national election

Children of Ethnic Cleansing: Myanmar’s undeniable responsibility

Rohingya

Mir Mosharref Hossain Pakbir

MNA Editorial Desk: Rohingya crisis, a severe humanitarian issue, has struck Bangladesh with around a million refugees. Myanmar army’s barbaric oppression and torture has compelled more than a million people to flee in Bangladesh from the Rakhine state of Myanmar. These people, mostly Muslims, have faced extreme torture, been victims of killings and rape and been mentally traumatised as the Myanmar military started the third phase of this torture with the help of local Buddhists in 2016.

Despite their effort to stay in own country, these Rohingyas could not sustain the continuous tortures and eventually most of them left Rakhine. The Myanmar Army led by its chief Min Aung Hlaing has unofficially acknowledged this drive as revenge on the Rohingyas for their stand in support of the allied forces in WWII while the Myanmar army was in favour of the German forces and its allies. Hence, though the Nazi forces were punished later, the Myanmar forces, after so many years, are still active with Nazi ideologies.

The United Nations (UN) has termed this act of Myanmar as ‘ethnic cleansing’ as it was a specific drive against the Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine state. Bangladesh extended its support towards these refugees led by its Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. But a critical problem is arising with more than 50,000 Rohingya women’s pregnancy from rape by Myanmar military. So, many infants will be born in the upcoming months and their fate remains unknown.

Several international agencies estimated that over 100,000 Rohingya women, teenagers and children were victims of rape and sexual violence and around half of them got pregnant. Almost all of these rape victims are under-aged, tortured in unexplainably barbaric way. The Myanmar army brutally took away their sanctity at a very tender age — an extreme violation of human rights.

Thousands of women, pregnant from rape, fled into Bangladesh and are now living at different Rohingya camps set by the Bangladeshi government with the aid of different donor countries and organisations. The quality of lives in these camps is not up to the mark despite efforts. Birth of over 50,000 infants during the next two or three months will worsen this scenario limitlessly. Huge challenges will be created to facilitate healthy growth of these children which seems extremely difficult in the current context.

Several incidents of large scale victimisation of women, mostly occurred during different wars, exist in history. Women were victims of planned or unplanned rape, violence and sexual assault. But the case of these Rohingyas is completely different as no war or revolution is going on in Myanmar. They were completely unarmed and unable to protest the brutal tortures of the Myanmar army.

Sexual violation was largely used as a weapon to accomplish the goal of ethnic cleansing. Many women were raped multiple times even in front of their family members, many women were sexually assaulted with weapons and many were mentally tortured with sheer portrayal of brutality. It was neither a war nor a revolution; rather a complete criminal activity.

A generation which can be termed as ‘children of ethnic cleansing’, who are not even welcome by their mother, will be born very soon. Few children, who already took birth, were abandoned by their mothers as these children are actually an element of their shame and dishonour. Moreover, these Rohingya families are also unable to feed any new mouth. This overall scenario will seriously impede children’s rights. Without any sins, these children are the most ill-fated creatures of the world.

Women had been the greatest victims of war since the beginning of the record of history. The issue of rape during armed conflict was brought to the attention of the United Nations after the breakup of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s. Sexual violence during the Bosnian War in 1992-95 and Kosovo War in 1996-99 was termed as ‘especially alarming’. Around 50,000 women, majority Muslims, were raped during those wars by the Serbian soldiers. ‘Rape camps’ were deliberately created during Bosnian war.

The perpetrators intentionally impregnate the Muslims aiming the birth of a new generation of Serb children. The magnitude of rape in Bosnia and Herzegovina impelled the International Criminal Tribunal to deal openly with these abuses.

During the Rwandan genocide, from April until July 1994, over 250,000 Rwandese women and girls, especially from Tutsi ethnic group, were raped or sexually assaulted mainly by the Hutu militia based on their ethnicity. Military personnel within the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), including the Presidential Guard and civilians also committed such acts. In 1998, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda made the landmark decision that the war rape during the Rwanda genocide was an element of the crime of genocide.

Wehrmacht forces and German forces stationed on the Eastern Front committed rapes on Jewish women and girls during the invasion of Poland in 1939. Polish, Ukrainian, Belarusian and Russian women were also not spared. These acts were mostly unpunished as only one such act was punished moderately.

We can never forget our liberation war of 1971 as numerous women were tortured and raped by the Pakistani military junta and their allies in East Pakistan. According to some reports, 200000 – 400,000 women and girls were raped. Many children of war were born after independence due to the mass rape of women in 1971 genocide. Bangladeshi PM Hasina made sure that the associates of Pakistani junta in Bangladesh involved in such crimes were served with justice.

Thousands of women were also raped and assaulted in Mozambique’s conflict, Afghan-Taliban war, Darfur region in Sudan, Congo domestic war, Sri Lankan civil war and others. Considering all these incidents, the mass rape of Rohingya women is characteristically different as no war was going on. Now, as thousands of children will be born due to the acts of Myanmar military, it is important to ease their future. Moreover, this brutal attack on women in Rakhine state must be acknowledged by the International Tribunal and the perpetrators must be punished.

This huge responsibility actually rests on the soldiers of Nobel Peace Prize winner Myanmar’s State Counsellor Aung San Suu-Kyi. She, being a face of world peace and also a woman, has seriously failed to solicit the Rohingya issues till now. She seems to be controlled by the Myanmar army, especially its chief. It was astonishing that, Hlaing denied any incident of sexual assault on the Rohingya women by the Myanmar military though the whole world is looking at the consequences of such acts. If Suu-Kyi remain silent any more, history will never forgive her.

Now, if Suu-Kyi wants to protect any part of her image as a valiant world peace leader, she has only two options. Firstly, acknowledging the brutality of Myanmar army over the Rohingyas, she must arrange for their safe repatriation ensuring their complete civil rights. She must also save these ‘children of ethnic cleansing’ by ensuring a better future for them. We are strongly hoping she will take this option to restore humanity in Myanmar.

Suu-Kyi also has another option — acknowledging her failure in soliciting Rohingya issues, she can resign from her post as she can never deny her contribution towards the sufferings of thousands of Rohingyas. It will slightly reduce her sin of silence and will draw serious international attention and involvement in the current context of Myanmar.

Petition has already been filed to snatch away the Nobel Peace Prize from Suu-Kyi and if she does not arrange for punishment of brutality over the Rohingyas, ethically she has no right to hold onto that Peace Prize. Myanmar, as a country, may prosper economically a lot in the future but if they do not solicit this issue, they will be never able to erase the disgraceful crime of genocide in history.

Though the whole world appreciated the gesture of Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina for welcoming the Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh which eventually brought her the recognition as ‘Mother of Humanity’, the Bangladeshi government has seriously failed to promote the immense brutality on Rohingya women and the fierce fate of ‘children of ethnic cleansing’ at world forums. The foreign minister and state minister along with other related government officials have played a seriously ineffective role till now to bring strong focus on violation of Rohingya women’s rights. They could not even unite the global leaders to force the Myanmar government to resolve this crisis and will also be held liable for the sufferings of the ‘children of ethnic cleansing’.

The Rohingya issues of Myanmar seemed to be a battle between the Muslims and the Buddhists. The Buddhist religion is based on non-violence and kindness to all living creatures. These brutal attacks on the Rohingyas by the Myanmar army and their Buddhist associates have completely disgraced the sanctity of Buddhism as a religion. Hence, the Buddhist leaders should also come forward to solicit this issue in order to protect their religion’s holiness.

We are extremely worried about the future of these huge numbers of Rohingya brothers and sisters who are living in extreme conditions for months. We are worried about the wellbeing of the thousands of children of ethnic cleansing. We just hope the world leaders along with the leaders of Myanmar and Bangladesh will step forward with concrete solutions to end their sufferings and to return their rights as that will restore our faith on humanity.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA) and Vice-Chairman, Democracy Research Center (DRC)

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