 23 September 2017

Rohingya crisis draws widespread condemnation at CT protest

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In what has been one of the most diverse marches in Cape Town, on Wednesday thousands of people took to the streets to protest the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar. According to estimates, over 2000 people participated in the march, which got underway from Keizergracht. The protest was led by several faith organisations, including the Muslim Judicial Council, Western Cape Religious Leaders Forum, Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, the Worker’s International Vanguard League, COSATU and other human rights organisations. It was also supported by expat communities from Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Protesters from different nationalities at the march [Photo: Thakira Desai]

Addressing the crowd on the truck at the starting point, Shaykh Ebrahim Gabriels got the crowd charged up ahead of the walk to Parliament.

“It’s wonderful to see the Christian, Jewish, and Hindu community supporting this march. We appeal to the government to South Africa to remove the SA ambassador to Myanmar,” he said, erupting into Takbeer.

Sh Ebrahim Gabriels [Photo: Thakira Desai]

Chants of ‘Down with Oppressors’ and ‘Down with Aung Saan Suu Kyi’ rang out from the crowd, many of them holding placards saying ‘Stop the Rohingya genocide’. A number of protestors donned the colours of the Palestinian flag. Many of them said it was impossible to divorce the Palestinian conflict from the Rohingya crisis, a stateless people that the UN has described as “the most persecuted in the world”.

Capetonians show their anger [Photo: Thakira Desai]

“As South Africans who experienced the tyranny of Apartheid we will not sit idly by when human rights violations of the curtailment of all forms of freedom occur in another country,” said MJC president Shaykh Riad Fataar.

Representing the Methodist Church of South Africa, Reverend Alan Storey said too many of have been silent and ignorant on the issue.

“We may be seeing the bullets and landmines on our TVs today, but for years there has been systemic violence …where people have been denied citizenship in their own land. We know what that is like…to not be a citizen in the land of your birth. It as if you do not belong and your humanity is worthless,” he said.

“Those systems that de-humanise people for years are the enablers of the violence we see today.”

Rev. Alan Storey
[photo: Thakira Desai]

Mualima Gadija Allie from the MJC Women’s Forum called on the females of the South African community to play an active role in addressing the persecution of Rohingya.

“As mothers, it is our duty to conscientise our homes and encourage our loved ones to understand the Rohingya issue with compassion. We need to ensure that our loved ones knows the deep pain being suffered by the people of Myanmar. It is essential that in South Africa, that we place our trust in Allah and keep the Rohingya people in our dua.”

Mualima Gadija Allie calling on the females of the South African community to play an active role in addressing the persecution of #Rohingya. #SA4Rohingya #Myanmar

Posted by Voice of the Cape Radio – VOC on Mittwoch, 13. September 2017

Over the past few weeks, more than 300,000 Rohingya, a minority Muslim ethnic population in Myanmar, have been internally displaced with more than 300,000 having to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh. This follows a military crackdown on Rohingyan activists in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state. Amnesty International has accused the Myanmar army of gross human rights violations.

Hundreds of buildings have been destroyed in at least 17 regions across the Rakhine state since August 25, including some 700 structures that appeared to have been burned down, satellite imagery analysed by Human Rights Watch illustrated. They add that the Rohingya are being targeted in a campaign described as “ethnic cleansing”.

Members of different communities have joined the #StopRohingyaGenocide march which is taking place in the Cape Town CBD this morning. #Myanmar

Posted by Voice of the Cape Radio – VOC on Mittwoch, 13. September 2017

Further atrocities include forceful seizure of babies from their mother’s arms and throwing them into rivers, rape of women and girls, live human mutilation and beheadings evidenced by horrific credible graphic images. These ghastly acts are being perpetrated against the Rohingya by the Myanmar Military Junta in Rakhine State, aided and abetted by ultranationalist right wing Buddhist groups and Rakhine Buddhists.

MJC president Sh Irfaan Abrahams hands over the memorandum to a govt rep [Photo: Thakira Desai]

Among the demands included in the memorandum are:
– that the South African Government intervenes and take a decisive stand against Myanmar by withdrawing our diplomatic staff from Myanmar and to expel the Embassy of the Union of Myanmar from South Africa.
– For the end of atrocities and human rights violations at the hands of the Myanmar military
– For access to affected areas by aid organisations
– For the reinstatement of citizenship, movement and all the rights to Rohingya.
-the implementation of recommendations of the Rakhine Commission Report and for the United Nations Fact Finding Mission to be given access to affected areas to carry out their investigation.
-those responsible for human rights violations be investigated and held accountable.

Read the full memorandum here:

Memorandum Rohingya 13-09-17

International human rights organisations and prominent activists including Archbishop and Nobel laureate Desmond Tutu have said that the failure to act on the Rohingya crisis would be a failure on the part of Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as a Nobel laureate representing peace and the fight for human rights. VOC

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