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Crisis of Rohingya: A future lost in darkness of time

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Photo credit: karennews.org
Photo credit: karennews.org
Photo credit: karennews.org

By Shilpika Srivastava

The scars on their bodies earned in fights over little food and water are nothing when compared to the marks that are invisible – deeply etched on their souls.

Think about the courage it takes to leave your home, mount a dilapidated boat, and venture out into the perils and qualms of the stormy seas! Unfortunately, this is the stark reality of thousands of people from Myanmar’s persecuted Rohingya ethnic Muslim minority.

In the past few weeks, the Rohingyas, also called ‘floating coffins,’ have not seen even a single humanitarian example of compassion and humility. Rather, they have been coldly pushed back by governments who are not keen on sheltering any more asylum seekers.

Who are the Rohingyas?

The Rohingya people are an Indo-Aryan ethnic Muslim group that reside in northern Rakhine (Arakan), Myanmar.

The ethnicity of the Rohingya people is disputed, however, as per these people and a few scholars, they are indigenous to the land of Rakhine. A group of other historians suggest that they migrated to Burma from Bengal primarily during the period of British rule.

The least wanted and the most persecuted minority

A report published in BBC a few years back unveiled the fact that the Rohingya people are “among the world’s least wanted.”

As per the report, they are not allowed to travel or even marry without seeking permission. “They are not welcome in Bangladesh either, where at least 200,000 now live as illegal immigrants, without rights to employment, health care or education,” states the report.

A recent report by the United Nations has also tagged this ethnic minority as one of the world’s “most persecuted minorities.”

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s report earlier this month also exposed the fact that rising Buddhist jingoism and anti-Islamic sentiment in Myanmar made this Muslim minority a “population at grave risk for additional mass atrocities and even genocide.”

Also, the last three years have witnessed Rohingya people being targeted by violent mobs of Buddhist extremists, leaving hundreds dead and triggering a departure of more than 120,000 people, as per the UNHCR.

The situation is so bad in Burma that even the name Rohingya is considered a taboo in the country. Albeit the Rohingyas have lived in this Buddhist majority country for generations, they are still referred to as ‘Bengalis’ and are purported to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

What prompts the Rohingya people to the sea?

The state of Northern Rakhine is one of the poorest and most isolated in Myanmar. However, the hardships inflicted on the Rohingya by their own country make their condition way too deplorable.

In 2009, Chris Kaye, Director, UN World Food Programme, who visited Myanmar the same year said to a news channel, “Economic hardship and chronic poverty prevents many thousands of people in north Rakhine state from gaining food security.” He further added, “Many do not have land rights or access to farmland to grow food, and the restrictions and limitations on the movement of people, goods and commodities places additional stress on people’s livelihood opportunities.”

The condition of this Muslim minority is so pitiable that out of the 135 ethnic groups officially recognized by the country, the Rohingyas are the only ones who are denied citizenship under Burma’s 1982 citizenship law. The inhumane acts of humiliation touch heights when they are even not allowed to get married without an official permission.

How much the Rohingyas are hated by Burma can be sensed from a statement made by the country’s Consul General Ye Myint Aung, who described the Rohingya people as “ugly as ogres” in 2009.

This litany of abuse and continuous harassment forced the Rohingya people to flee over to other countries in search of a better life conditions. Initially, they took shelter in Bangladesh where there’s only a flimsy difference from that of Burma.

When Bangladesh did not come to their rescue, then numerous Rohingya people started making dangerous trips to Malaysia in crooked boats in hope of better job conditions. It is just this slight ray of hope that is driving the Rohingyas to the seas.

The present situation

Over the past few weeks more than 3,000 refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh have arrived on Southeast Asia’s beaches, stranded after smugglers abandoned their rickety boats on the way to Malaysia.

According to the United Nations, about 3,500 Rohingya people are estimated to be adrift in the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal too. They are either stranded at sea or deterred by Malaysian, Indonesian and Thai authorities from reaching the land.

Recently, the discovery of a mass grave in Malaysia and Thailand is yet another evidence of the grave existential impasse that migrants confront. The bodies found in the catacombs, situated in the state of Perlis, Malaysia are believed to be that of the Rohingya refugees, who flee Myanmar.

Toothless nature of ASEAN

ASEAN’s policy of non-interference over internal issues such as human rights abuse has certainly backfired the association during the ongoing humanitarian crisis suffered by Myanmar’s Muslim minority population.

However, after a long hour of blackout, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said to local daily Utusan Malaysia’s a few days back that Malaysia and other Association of Southeast Asian Nations members have urged Myanmar to resolve the Rohingya issue as the association’s non-interference policy does not mean silence.

Had the issue not caught international publicity, it can’t be denied that these refugees may have been conveniently ignored by ASEAN.

There’s hardly any solution!

As reported by CNN, Yasmine, a 13-year-old girl told Human Rights Watch (HRW) that a dozen men came to her home in Rakhine State. “They dragged me to the boat, they had sticks and threatened to beat me,” she said. “I screamed, I cried loudly. My parents were weeping, but they couldn’t do anything. I went onto the boat with three men. When I got to the big boat… I cannot explain my feeling, I was so scared.”

However, amidst the disaster-struck and downtrodden Rohingyas, a first ray of hope came from Philippines. A week back, the country offered to accept these refugees, though there is a bleak possibility that these poorly maintained and overcrowded migrants could ever clear the passage from the Andaman Sea to the Philippines.

Recently, Singapore announced an initial aid of US$200,000 through ASEAN to back the efforts of countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia that have been helping Rohingya refugees.

Although, Myanmar has slightly softened its stand on the issue and declared that  it will offer aid to migrants stuck at sea. Though it seems highly unlikely that it will take back Rohingyas that have fled.

Given the history of this Muslim minority on the land of Buddhist majority country, the future of those, who are still stuck in Rakhine still seems dark.

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Dalveer Bhandari re-elected as the judge of ICJ

Bhandari has also served as the judge of Supreme Court of India

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The judge of the international court of justice.
Dalveer Bhandari got 121 votes in a 193 members assembly. IANS

Arul Louis

United Nations, November 21

Judge Dalveer Bhandari was re-elected to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Tuesday as the General Assembly rallied behind him in a show of strength that made Britain bow to the majority and withdraw its candidate Christopher Greenwood.

“I am grateful to all the nations who have supported me,” Bhandari told IANS in the Assembly chamber after the election. “It was a big election as you know.” The withdrawal of its candidate by Britain, which had the backing of its fellow permanent members, was a setback for the Security Council that had been locked in a test of wills with the Assembly.

A candidate has to win a majority in both the chambers. Bhandari won majorities in the Assembly in the first 11 rounds of voting over two meetings, while the Council blocked his election by giving majorities to Greenwood in the ten rounds of balloting it held.

“The British ultimately had to bow down to the will of the majority,” a diplomat said. “The Indians stared them down.” The Council’s permanent members have traditionally had a judge in the ICJ, assuming it to be a matter of right. This time the 193-member Assembly asserted itself, forcing the Council to back down and put at risk the continuation of the ICJ perk of the permanent members.

In letters written to the Presidents Miroslav Lajcak of the Assembly and Sebastiano Cardi of the Council, Britain’s Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft said that his country was withdrawing Greenwood’s candidature keeping “in mind the close relationship that the United Kingdom and India always enjoyed and will continue to enjoy”.

Bhandari’s election was a dramatic face-saving turn of fortunes for India, as he lost the Asian seat on the ICJ to Lebanese lawyer-turned-diplomat Nawaf Salam, who had been campaigning for two years and had the backing of the powerful Organisation of Islamic Cooperation with 55 members in the UN.

Bhandari got a second chance only because an unpopular Britain could not get an Assembly majority for a remaining judgeship requiring a runoff where the two chambers of the UN split in their voting.

Bhandari’s cause became a rallying point for the nations not a member of the Council, who were chafing under the domination of the unrepresentative Council to make a popular show of force.

India hammered home the representative character of the Assembly compared to the Council and insisted that the UN members follow democratic principles and re-elect Bhandari by accepting the global majority he has received in the Assembly.

In the last round of voting on November 13, Bhandari received 121 votes, just short of a two-thirds majority in the 193-member Assembly, while Greenwood received nine in the Council.

“The precedent is clear,” India’s Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin said at a reception for Bhandari attended by representatives of over 160 countries on Thursday.

“As is expected in the 21st century, the candidate who enjoys the overwhelming support of the General Assembly membership can be the only legitimate candidate to go through.” Diplomats familiar with behind-the-scenes manoeuvres said Britain indicated late last week that it would withdraw Greenwood, but over the weekend changed course with the backing of some fellow permanent members and came up with a plan for the Council to call for ending the balloting and set up a joint conference to resolve the deadlock.

The statutes of the ICJ provides for a joint conference made up of three members each from the Council and the Assembly to resolve a deadlock that persists after three election meetings.

India feared the outcome and campaigned resolutely to avoid it, pointing to the precedents in the elections in 2011 and 2014 and earlier when the candidate leading in the Council withdrew in favour of the candidate with the majority in the Assembly even though in those cases permanent members were not involved.

Bhandari’s election upsets what has become a traditional balance in the ICJ. Besides a permanent member going unrepresented, four Asian countries will be represented on the ICJ bench instead of the usual three.

Three incumbent judges of the ICJ — President Ronny Abraham of France, Vice President, Abdulqawi Ahmed Yusuf of Somalia, and Antonio Augusto Cancado Trindade of Brazil – were elected along with Salam in the first four rounds of voting on November 9.

Bhandari and the others elected will start their term in February next year. (IANS)

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Rohingya Camp Refugees face Challenges in Family Planning Brought up by Bangladesh Officials

The Bangladesh Govt is promoting the use of contraceptives to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims but there are still challenges to be faced

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One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child
One of the Rohingya Refugees settled in the hut with their fifth child . BENAR.

Bangladesh, November 14: As Bangladesh’s government struggled this week to persuade residents of overcrowded refugee camps to use contraceptives as part of a new push to promote family planning among Rohingya Muslims, Nurul Islam’s wife gave birth to their fifth child.

Three-day-old Ayesha was born Tuesday in a tiny, one-room hut in Teknaf upazila (sub-district) in Cox’s Bazar district that her parents and four brothers have called home for the past two months since they fled a fresh cycle of violence and atrocities allegedly committed against the Rohingya minority by the military in neighboring Myanmar.

Islam was elated at what he described as his “latest achievement.”

“Having a child shows that you are a strong man. I now have five of them,” the 32-year-old told BenarNews proudly. “And I will try for more,” he added with an air of confidence.

Unlike most other members of his community, Islam said, he was aware of birth control procedures but wasn’t interested because the practice was “considered a sin.”

“I know what a condom is… but have never used one,” he said – a telling statement uttered by a majority of Rohingya that prompted the family planning office of Cox’s Bazar to introduce birth control steps in about 15 refugee camps sheltering nearly 1 million members of the displaced group.

More than 600,000 of them, including about 20,000 pregnant women, have arrived in southeastern Bangladesh from Buddhist-majority Myanmar since its military launched a counter-offensive in response to insurgent attacks in Rakhine state on Aug. 25, according to the latest estimates from the United Nations.

Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government
Rohingya Refugee Camps set up by Bangladesh Government. Wikimedia.

‘Deep-rooted problem’

Officials with the Directorate of Family Planning, which is connected to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, launched the birth control program in Rohingya camps in September.

But soon after, they realized they were “only scratching the surface of a deep-rooted problem,” Pintu Kanti Bhattacharjee, the department’s deputy director, told BenarNews.

“A majority of Rohingya, who are largely uneducated, are not aware of birth control measures. The ones who are aware are convinced that family planning methods conflict with their faith,” he said, adding, “We then realized we were faced with a huge challenge.”

Before the refugee crisis exploded in late August, Bhattacharjee’s department had about 50 workers.

“We have hired about 200 people over the past few weeks and still feel the need for more staff,” he said. The near 250 health workers operate out of 13 offices in Ukhia and Teknaf sub-districts and “go door-to-door to educate Rohingya about the benefits of family planning.”

“So far, we have managed to talk about birth control with 150,000 Rohingya. We convinced 7,500 of them to take contraceptive measures like condoms, pills and injections,” Bhattacharjee said.

‘I would like to opt for birth control

Islam, the refugee who became a father for the fifth time this week, was among the unconvinced multitude.

“Our children are Allah’s gift to us. We will accept as many as he gives us,” he said, as he prepared to walk 1 km (0.6 mile) to the nearest food distribution center to bring his family something to eat.

“Allah will take care of them,” he added, before disappearing into the crowd of refugees rushing to get ration supplies.

Islam’s wife, Amina Khatun, 24, said she did not agree with her husband.

“If they [family planning workers] come here, I would like to opt for birth control,” she told BenarNews.

She had their first child when she was 16 years old, two years after getting married. Over the next eight years she delivered four more children. All of them, including the latest addition to their family, were born at home with help from women in the neighborhood.

“It’s not easy to take care of so many children. And my husband wants to have more,” Khatun said exhaustedly as she breastfed her newborn.

Abdul Muktalif, 57, a camp leader in Teknaf, said that all Rohingya couples had “at least five children in hopes that the more kids they have, the more money they will bring in when they grow up.”

Muktalif, who has been living at the Leda camp for the last 14 years, has 15 children – the youngest 1 year old – from three wives.

Officials weigh voluntary sterilization

Bhattacharjee said his office was mulling the idea of providing voluntary sterilization to Rohingya but “cannot implement it unless the Ministry (of Health and Family Welfare) approves it.”

In a statement issued Thursday, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said: “Simply offering sterilization would be a narrow and unethical approach.

“Family planning is a matter of individual choice, should be completely voluntary, and women, girls and couples should have access to the widest method mix for them to choose from complemented by adequate information and counseling on available methods and services,” it said. (Benar)

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These 8 successful Muslim women are showcasing Freedom their way!

Though there are forsure many but here we present to you the some handful of success stories of Muslim women in modern world. Totally independant and unbounded, they have carved a niche for themselves in many fields through their creativity, talent and self - belief

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Muslim women
Bashing unfreedom-The new age Muslim woman.Pixeby

Not everyone is following rigid fundamentalism these days. In 2017, people and specially some inspiring Muslim women are embracing freedom and individuality through their inspirational work in global markets. Be it fashion, lifestyle,sports or politics- they are setting standards in every domain, breaking stereotypes all the way long!

Have a look at the success stories of these leading Muslim ladies and what they believe in.

SAUFEEYA GOODSON

Dubai based fashion entrepreneur Saufeeya is a global figure appearing in many fashion magazines. Being the co-owner of Modest Route, she has re- branded Modest fashion in a very stylised manner grabbing the attention of 2million followers on instagram page. She is frequently mentioned in Vogue or Teen Vogue under the trademark of her bold, daring and contemporary outfits made for modern age Muslim woman. This trendsetter with her avant garde style has been revolutionizing Islamic modest clothing in world.

CAROLYN WALKER-DIALLO

Carolyn hit the headlines when she was sworn in with the Quran back in 2015, becoming the first ever New York City Civil court judge to do so. She bravely stood up to the backlash that resulted later but her strong act inspired many Muslim women around the world. It somehow relieved them from communal stigmatization that they go through.

LINDA SARSOUR

Linda Sarsour- civil right's activist
Linda Sarsour- civil right’s activist.wikimedia.commons

 

Linda, a Palestinian- American civil rights activist, is popularly known for her key role in helping to organize the 2017 Women’s March in Washington.It was a public demonstartion led by women coming together from all walks of life. With her resolute, Linda instilled in a belief in thousands of women to fight for their vanity,esteem and rights.

BEHNAZ SHAFIEI

it is hard to imagine a female road racer/motocross rider and being a Muslim woman makes it a rare case, but Behnaz is exactly that. Born in Iran- a country where women are not allowed for exercising such liberties and are often ridiculed for their driving skills, Behnaz enjoys the fact that many men cannot do the stunts she performs with ease and confidence on her motorbike. She is the only Iranian female to be involved in road racing professionally challenging the preconceived notions of the society in regard to women.

RUMA

Known for her fashion blogs, Ruma recently got mentioned on the Twitter page of H&M where she was applauded for her distinctive panache that voice traditional modesty. According to her the haute hijab empowers feminine sensibility.Being a dreamer as well as achiever, she looks forward to inspire her followers with stories and lessons learned from her life by using social media to promote the art of fashion.

HALIMA ADEN

Halima is a model known for being the first Somali-American Muslim woman to take part in a beauty pageant donning a hijab.With all grace and modesty she hit news by reaching the semifinals of Minnesota USA pageant. She even graced the fashion runway for Kanye West at his show Yeezy season 5. Keeping at bay all Muslim stereotypes, this flamboyant model appeared on the front cover of Allure, wearing a Nike hijab with a caption saying, “This is American Beauty.” 

SHAHD BATAL

As a YouTuber and blogger, Shahd’s focus is mainly on providing viewers with her own original tips on how to attain healthy skin or apply makeup. Sudanese by birth but now living in Minneapolis, her tutorial videos are popularly hitting the internet since 2014. They were recently rehashed and showcased via her new sleek channel. From wearing a classic head-wrap and making pen perfect eyebrows, to her very personal stories with regard to the Hijab, she has been earnestly devoting herself to portray Hijab as a motif of modern age accessory.

 

SHARMEEN OBAID-CHINOY     

Muslim Women
SHARMEEN OBAID-CHINOY- Pakistani filmaker.wikimedia.commons

 Sharmeen has been mentioned by esteemed Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. A Muslim woman filmmaker, journalist and activist born in Pakistan, most of her films highlight the inequalities that women face. She has received two Academy awards, six Emmy and Lux Style award for her bold vision. Even the Pakistani government has honored her with the second highest civilian honor of the country, the Hilal-i-Imtiaz for her dauntless contribution to films.

These handful examples of empowering, influential and compelling Muslim women express a great deal- to come out of the shackles of a society that restricts you and your creative energies.Not just to the Muslim women of today, they are inspirational for all women who seek for self – actualization.