Often overlooked in favour of other major human rights issues, the persecution of the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, has rarely received the type of media coverage befitting of such a gross violation of human rights. But on June 13th, Twitter users are set to use the powerful medium as a means of activism against the oppressive Buddhist-led government of Myanmar, that have long been a thorn in the side of the Rohingya people. Users will take to the site to post pictures of themselves wearing black clothing with the hashtag:#Black4Rohingya.
Often labelled as ‘immigrants’ by the Myanmar government, the Rohingya have faced untold hardships and violence at the hands of Buddhists, with numerous government officials and monks calling on people to resort to physical violence, in a bid to force the Muslim minority out of the country. The UN called the Rohingya people ‘the world’s most persecuted ethnic minority’.
Advocate Shabnam Mayet, one of the founders of the Protect the Rohingya campaign, said there was a huge outcry from the international community against what was a clear violation of human rights. She said a recent fact finding mission by the UN had confirmed that what was happening to the Rohingya in Myanmar was without a doubt ‘crimes against humanity’.
The human rights violations that were taking place ranged from no access to tertiary education, not being allowed to own land, as well as sex and human trafficking. Mayet said attempts by the government to decrease the population even further, by limiting Rohingya people to a maximum of two children per family.
“We are talking about one of the only people in the world who require government permission to make nikah (enter into marriage). If they don’t get that permission, they are probably going to be arrested,” she explained.
With the Myanmar government making a slow transition from military led government to a democratic one, Mayat said there was a sort of determination from the Western world to remain silent on the issues, hoping not to interfere with the transition period. She also suggested many countries in the Western World were benefiting in terms of trade with Myanmar, hence the reason for their silence.
“Many countries are rushing into this open market, where there is a lot more place for sweat shops, mining, recourses, and oil pipelines running through their country. So I think it is in the interest of big countries that are doing trade with them to keep quiet,” she said.
She likened the atrocities to genocide and Apartheid. In countries like Syria and Palestine there were still resistance movements however, for the almost 1 million Rohingya living in Myanmar, even resistance was impossible. This was due to the fact that there were so many restrictions, that it would be impossible for them to even form and type of resistance.
Other atrocities included the burning of Mosques and homes, as well as numerous incidents of mass rapes. These crimes were being committed on an almost monthly basis.
“The border guard is using Rohingya woman as sex slave within military camps. The silence is shocking, considering the Muslim ummah were generally vocal against oppression,” she said.
For Mayet, what was even more shocking was that Bangladesh as a neighbouring Muslim country had closed its borders for any Rohingya refugees looking to enter the country. She highlighted cases of ‘push backs’, where those refugees trying to enter the country by sea, were effectively denied access, and forced to return to Myanmar.
South Africans are urged to don black clothing on the 13th in support of the Protect the Rohingya campaign. Those with Twitter, Instagram or any other form of social media are encouraged to upload pictures with the hastag: #Black4Rohingya.VOC (Mubeen Banderker)