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Lawyers in the UK and the US on Monday initiated coordinated legal campaigns against Facebook, now known as Meta, on behalf of Rohingya Muslims for its alleged role in facilitating the genocide perpetrated by the Myanmar regime and extremist civilians against the Rohingya people.
According to the lawyers, Facebook contributed to the 2017 genocide of Rohingya Muslims by allowing hate speech against the persecuted minority to be propagated in Myanmar. The United Nations had described the violence as "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing".
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The legal claims, which are a culmination of substantial legal research and investigation, seek to go further and hold Facebook accountable before a court of law. The total value of the claims exceeds nearly $200 billion, according to a statement by the lawyers.
Facebook has admitted that it did not do enough to stop its platform from being used to create division and incite real world violence. But, in its 2018 report, the UN described the social networking giant as a group having "an extraordinary and outsized role" in the country.
Also Read : Facebook - History and Evolution
"We are seeking justice for the Rohingya people. This powerful global company must be held to account for its role in permitting the spread of hateful anti-Rohingya propaganda which directly led to unspeakable violence. Facebook turned away while a genocide was being perpetrated - putting profit before the human rights of the Rohingya people," Tun Khin, President of the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK, in the statement.
"Big Tech needs to be held accountable for amplifying inflammatory, hateful content that can lead to real world harm. Our own research found that Facebook's recommendation algorithm directed users in Myanmar towards content that incited violence and pushed misinformation during the early and brutal days of the military coup. Court cases like these are critically important, as is legislation to help prevent this from happening again," added Naomi Hirst, campaign leader at Global Witness.
Displaced Rohingya peopleWikipedia
In his Senate testimony, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that "we need to do more", while Adam Mosseri, a vice president of product management at Facebook stated that "we lose some sleep over this", and a former member of Facebook's Integrity team recently acknowledged that "I, working for Facebook, had been a party to genocide".
However, the allegations levelled against Facebook include that the social media platform used algorithms that amplified hate speech against the Rohingya people on its platform. It failed in its policy and in practice to invest sufficiently in content moderators who spoke Burmese or Rohingya or local fact checkers with an understanding of the political situation in Myanmar.
It also failed to take down specific posts inciting violence against or containing hate speech directed towards the Rohingya people, delete specific accounts or specific groups or pages, which were being used to propagate hate speech and/or incite violence.
Facebook was warned from around 2013 onwards by NGOs and media about extensive anti-Rohingya posts, groups and accounts on its platform, but they said the company failed to take appropriate and timely action.
Rohingya muslims at a refugee camp in BangladeshWikipedia
Even now Facebook's recommendation algorithm continues to invite users to "like" pages that share pro-military propaganda that violate the platform's rules and associates and proxies of the Myanmar military regime are still using the Facebook platform.
In the UK, the lawyers have given Facebook formal notice of their intention to initiate proceedings on behalf of non-US resident Rohingya survivors around the world. The social media platform has been required to preserve all relevant corporate records and documentation.
A separate claim has been filed in the US on behalf of the Rohingya community who are resident in the US. The claimants in both cases will seek to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal. Facebook was yet to comment on the legal claims.
The Rohingya people live in the far west of Myanmar and are regarded with racist contempt by many among the majority Buddhist population. In 2017 alone, more than 10,000 people were killed and over 150,000 were subject to physical violence. They continue to suffer serious psychological trauma and displacement, as the vast majority of the population were forced to flee Myanmar.
Approximately one million survivors now reside in temporary refugee camps in Bangladesh. (IANS/SP)
(Keywords : UK, US, Facebook, Rohingya, Muslims, genocide, Myanmar, justice, propaganda, displacement, allegations, posts, violence, action.)
World Refugee Day is being observed Saturday with the aim of raising awareness of refugees throughout the world. In Italy, a special prayer vigil was held in Rome this week titled “Dying of Hope,” in memory of the thousands who lose their lives at sea, on their journeys in search of a better life in Europe.
Inside the Church of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome, many gathered to pray in memory of those who have drowned in their attempt to cross the Mediterranean from North Africa and for those who continue to do so. Africans and Italians maintained social distancing inside the church as they prayed together.
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The Secretary General of the Italian Bishops Conference, Monsignor Stefano Russo, addressed the congregation.
Monsignor Russo said, “We are with numerous friends who crossed the Mediterranean or arrived by land. Many among you have painfully lost friends and family members”.
The vigil was held in observance of World Refugee Day. Monsignor Russo called for the many foreigners, the “new Europeans” to be allowed to emerge from their invisible conditions.
He turned his thoughts to “those forced into overcrowded refugee camps, who see no way out,” to the Rohingya, to the camp of Moira in Lesbos, to the many who reach Tapachula, on the border with Mexico, to Syrians, in Lebanese camps. He called all these “places of pain” where even more than in the past there is a lack of food, clothes, tents and medical assistance.
The lockdown, he added, makes living conditions even worse with social distancing impossible and men, women and children with no access to water to wash and terrified of dying from coronavirus.
Marco Impagliazzo is a member of the Catholic Community of Sant’ Egidio who organized the vigil. He said it is essential that everyone, Africans and Europeans, deal with the pandemic on the African continent together.
Impagliazzo said that if this does not happen, there will be other long waves of migrant arrivals and the virus must help us understand that we must all row in the same direction. More than 40,000 migrants are believed to have died in efforts to reach Europe via land or sea crossings since 1990. (VOA)
By Lisa Schlein
The U.N. refugee and migration agencies are jointly appealing for $877 million to aid 855,000 Rohingya refugees, most of whom fled violence and persecution from Myanmar three years ago, and more than 444,000 vulnerable Bangladeshis hosting them.
More than half of the money will provide vital services, including food, shelter, clean water and sanitation. The rest of the appeal will be used for health, protection, education, site management, energy and environmental needs.
Shahriar Alam of Bangladesh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs says his government has welcomed this large exiled population within its midst. But he acknowledges their presence poses challenges and that the solution to the plight of the Rohingya refugees is repatriation to Myanmar when that becomes possible. But this is unlikely to happen, he says, without the vigorous support of the International community.
“We expect that U.N. member countries to do more and work closely and do everything possible to put pressure on Myanmar to take their citizenship back in a manner, a repatriation that is safe, voluntary, and dignified,” Alam said.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi agrees that Bangladesh deserves support for hosting nearly one million Rohingya. He laments the short attention span of the media and the international community who quickly move from one crisis to another.
As a consequence, he says the Rohingya have become largely forgotten. He agrees with the Government of Bangladesh that the solution continues to be in Myanmar.
“The problem is that things that need to be done there to create conditions for refugees to return from Bangladesh into Myanmar are too slow or not happening yet–freedom of movement, return of internally displaced people that are in camps in Rakhine State,” Grandi said.
Grandi says those who return should be granted housing, land, and property rights and be given the education and training they need to be able to work. But the most fundamental step of all, he says, is for the Rohingya to be given a path to citizenship.
The Rohingya who have lived in Myanmar for generations were stripped of their citizenship in 1982. (VOA)
By Tahira Kibria, Rikar Hussein
Dozens of sprawling informal education centers across refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar are providing a glimmer of hope for thousands of Rohingya refugee children who survived a massacre in their home country of Myanmar in 2017.
Across makeshift camps in refugee city of Kutupalong, hundreds of informal learning centers have been set up by international agencies and Rohingya community leaders to give the refugee children access to education. The opportunity to learn and improve skills is something the youngsters were never offered back in Myanmar.
Sharmeen Noor, a mathematics teacher at Kutupalong Primary School, told VOA that their programs ensure the Rohingya children do not fall behind in their education despite the absence of formal schooling. The centers can also create a positive impact to help those traumatized by the Burmese army’s 2017 crackdown that forced nearly 700,000 ethnic Rohingya to flee from Rakhine state to Bangladesh.
“Those who have seen violence think about it all the time,” said Noor. “They pay very little attention in class. As teachers, we are working on this matter. We are trying our best to bring them into normal life. God willing we will do it.”
About 350 Rohingya children are currently enrolled at Kutupalong Primary School, which provides basic informal education from preprimary through fifth grade. The children are taught subjects such as general science, mathematical, English, Burmese, and Bengali.
Noor said many of their teaching activities focus on play-based learning to provide education and at the same time give the children a chance to forget the daily struggles they face in the overcrowded camps. Particular attention is given to children who are mentally challenged.
“We put these children in between two good students so that the kids can follow their example … It is challenging, all kids are not similar. To understand them we have to rely on their mental ability. We make a list of pupils who are behind. To bring them to a normal level, we try to provide something they like, such as games,” Noor added.
More than 700,000 ethnic Rohingya people fled their homes in Rakhine province of neighboring Myanmar in the summer of 2017 due to a crackdown by Myanmar’s army and Buddhist militias. The UN has described the army’s campaign in Rakhine province as “textbook ethnic cleansing”, and has charged that the Rohingya people suffered killings, rape, and mass destruction of their homes by the army and Buddhist militias.
Most of those who fled to neighboring Bangladesh have been placed in Kutupalong, making it the largest refugee settlement complex in the world.
An estimated 400,000 of the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh are children. Human rights organizations say only one-third of them have access to education. Lack of basic services and health care have also put many children at the risk of malnutrition and infectious diseases.
In a December report, Human Rights Watch said authorities in Bangladesh were deliberately preventing aid groups from providing education in the camps and banning Rohingya children from enrolling in schools outside the camps.
“Bangladesh has made it clear that it doesn’t want the Rohingya to remain indefinitely, but depriving children of education just compounds the harm to the children and won’t resolve the refugees’ plight any faster,” said Bill Van Esveld, the watchdog’s associate children’s rights director.
“The government of Bangladesh saved countless lives by opening its borders and providing refuge to the Rohingya, but it needs to end its misguided policy of blocking education for Rohingya children,” he added.
Informal learning centers
The Bangladesh government, however, announced in January that it was working with the United Nations’ children agency UNICEF to provide formal education to the children. UNICEF described the move as “a major new phase” for education of the refugee children that initially targets 10,000 Rohingya students from grades six to nine and will later be expanded to other grades.
Through a program called the Learning Competency Framework and Approach, the UNICEF currently provides informal education to 220,000 Rohingya children between aged four to 14. An estimated 315,000 children and adults are getting education in over 3,200 learning centers supported by the UNICEF and other agencies.
Many Rohingya refugees, however, say the learning centers are not enough to empower their children and equip them with needed skills.
Across the camps, religious leaders have volunteered to provide religious teaching in mosques and makeshift centers known as Madrasas. The children in the Madrasas mainly focus on Islamic studies and Arabic.
Teacher Abdus Sobhan told VOA that 15 volunteer instructors were working with him at a Madrasa hosting 93 students. The children in his classes are taught to recite Quran and learn Arabic.
“It is important to teach children religion, so that they refrain from bad actions and devote themselves to God,” Sobhan told VOA.
Hafez Idris, another Rohingya teacher based in Kutupalong lambashia I2 B3 camp, is working with four other teachers to help orphaned kids learn how to recite the Quran. The learning center, Nurani Yetim Khana and Hafez Khana, hosts as many as 250 Rohingya orphans who are put into religious studies as well as math, Burmese and English.
“We don’t take any money from students or people from our block, but if anyone willingly wants to contribute, then we accept the money. We run this Madrasa to save our religion and to educate our young generation about religious studies,” he told VOA.
According to Hafiz Ullah, another teacher at Hafez Khana, by providing children with education, even if informal, the community hopes to preserve their culture from being lost after being uprooted from Rakhine state.
Ullah said it was essential that the children learn what their community went through in Myanmar, particularly because many of them grow up in camps with no memory of their homeland.
“Our situation was very bad. We could not even wear our religious dress, and we just came to Bangladesh with one lungi, one t-shirt, and a cap,” he told VOA. (VOA)