The Rohingya Muslims: the victims of the worst war crimes
Dr. Firoz Mahboob Kamal
The rampant war crimes
In terms of stipulated war-objective, the success of the Myanmar Army is huge. They could get a quick success only by committing horrendous war crimes. Their war was purely genocidal. Because of electronic social media, crimes were visible all over the world. The enemy of the Myanmar Army wasn’t a foreign power. The military objective of the war wasn’t to liberate any land from any enemy occupation. The declared enemy is an unarmed people of Myanmar called Rohingya Muslims. And the war objective was to cause genocidal cleansing of the Muslim people from their traditional homeland called Arakan –later on, named as Rakhine state.
The Army has left no political, social, educational, economic, and not even a survival space for the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. For saving a life, they had no other option but to make a desperate move to migrate to Bangladesh amidst extreme hardships. They even used ramshackle rafts made of plastic cans to cross a big river. Most of the Rohingya villages are burnt down, the homes are destroyed, the farmlands and businesses are occupied. Therefore, even if the Myanmar government is compelled to take them back by international pressure, there remains no infrastructure or emotional element in Arakan to give them shelter or a sense of comfort for returning back to their motherland. They only survive with a huge open wound in their traumatized psyche. The sharp memory of being killed, gang-raped, and brutally tortured by the Army personnel will survive through ages. How the Rohingya women can ever forget the pain of being raped day and night by the Buddhist sex predators at their wish. It is not a political or racial problem, rather an awful moral problem of the Myanmar government and the Army. They have shown no moral ability to acknowledge such ugliest crime as crime, let alone condemn it. No amount of political negotiation can remove this huge ugly scar from the traumatized psyche of the Rohingya Muslims.
The Rohingya people who are now labeled as the enemy of Myanmar are the people who were recognized as the sons of the soil and legal citizens for centuries. Even in the recent past, they took part in politics and became members of the parliament. They participated in the liberation movement against the colonial rule of the British. Such a historic status of the Muslims of Arakan was annulled 35 years ago in1982 by a military dictator. Thus they were made stateless. By any definition, it is itself a horrendous crime against humanity. Although such a politically and racially motivated annulment of citizenship of the Rohingya Muslims created the whole backdrop of the ongoing genocidal war, the UNO and other world powers showed little moral and humanitarian responsibility to put the necessary pressure on the Myanmar government to undo it. As a result, the whole Arakan –once peaceful land of a historic Muslim state, is the site of rampant war crimes against the local Muslims.
The pathology of crime
Genocidal cleansing of a population never happens with the brutality of beastly animals. It is the premeditated war crime of the humans who proved again and again far beastlier than the man-eating animals. This is the work of the people who can build gas chambers, drop nuclear bombs, and can turn cities and villages into rubbles. The catalog of their crimes is huge. Because of such war criminals, more than 75 million people had to die only in two World Wars and more than a hundred thousand people were burnt to death in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. More disgustfully, the perpetrators celebrate those crimes as a great victory of democratic values! This could only happen because of moral death. And the moral death owes to deadly pathology in the conceptual premise of the people sitting in the driving seats of the big powers. Because of that, people could become criminal and genocidal on a large scale. The disease runs unabetted even now. Hence they could cause a horrendous era of deaths and destruction in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Gaza, and now in Yemen. More than 300 thousand Syrians had to die and more than 6 million Syrians had to leave their homes. Millions of Palestinians have to live in camps for more than 70 years. Because of the same war criminals, cities like Grozny in Chechnya, Mosul, Ramadi, Tikrit, and Fallujah in Iraq, and Raqqa, Homs, Hama, Deira Zur, and many other cities in Syria have been flattened to the ground.
It is a shame on the UNO that the worst war criminals always go unpunished. The UNO itself is hostage to these war criminals. Because of such a failed UNO, the Myanmar Army gets enticed to take the same route of terrible war crimes. The unpunished US war crimes in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, the Russian war crimes in Chechnya and Syria, Narendra Modi’s war on Indian Muslims, and the Anti-Muslim rhetoric of the US President Doland Trump have heavily encouraged the Burmese war criminals to add more atrocities to the world’s criminal history. Therefore, mass killing, gang-raping, torturing, and setting fire to the Muslim properties, and evicting the Rohingya Muslims from their ancestral homes could be deployed as military tactics of war against the unarmed civilians. Adolf Hitler wasn’t the lone criminal to commit all the genocidal crimes. Millions of the Germans and other Europeans also joined as the partner in his crime. Likewise, the Burmese Army is not alone in their war crimes, either. Aung San Suu Kyi and her party “League for Democracy”, the whole civil and political institutions of Myanmar, the Buddhist monks, and the Myanmar media are directly and indirectly are the part of the same war crimes. Even the countries like China, India, and Russia stand firmly behind these killers, rapists, and arsonists. Because of their support, these worst war criminals couldn’t be condemned in the UN Security Council, let alone stopping or punishing them. As a result, the sufferings of the “most persecuted minorities on earth” –as described by the UN, continue unabated.
Crime always breeds other crimes. Sometimes the new crime becomes more robust and horrendous than the original crime. This is why the crime of the Myanmar government which started with the annulment of the citizenship of the Rohingya Muslims in 1982 didn’t end there. It turned terribly genocidal in later years. Mass killing, gang-raping, arson, torture, and eviction of innocent people from their own homeland became parts of it. As part of the same crime, they have also built a lethal barricades to stop the return of the evicted people to their homes. Land mines are planted along the Bangladesh-Myanmar border to kill the returning refugees.
Failures of the international bodies
On 13 November 2017, Sky News showed some glimpses of horrendous genocidal crimes of the Myanmar government –taken under the cover of the deep darkness of the night from inside Rakhine state. Otherwise, the Myanmar government wouldn’t have allowed such reporting of the crime. No man or woman with moral sense can stop his or her tears after seeing the picture of such vitriolic crime against innocent men, women, and children. The failure of the UN Security Council and the world leaders is appalling. They even failed to show the minimal morality to call these terrible mass killings, mass rapes, and mass destruction of an ethnic cum religious group of Muslim population even a genocide, let alone stop it. This way the UN has provided the needed modus operandi of non-action for its member states against these worst war criminals.
On 13 November 2017, the ASEAN conference was held in Manilla. Three of its members are Muslim countries. About 40 percent population of the ASEAN countries are Muslims. Indonesia -the largest Muslim country in the world also happens to be its member. Malaysia and Brunei are the other two members. But the spineless and morally depleted leaders of these Muslim countries have even failed to include the genocidal issue of Rohingya Muslims in its business session, let it condemn or stop it. Rather, to appease the genocidal leaders of Myanmar -a member state of ASEAN, the leaders of these Muslim countries even shy away from pronouncing the word “Rohingya”. Since the Myanmar government calls them “illegal Bengali infiltrators” the Muslim member countries of the ASEAN fell in line to accept it. This is indeed the depth of moral collapse of the leaders of neighboring Muslim states. Even the common citizens of these Muslim countries didn’t display any moral responsibility towards these innocent victims. They are not found on the streets to protest against this genocide.
The mammoth lie and the pretext of genocide
The history of Arakan –the original name of today’s Rakhine state and the history of the Rohingya Muslims didn’t start with the military rule in Myanmar. Nor did it begin with the country’s independence in 1948. It has a long history and a huge Islamic legacy. Arakan was always open to the outside world –especially to the Muslim traders and the Islamic missionaries through its long coastal borders, which is much longer than that of Myanmar itself. Before the initiation of ethnic cleansing, the Rohingya Muslims were in majority in Arakan. Prior to the Burmese invasion in the eighteenth century, the forefathers of these Rohingya Muslim people had a Muslim sultanate there. The state even extended to the south-eastern part of Bangladesh. Chittagong –the largest port city of Bangladesh was part of it. In the fifteenth and sixteenth century AD, the Bengali language got a huge boost in the royal palace of Arakan. Most of the noted contemporary Bengali poets were related to its royal court. In the whole history of Arakan, even in the history of Myanmar, there doesn’t exist a single mention that the Rohingya Muslims were the foreign intruders. They are known as the son of the soil. On the contrary, the Burmese Buddhists -known as the Rakhine minority in Arakan, are immigrants from the central Buddhist heartland of Myanmar.
Building border on ethnic or linguistic lines is a very recent phenomenon in human history. Such a barrier didn’t exist in South Asia even 100 years ago. Therefore, a man from Yangon in Myanmar could easily travel to Kolkata in India or Dhaka in Bangladesh without any barrier and could build a house or open a business there. It was also true for a man journeying in the opposite direction. Hence, one can easily find ethnic, linguistic, or religious linkage or continuity spread over all the south Asian countries. And Myanmar is not an exception. Bangladesh itself is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country with millions of people having ethnic and religious linkage with the people of various states of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Central Asia, Arab, Turkey, and Myanmar. Hence, one can easily discover trans-border ethnic, linguistic, or religious continuity spread over Bangladesh and its neighbors. Such linkage is also true for the people living in Myanmar. It is a process of slow social diffusion that takes place through ages. It is indeed the part of human history that caused such a mix-up of people of different races, languages, and religions through centuries.
Hence, such an ethnic linkage should not be used to commit “push-in”, forced eviction, or genocide against any people. Only the people with extreme racism and pathological hatred against people of other religions or races can deny such sociological reality. Awfully, the ultranationalist civil and military elite of Myanmar have proven to be infected with such toxic moral disease of racism cum radical nationalism. To make the situation much worse, they have powerful patrons like China, Russia, and India to support their crime. As a result, the UN, the International Criminal Court, and other international bodies fail to bring the terrible war criminals to justice. Therefore, the war criminals are let loose to do all the worst crimes on earth. And the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar continue to suffer. The western leaders thought that keeping a blind eye on the Myanmar government was necessary to help Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government to get strength. But such opportunity was not allowed to the democratically elected government in Palestine and Egypt. They didn’t need to commit any genocidal crime to get toppled by the west-sponsored military junta. However, Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s government now stands deposed and she herself is now in jail. Despite her advocacy for the military criminals in the Internationa Criminal Court, also became a victim of the Myanmar military. Friendship with wolves only can cause disaster; Aung Sun Suu Kyi proved that.
Aung San Suu Kyi –while in power showed her gross cognitive inability to see even the most robust crimes of the Army. On 2 November 2017, after more than a month of the initiation of the massive crime, she could take some time to visit Arakan. Strangely, visible evidence of war crimes of the Myanmar Army like mass murder, torture and rape, arson and wholesale destruction of villages, and forcible expulsion from their home appeared to her as the bipartisan quarrel between the Rohingya Muslims and the local Rakhine Buddhists. As if, the Rohingya Muslims are the equal partner of the same crime. As if, the Rohingya Muslims’ participation has caused similar mass murder, torture and rape, arson and wholesale destruction of villages and expulsion from their home on the local Buddhists, too.
Islamophobia is the cause
Because of the politically motivated Islamophobia and the extreme form of hatred against the Muslims, the Myanmar government, the Buddhist monks, and the ultra-nationalist Burmese political elites wants to roll back the whole march of history and want to give a fabricated narrative with their sick ultranationalist motive. For that, they are not only inventing new lies but also committing appalling crimes. They have already demonstrated by their action that they want to destroy all the elements of existing Islamic history, legacies, icons, and the Muslim institutions of Arakan. They are committed to giving Arakan a new identity and want to make it a land exclusively for the Buddhist Rakhine tribe. Therefore, the genocidal cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims has been so fundamental to their political objective. To start the process decisively, they needed to put a new name for the old state of Arakan. Hence, it is renamed as Rakhine state after the name of the minority Buddhist Rakhine tribe. In order to attain full Bhuddhistisation of Muslim Arakan, they started genocidal cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims. This is why, along with dismantling the mosques and the Islamic schools, ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims became the central piece of their military operation.
A new Israel
The Myanmar government, the ultranationalist civil and military elites, and the Buddhist monks are not ready to accept the Rohingya Muslims as part of Myanmar. They label them illegal Bengali infiltrators from Bangladesh. As if Arakan –now Rakhine state was a land without any inhabitants in the past. What could be the worst fabrication of history than this? A lie always gives birth to evils. Thus lies can cause catastrophic crimes on earth. Such lies have always been manufactured and used by war criminals to ignite a war against others only to support their criminal motives. That has exactly happened in the case of the current war against the Rohingya Muslims. Here, the fabrication of history has indeed reached a massive proportion. A lot of lies are being used to perpetuate a mammoth crime like the genocidal cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims. It is a ploy to bury all the traces of the Muslim history of Arakan and to manufacture legality to the newly created Buddhist Rakhine state –as are being done in Palestine by the Jews.
Myanmar has become a new Israel in South East Asia. It is bizarre and extremely inhuman that the whole ethnic group of Rohingya Muslims should lose their citizenship and meet the genocidal cleansing because of their ethnicity, skin color, language, and religious belief. The annulment of citizenship of the Rohingya Muslims was indeed an expression of a robust apartheid agenda of the Myanmar government. It was done only to invent the necessary pretext to portray these artificially made stateless people as the infiltrators from Bangladesh –thereby justifying their forced eviction.
In order to promote blatant lies, the Myanmar government is ignoring some basic historical facts. It is well known that before the annulment of citizenship of the Rohingya Muslims by the military rulers in 1982, the same Rohingya people used to be elected as the member of the parliament. They served in the government offices and even in the Army. The Rohingya children used to get admission in schools, colleges, and universities and enjoy other civic rights. But when the racially motivated Army grabbed the power, everything changed. By mass scale annulment of citizenship of more than a million of its known citizens, the Myanmar government has indeed made a pretext for the annihilation of a people with a dissimilar race, religion, and language from the Buddhist majority. So far, no country in the world has made its own known citizens stateless in such a huge number.
Myanmar is a country impregnated with many old insurgency wars. Many ethnic tribes want independence from Myanmar. It is worth noting that despite separatist war by many ethnic and linguistic entities for many decades, the citizenship of those insurgents has never been annulled. There is no proof that the Rohingya Muslims did any war against the state of Myanmar. But the government is behaving differently with the Rohingya Muslims. Not only they were deprived of citizenship, rather a genocidal war has been imposed on them. The war has caused torture, death, rape, arson, and eviction of more than 900,000 unarmed people.
In Myanmar, the Rohingya Muslims are portrayed as the enemy of the majority Buddhists. They are labeled as the infiltrators from neighboring Bangladesh and projected as the existential threat for the Buddhist people of Myanmar. Thus, they created the fabricated justification for a war of ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar. The Army, the mainstream media, the political leaders, and the Buddhist monks worked hand in hand to distort history. All the consequential atrocities that are inflicted on about 2 million Rohingya people took their origin from such falsification of history. In 1982, Myanmar’s military government annulled the existing citizenship of the Rohingya Muslims. With a stroke of a pen, the military junta of Myanmar could create the largest number of stateless people on earth. As if, who should enjoy the entitlement of citizenship of a country is subject to the whim of the ruling elite. More than a thousand years’ history of the Rohingya Muslims proved pointless in deciding their entitlement in their own birthplace. What could be the worst injustice than such ethnically motivated annulment of citizenship of a population?
The story didn’t end there. They launched a hateful propaganda campaign to make people support the Army-run war against the Rohingya Muslims. The racist monks are also taken as partners in such toxic propaganda. Even Aung San Suu Kyi’s party “League for Democracy” also became a part of it. The Army’s genocidal war aimed at ethnic cleansing of the whole population of the Rohingya Muslims from their birthplace. The war could cause the fastest-growing refugees in human history; more than half a million were evicted only in 3 weeks. Thus the Myanmar Army could cause a man-made disaster of catastrophic proportions. It is worth noting that after the dismissal of Aung Sun Suu Kyi’s civilian government, hundreds of thousands of her supporters protested in the streets. But there was no protest on the streets while the worst genocidal crimes were being done against the Rohingya Muslims. This shows how racism, nationalism, and Islamophobia lethally damage the moral fabric of the common men and women. As a result, the people then lose the ethical instinct to condemn even the worst evil on the earth.
The Army and other Islamophobes called the war against the Rohingya Muslims a legitimate campaign to free Myanmar from illegal infiltrators from Bangladesh. The enforced delegitimization of citizenship of the Rohingya Muslims is being used not only to use it as a ploy to justify the cancellation of all political, economic, educational, job, and health care entitlement of the Rohingya Muslims but also to launch a war on them. Thus, even the survival right of the Rohingya Muslims on the soil of their birth is taken away.
The geopolitics and the ideological congruity
Hypocrisy and trickery have always been parts of the imperialists’ policy against Muslims. Justice, morality, and human rights have no space in their politics. The imperialist-led UNO promised a plebiscite for deciding the fate of Kashmir -whether to go to Pakistan or India or stay independent. But that didn’t happen. The UNO and all the western and the eastern powers promised the right of return to the evicted Palestinians to their ancestral homes. But that didn’t happen either. The Palestinians still live in concentration camps. These are ghettos in the occupied West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan, and Syria. On their cleansed lands, the Israeli government built luxurious apartments for Jewish immigrants from different parts of the world. Thus the foreign Jews are being enticed to settle in Palestine. Those who decide the fate of world politics pay blind eyes to such an awful show of obvious crimes. The same calamitous crime is being perpetrated against the Rohingya Muslims.
Arakan –the Rakhine state has enormous economic and geopolitical strategic importance. The ruling Burmese nationalist majority planned to confiscate 1.2 million hectares of land of Rakhine state. They need this land to build Special Economic Zones (SPZ) for Japanese, Chinese, Indian, and other multinational companies. They need land to build a deep seaport for China and another deep seaport for India. Till January 2017, China’s investment in Myanmar reached $18.53 billion and considers Myanmar an important tool in its One Belt, One Road initiative. China, India, and Russia also find strong ideological congruity to support the Myanmar Army. The Russians have their Muslim Caucasus, China has its Xin Xiang and India has its Kashmir to practice similar crimes against the native Muslims.
The Myanmar government needs a huge area of empty land to build barracks for the Army and the other security forces to ensure security to these economic establishments. Hence they needed to ethnically cleanse the originally settled Rohingya Muslims from the land. To show the justification of the crime, they needed to do another crime. In 1982, they deprived the Rohingya Muslims of their nationality right. Now they are telling the world that the Myanmar Army is evicting the foreigners who have no legality to stay in Myanmar. Whereas they have manufactured such illegality only for the political, racial, and economic interests. Now they have given the evicted people a new tag of identity called refugees.
The same crime happened against the Palestinians. Birth in Palestine, homes in Palestine, and thousands of years’ ancestral history in Palestine didn’t receive any importance to decide the rights of the Palestinians to stay in Palestine. They were made refugees in foreign lands. But those who were born in Europe, America, and other parts of the world and never lived in Palestine are given readymade citizenship rights. Thus an illegal state is built for the alien immigrants on a forcefully occupied Palestine. And such an illegal state was given legality by the UNO. Thieves, robbers, drug traffickers, women traffickers, and other mafias have their own clubs and societies. There they enjoy a cultural milieu to celebrate their most heinous crimes. They congratulate each other for their audacity in crimes. The same is true with war criminals. Awfully the UNO has become such a club for them. Hence the USA’s illegal occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq was never condemned but got duly ratified in that club. This is why the perpetrators of genocidal crimes in Myanmar don’t stand alone either. They have powerful patrons to appreciate their crimes. China, India, Russia, and Japan stand firmly on their side. Hence no one on the earth dare prosecute their crimes.
No ray of light in the tunnel
The Bangladesh government works on its own plan. The government is using all of its diplomatic channels to persuade the Myanmar government to take back the Rohingya refugees. But Bangladesh possesses little diplomatic muscle to influence the policy of the arrogant Myanmar Army. The UNO, the USA, the EU, and other world powers also failed to make any influence. A plan doesn’t work if it doesn’t possess enough political will and power of leverage. As a result, about a million Rohingya refugees still suffer in horrific refugee camps in Bangladesh.
In 1992, the Bangladesh government achieved some success with the collaboration of the UNO to persuade the Myanmar government to take back some of the refugees. But that didn’t help them to return back to their own ancestral homes. They are kept in prison-like concentration camps made for the displaced people. Their lands, homesteads, and business establishments still stay occupied by the Army, the Police, and other state institutions.
The restoration of citizenship of the Rohingya Muslims is the key to solve the problem. Only then they will be entitled to enjoy basic human rights and other legal entitlement. Otherwise, the mere return to Myanmar will not solve the problem. They will enter from a refugee camp in Bangladesh to another prison-like refugee camp in Myanmar. It is the grotesque failure of the UNO and other big players that didn’t go further to pressurize the Myanmar government to restore the citizenship right of the Rohingya people. As a result, the statement stays. China still stands firmly behind the Myanmar Army. So the suffering of the Rohingya people continues. They don’t see any ray of light in the long dark tunnel. 1st edition 15/11/2017; 2nd edition 17/07/2021.